ACEFOMI. CEMIK. In light of our recent campaign you might have found yourself wondering, “What do these even mean?” For those of you not entirely familiar with Mundo Exchange’s work in Guatemala, we conduced an interview with co-director and driving force behind our Guatemalan programs, Dr Joan Williams.
What does ACEFOMI stand for?
Asociación Chajulense Educación, Formación, Organización Mujeres Ixiles, or in English
Association Chajulense Ixil Women for Education and Formation
Ixil are Maya people indigenous to Guatemala. ACEFOMI is an association created by and run by Ixil women from Chajul, a municipality in El Quiche.
What does CEMIK stand for?
Centro Educativo Maya Ixil, or Center of Education for Maya Ixilies
So ACEFOMI and CEMIK are connected?
ACEFOMI is a registered Guatemalan NGO serving women in Chajul and the surrounding hamlets. The women have been role models, serving families in the area since the early 90’s. One of their initiatives has been running CEMIK for their community, yes.
How is Mundo connected with them? And how long have we been involved with them?
We have been associated with the group since 1998. Our first experience was to work alongside the women documenting the long term effects of violence that rocked the community for 36 years during the Civil War. Chajul was one of the villages targeted and ripped apart by the Guatemalan government’s civil war. Members of the community were on both sides of the struggle, but everyone suffered. Villages and crops burnt to the ground, large scale massacres, starvation, disappearances and displacements were only some of the challenges faced by the residents of Chajul. Despite the years, the community continues to feel the effects of the violence.
In addition to being survivors of the civil war, the majority of Chajulense families live in extreme poverty. Many cannot afford the fees to send their children to school, access medical care, or provide adequate nutrition to their family members.
Mundo Exchange has supported several educational and mental health initiatives.
Helps children and adults complete their education and become active citizens in their community.
Accompanies Oregon Episcopal School and Catlin Gable students who have volunteered in Chajul’s schools and community projects since 2011.
Provides funds to help build homes, potable water pipes and community centers.
Provides funds and makes connections to appropriate medical providers so that people could access medical treatment.
Collaborates with several other NGO’s in the area to help increase access to social, legal and health services for all community members.
Now that the new Center is being built are we still going to have as deep of an involvement?
Absolutely! Mundo Exchange has a long term commitment to the community. We are regular visitors to Chajul and encourage Friends of Mundo to join us on our annual trips. Our work is guided by critical input from the leadership of ACEFOMI and other local community members to ensure funds go to individuals, communities and projects that enhance the overall living conditions in the Chajul area.
So do we only partner with ACEFOMI in Guatemala or do we have ongoing work and projects independent of them?
We partner with many NGOs and local organizations but our primary focus is in Chajul with ACEFOMI. Supporting CEMIK has been a main focus along with supporting access to literacy for all ages, supporting individuals pursuing educational and career training, supporting increased access to medical and mental health care for all, and sometimes helping build safe homes for families.
Mundo has many volunteer opportunities in Thailand, are there volunteer opportunities for Guatemala as well?
The problem with volunteers is that we have no one currently on the ground in Guatemala to oversee the experiences. There is a possibility for guided volunteer opportunities each March and April beginning in 2020, but until then we do not have the staff or resources to oversee an ongoing volunteer program in Guatemala like we do in Thailand.