TEACHING FUTURE LEADERS
In a country where more than half the population lives below the poverty line, the barriers kid face to make it into classrooms are extremely high. While they may already be struggling to afford basic necessities, families face the costs of school uniforms, supplies, transportation, and the student’s lost income.
As a result, today 2 million children in Guatemala, a majority of them girls, don’t attend school. Sixty percent of the indigenous population cannot read or write and one in five children will not graduate from the 6th grade.
In response to the education crisis in their own community, a group of elders and mothers in the remote Guatemalan village of Santa Avelina called on HELPS to start a primary school 20 years ago. They had a simple request: “We want a better life for our children.”
HELPS volunteers answered that call by launching the William M. Botnan Experimental School, a one-of-a-kind primary school where best practices in teaching meet respect for local language and culture.
With the effective teachers, safe classrooms, high parent involvement, and quality supplies they need, students in Santa Avelina are mastering skills that will help them lead their community out of poverty.
students are attending HELPS' primary school in pre-K to sixth grade.
students are currently receiving HELPS scholarships to attend secondary school and university.
students have graduated from HELPS' primary school since its launch in 1998.
hours of ongoing teacher training are provided to HELPS' teachers each year.
books have been developed in Cotzal Ixil for emergent readers of all ages.
THE IXIL BOOKMAKING PROJECT
We support the preservation of Santa Avelina’s local culture and language through dual language Cotzal Ixil/Spanish instruction by teachers from the Santa Avelina community. Cotzal Ixil, an oral language, is one of 23 indigenous languages spoken in Guatemala.
To address the absence of Ixil print material appropriate for new readers, Dr. Donna Phillips of Pacific University launched the Cotzal Ixil Emergent Reading Bookmaking Project with HELPS in 2010. Santa Avelina community leaders, including teachers, write and illustrate books for emergent readers.
Through this process, they debate, question, and work through the issues of standardizing their language. Thus far, the project has led to the creation of 59 quality, culturally appropriate books for young readers, with another 24 books planned.