Immediate results – Adults: Micro-Finance Loans – There are no large factories near Chichicastenango and no large areas of land suitable for agriculture. Most adults scratch to find any type of odd job they can find. The average family of 7 generates an annual income of around $1,500. Simple math equates that to $.59 per person per day making this one of the poorest areas in the world.
After building a strong relationship with the communities we have assisted with water filters and vented stoves, we offer our loan program to those who can produce a meaningful business plan to start a new, or expand an existing, cottage business.
Our program funds a total of 7 loans of around $150 each that are repaid over the following 12 months. The repayments go to fund additional loans. With this pattern, 42 loans are generated over a 3-year period and adds 12 more each year thereafter. Having been involved in almost 500 loans, we have only had one partial default… the man’s chickens all died of disease and he could not afford to buy more.
Long Term – Children & Youth:
Scholarships– In 2007 we learned that the average adult in the area had less than 2 years of formal education. Many children were allowed to stay in school through the 4th grade, but left to help support the family after that. We began a program to sponsor children with a scholarship to allow them to stay in school. Tuition is free, but there are costs for books, uniforms, transportation, etc. Over the years we have seen many of our sponsored children stay in school and several even go to a nearby college. The number of our sponsored children has risen over the years to a current level of 50.
Saturday Classes – In Guatemala, teachers are assigned by the government. No attention is paid to the teacher’s ability to speak the indigenous dialect, as only Spanish is allowed in school. After seeing how children struggled with this in the early years, we started a pre-school Spanish class that has been very successful. To assist the older children and young adults find better employment, we operate three English classes. Once we found a secure location and donated used computers, we started a computer class to teach the basic skills as well as the Microsoft Office suite of programs.
Learning Center – There are no libraries in the schools or community. Once we had the above mentioned Saturday computer classes, we connected the computers to the Internet, and opened the door Monday – Friday to allow students to use the computers to do research on their school assignments. We believe the use of computers may allow the youth to “skip a generation”.