Guatemala: A Country in Flux, Part 2

In this second part of our two-part blog series on Guatemala, we will share with you another organization that needs your help, as well as an excellent programmatic opportunity for your schools related to Guatemala…Thanks for reading!

Grassroots Community Assistance

Numerous non-profit initiatives sprang up throughout Guatemala after the civil war. Some, like Safe Passage (discussed in Part 1 of this series), were started by visitors and activists from other nations, while others are home-grown. One such example of a grassroots foundation is Fundacione Corazones Libres (FUNCOLI)--or the Free Hearts Foundation.

(Photo Courtesy of FUNCOLI)

In the mountainous region just beyond the city of Antigua lie the Vuelta Grande, Agua Colorada, and La Cumbre communities. FUNCOLI serves over 200 families in these communities which are largely Mayan and subsistence farmers. Because the areas are quite isolated, education and health services are not accessible. FUNCOLI’s mission is to “provide health services, education and local development to people of limited resources, with the aim of promoting empowerment and economic growth in these communities”. FUNCOLI’s Learning Center now serves 28 children between the ages of 4 and 12. Students attend daily classes, receive a nourishing meal, and participate in art workshops.

At the medical and dental clinics, adults and children receive free medicine and consultations twice a month on Sunday mornings. Additionally, FUNCOLI has provided motivational workshops for adults, donations of eco water filters, and support for local community leaders’ negotiations with the Municipality of Antigua in an effort to obtain potable water.

(Photo Courtesy of FUNCOLI)

While staying in Vuelta Grande, we happened upon FUNCOLI quite by accident. Unbeknownst to us, Ingrid, the proprietress of the guest cottage we were renting, is one of the founders of the organization. FUNCOLI’s  learning centers and medical clinic were a short walk from the cottage. During our stay at the cottage, we were given a tour of their learning center and the medical clinic. FUNCOLI’s facilities are modest. It is touching to see how much love and thoughtfulness are being put into these spaces with very limited resources.

Over the next  two years, FUNCOLI is aiming to expand their workshops for adults in areas such as literacy, carpentry, sewing, crop cultivation, cooking, clothing design and plumbing, in addition to constructing or improving upon the learning center facilities (bathroom, kitchen, cafeteria, storage area). Just recently, the Learning Center received donated computers for providing computer classes to both children and adults. The computers are stored, somewhat insecurely, at the foundation.  Due to the isolation of the foundation’s location, they need to install a chain link fence and lighting for security. Installation of the chain link fence is estimated to be approximately $7,500.

FUNCOLI is also in need of providing all-weather driving access to the foundation, and for local farmers for the purpose of working their fields and extracting their harvest of flowers and vegetables.  The intense rains common to Guatemala wash out the road and make it impossible for vehicles to extract the harvest. Construction and expansion of the Foundation has been greatly limited due to the inability of receiving construction materials. Construction costs  associated with improved road access are estimated to be approximately $5,000.

If you are interested in helping FUNCOLI realize its mission,  the best way is to contribute a monetary donation (postal service is practically non-existent in Guatemala). Donations may be sent via a bank transfer through one of the following channels:

  • BANCO AGROMERCANTIL, 7TH Ave. 7-30, Zone 9, Guatemala, C.A. Tel: (502)2338-6565 Ext. 92002-92066
  • Instructions for receiving monetary transfers from the US, via Citibank: NA Citibank, New York, NY, ABA 021000089, SWIFT CITIUS33, To: BANCO AGROMERCANTIL DE GUATEMALA, S.A., GUATEMALA, C.A., SWIFT AGROGTGC, FUNDACION CORAZONES LIBRES, Cuenta No. 31-4002954-6, 14 Calle A 15-27, Zone 10, Oakland, Guatemala

(Photo Courtesy of FUNCOLI)

Related programming for your schools…

We all know that building awareness in our students can lead to inspiring positive action. If you are looking to educate students at your school about Guatemala, then look no further!

My (Laura) first real entry into gaining an understanding of Guatemalan culture was a documentary film. In the Fall of 2014, tipped off by more than a little hype, a colleague and I watched the documentary, Living On One Dollar, a film chronicling the experiences of several college seniors who conducted an experiment whereby they farmed radishes and lived in rural Guatemala on one dollar a day. The filmmakers endured sickness, hunger, and fatigue to generate awareness about what it is like to live in poverty in the developing world. This experiment spun off into the Change Series, a 6 episode series about six issues that Guatemalans living in extreme poverty confront every day complete with ancillary multimedia resources and a curriculum packet.  After viewing the film, we subsequently rushed to book one of the project’s central creators and speakers, Chris Temple.

Anyone interested in helping young people understand the realities and challenges faced by the poor of the developing world would do very well to have Chris visit their school. He is a charismatic, engaging speaker who connects with young adults in an effervescent way. Most importantly, he inspires empathy from his audiences.  Living On One Dollar sparked an outpouring of donations from viewers raising over $750,000 for education and micro-finance work for the village featured in the film.

Chris and his collaborators are still active with their work in Guatemala, but have since branched out to explore and understand the Syrian refugee crisis. They were the first embedded filmmakers to live inside a refugee camp, where their second film, Salam Neighbor was filmed. The film led to the dynamic web collaboration between Chris, Google, and the UN: Searching for Syria. Both Living on One Dollar and Salam Neighbor are on Netflix. I encourage you to check them out! 

(Photo by Laura Bishop)

About the authors:

Laura Bishop has been “librarian-ing” for thirteen years now. Previously she was a Senior Children’s Librarian for The New York Public Library, and the Middle and Upper School Librarian at Léman Manhattan Prep. Laura is currently in  her fourth year as the Director of the Library and Media Center of The Hun School of Princeton, where she is fortunate to activate her passions for social justice, travel, and cultural competency work through the Cultural Competency Committee, advisement of the gender equity group, and chaperoning global immersion trips abroad.

Maria Falgoust is the librarian at the International School of Brooklyn (ISB), a Nursery–8th grade independent school in Carroll Gardens, Brooklyn, New York. ISB offers French and Spanish language immersion programs as well as an International Baccalaureate curriculum, which is reflected in their multilingual library collection. Prior to ISB, Maria worked at The American Overseas School of Rome (AOSR) and Saint Ann’s in Brooklyn Heights, NY. She is serving as vice president of the Hudson Valley Library Association (HVLA) for a second term, is an organizer of the Building Bridges Through Books  book club through the Human Rights Pen Pal organization, and is on the planning committee for NYSAIS Education and Information Technology Conference.

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