Posted by: janetwright2guatemala | 01/11/2012

Happiness is enabling a Guatemalan child to stay in school!!

10 enero 2012 martes

A happy 11yr old Noreida

Yesterday was a definite high during my Peace Corps service!! I handed over 100 quetzales ($12) as the first installment of a scholarship for shy and sweet-faced 11yr old Noreida to enable her to continue onto middle school. As the 2nd to youngest of 8 children ages 8-30yrs, she was dropping out of school after completing 6th grade this past October due to lack of family funds for her education. Her father works in the fields cultivating maize (corn) for their daily tortillas and her mother sells braids of cotton thread to weavers of the colorful Mayan textiles, gaining little for her work.

Thankfully I became aware of her situation through my women’s group in the village of Paxboch.  Noreida always hung back in the shadows of her sister’s adobe house where our group meets, but I sensed her curiosity and intelligence as she eagerly listened to the various topics of nutrition, marketing, and more. Curious, I asked her mother and sister about her schooling…I found out that none of the 8 children in the family  had ever attended school beyond 6th grade…and most had dropped out by 4th grade. Noreida shared with me her wish to continue school.

My census work in my town’s planning office last fall revealed that 50% of the 17,000 population in my town are children ages 0-17 yrs. That’s 8,500 kids! Do we have schools here? The answer: not enough! There are exactly 5 middle schools in my town,  3 in far-flung villages, and one building in the center of town which hosts a morning and an afternoon school (thus, only 4hrs of instruction!) Distance and availability are not the only obstacles…families usually cannot afford the costs of uniforms, and school supplies.

Fortunately, Noreida was an excellent candidate for the FOG scholarship fund which states: The FOG Scholarship Program funds scholarships for children in Guatemala who need assistance and are nominated by current Peace Corps Volunteers (PCVs).  This program provides an extra resource that you, the current volunteers, can request to benefit a student in your community who has the potential to take advantage of educational opportunities but whose family cannot afford the costs.”

In November I sent along the simple 1-pg application and a letter of recommendation, oh happy day in December when I received news of her scholarship award! Although the 1,925 quetzales ($250) is less than I requested, I am hopeful that it will be sufficient for her expenses of uniform and school supplies. I will manage the fund for the family and ask that they keep me informed as to their expenditures, and also Noreida’s progress in school…yesterday we went through the formality of signing a contract together. This quiet girl still has many obstacles to surmount, everyday she must walk an hour from home to school on dirt roads which quickly become quagmires of thick mud in the wintertime.  Yet she is still lucky to live within a walk from one of our town’s 5 middle schools….most kids drop out after elementary school for lack of access to schools and funds. Just this week a big-bellied 12 yr old girl from a far-flung village walked into our health center and gave birth, with the new father only 14yrs old. I want a much better fate for Noreida!! At least there is middle school available, but for the next educational level, our town does not have an actual high school…adolescents must travel 2hrs each way to either Totonicapán, our department’s capital, or onto Xela (also 2hrs away) to attend high school, sometimes living there during the week.

So despite our frequent criticism of the educational system in the United States, we citizens can still be very thankful of the accessibility of schooling for our youth.  I am just thankful that as a Peace Corps volunteer I could access financial support for Noreida to be the first in her family to attend middle school …a happy day not only for this family, but for Guatemala!!



  1. I’m glad that you got the scholarship for her! I’m sure she is very excited to continue going to school!

  2. I’m so happy you helped that little girl! Keep up the sweet service ;-))


    Michael W.

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