In a country where more than half the population lives below the poverty line, the barriers kids 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.

Program Impact


students are attending HELPS’ primary school from pre-K to sixth grade, including the Early stimulation program.


students have graduated from HELPS’ primary school since 1998.

US$ 3.2

million has been the economic impact since the beginning of the program.


books have been written and illustrated in Cotzal Ixil for emerging readers of all ages.


HELPS students and faculty rely on the generosity of supporters whose gifts fund school supplies and books, pay local teachers’ salaries, provide training, and more.  Every gift to the school makes a difference.

Elementary School (First to Sixth Grade)

– Full Scholarship US$1,000. Divided by 12 months US$84
– Partial Scholarship US$500. Divided by 12 months US$42

Early Stimulation

– Program Support US$500. Divided by 12 months US$42