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Help Guatemalan Girls Stay - and Succeed - in School

Item # 85647

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Help the daughters of Mayan women weavers stay in school and succeed in their studies!

When it comes to quality of education, Guatemala ranks lowest in Central America.The problem is worse in predominantly Indigenous communities such as Santiago Atitlan, where the literacy rate is only 56%, compared to a national literacy rate of 82%

The Mayan cultural tradition of backstrap-loom weaving is integral to the Santiago Atitlan community. Cojolya Association works to support these women artisans, and now wants to do more to help their families. Too often, the daughters of Mayan weavers are unable to keep up with payments for their school enrollment and supplies—which account for 40% of the monthly expenses—and are forced to leave school after the 6th grade, instead assuming responsibility for looking after the house.

You can help. The 12 girls in the "Mano a Mano por el Desarrollo" program are eager to learn. These girls, between the ages of 3 and 17, dream of becoming teachers or doctors, but fear they will have to drop out of school early like their older siblings did before them. Your donations will provide for these 12 girls' school supplies so they can continue their education and follow their dreams!

Lourdes and her siblings

On an uncharacteristically sunny afternoon in Santiago Atitlan, a smile crept across twelve–year–old Lourdes' face when asked "Do you have a hero?" Without hesitation she responded, "Andrea, my older sister. She helps us with everything. We have a father, but he is sick. And my mother is no longer with us. Andrea has taught me how to work hard and without her we wouldn't eat. For this, she is like our mother."

Lourdes has five siblings, all of whom are in school. Andrea, her older sister, is an artisan who works in the Cojolya Association. The reliable income that she receives from her craft helps her provide the basic necessities of her five siblings, but each child is responsible for pay for their own education.

Twelve-year-old Lourdes dreams of being a doctor for sick children.

Lourdes is adamant about prioritizing her schoolwork, but to pay for her studies, she does beadwork at night after finishing her homework. "It is a little difficult to balance both," Lourdes explained, "but Andrea told me, 'you must fight for your education.'" She wants to stay in Guatemala and be a doctor for sick children who live in rural areas.

When asked if she could continue attending school without supplies, Lourdes looked amused. "Without supplies, we can't do our work, we need all of them," she said. However, paying for school supplies in Santiago Atitlan is not easy for many students. In Lourdes' school, students are responsible for all school supply costs. Thus, at 12 years of age, Lourdes is covering the costs of her supplies with the money she irregularly receives from beadwork.

At 12 years old, Lourdes' has a strength that is uncharacteristic of her age and is evident in everything she does: her mannerisms, the way she speaks about her future and family, her distinctive optimism, and her willingness to fight for her education. Without doubt, Lourdes deserves an opportunity to fight.

Cojolya is an association and organization dedicated to the preservation of the ancient art of Maya backstrap-loom weaving and the traditions surrounding it — not just as a historic relic, but as a viable economic enterprise for the women weavers. Recently Cojolya has started a social development program Mano a Mano por el Desarrollo to support the children of weavers, and help them succeed in school.

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