CEMIK – Guatemala Steller Scholars

Your donations have had a remarkable power in assisting young Maya youth in pursuing their educational and professional dreams.  For example, your donations have given Tiotchul Mateo the opportunity to be one of Mundo’s longest standing scholars: from primary school through, now his third year of university studies.  Because of you, he continues to access an education to be a leader in his community and excel in his law studies, getting closer and closer to completing his dreams to enhance the lives of Mayan families in the NW highlands of Guatemala. His dreams and pathway emulate what I believe all of us hope our support creates.  Here is his story:

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Mateo Caba says his hometown of Chajul does not have a single attorney, which allows outside interests to trample people’s rights. He cites the example of a hydroelectric project that is under construction not far from the town. Although Chajul desperately needs an alternative to firewood, which degrades air quality and is causing deforestation of the surrounding mountains, the hydro project will not provide any power locally. Instead the developer will sell all the electricity in distant towns, leaving only the environmental for Chajul. It’s a story that is repeated all over Guatemala with hydro, mining, and logging projects.

Mateo is studying to become a lawyer so he can advocate for his town, and in the meantime he is doing research on improving internet access in Chajul so local people can get more information about developments that will affect them. He is exploring whether an existing tower at a nonprofit where he works can provide a faster, cheaper, more reliable connection for people, schools, and businesses.

“The biggest problems here in Chajul stem from the fact that people do not have basic information about what is happening outside our community or about the history of events,” he said. “Better internet also would allow students to do research, since their access to books is limited, and they could take online courses in languages and mathematics.”

When Mateo was in junior high school, he was a top student, and Mundo Exchange identified him as having leadership potential. It provided assistance in junior high and then provided a scholarship for him to attend high school at the Instituto Mixto Diversificado Ixil (IMDI) in Nebaj, a larger town a half-hour bus ride from Chajul. He is financing his first two years of college with grants and loans from a nonprofit called Philanthropiece, but going forward that organization will only cover part of his expenses. He is asking Mundo for help so he can continue his studies.

Mateo works during the week in the Philanthropiece office, and then on Friday afternoon, he and other students climb aboard a crowded microbus for the three-hour ride to Universidad Mariano Galvez de Guatemala in the town of Quiché. He takes two classes Friday evening and four more during the day on Saturday before returning home. He will attend school for five years and then will spend a year doing a research project and another year preparing for the law exam. In addition to studying, he also is using a computer program to learn English, which is his third language after Spanish and Ixil. He calls English his “hobby” and makes an effort to meet native English speakers who visit Chajul so he can practice. He is thankful that he is getting an education and wishes that more of his peers had that opportunity.

“There are very many young people like me who want to help build the country, but there are no jobs for them and it is very difficult for them to obtain higher education,” he said.