Elementary and middle schools are expensive in Guatemala – not because tuition is charged, but the required uniforms, shoes, textbooks and other supplies add up to over $200 per year. Many poor children wouldn’t be able to attend school without our scholarships. We are thankful we can give so many children an elementary and middle school education, but our scholarship recipients don’t want to stop with middle school. They dream of becoming doctors, teachers, accountants, and many other things, and a professional career is impossible without high school and university degrees. Tuition is not free after middle school, so educational costs triple for students who want to continue to high school and beyond (University is only slightly higher than high school).
Rather than offering full scholarships to students who want to continue beyond middle school, we set them up with small businesses and a savings account at a bank, and they are required to contribute half of their educational costs. This not only teaches them all the components of running a business (production, marketing, finance…), they learn the importance of saving for a future goal – a difficult concept for people who are used to living hand-to-mouth. We let the students choose what businesses they want, but most – especially if they live in rural areas – want to raise chickens. We set them up with their businesses a year before they start high school so they have a year to start earning money, and this year we are adding 11 new students to the program.
Kimberly is one of our students receiving a chicken coop, chickens, and other supplies. She wants to study law, because, she says, many innocent people are sent to jail in Guatemala because they lack legal help, and she wants to defend the innocent. Gloria is another student who wants to raise chickens. She wants to be a bilingual secretary. Life for these girls is hard, as it is with all our other students. Gloria, for example, starts work at 4:00am making tortillas to earn enough income to eat, and she attends school in the afternoon. Still she manages to be the top student in her class!
We are proud of these hard-working students who yearn for an education, and we are so grateful we can offer them this opportunity.