If we can give something for our community, for these girls, for these boys, why not? - Candelaria Xep de Garcia
WHO: We choose scholarship students starting in sixth grade, based on their drive, work ethic, financial need, and leadership aptitude. They come from low-income rural families, usually with parents who can't read, but who are dedicated to helping their children learn. Every student in our program would have been an economic dropout.
WHAT: We call our association "Forging My Tomorrow," which is "Forjando Mi Mañana" in Spanish, because it is the students who are forging it, for themselves.
Scholarship student groups meet every week to receive tutorials on self-esteem, entrepreneurship, financial literacy, environmental issues, sexual and reproductive health and leadership. They are also tutored in other activities including: sewing, computers, arts and crafts and English, so that they can compete in a globalized world.
We have hosted three English House immersion programs during school vacations, a two-month intensive English experience that boosts our students in their conversational and written English, through interaction with foreign visitors and teachers.
WHEN: We don't wait for them to become leaders in the future; we expect them to lead now. We have 26 students, often only 13-14 years old, helping as tutors within their own communities, tutoring younger children in mathematics, reading and writing. They are receiving a scholarship, and they can start "paying it forward" immediately.
WHAT: Scholarships are 80% of the costs, and we expect the student and family to sacrifice and contribute their part for a valuable education, understanding and prioritizing its value.
RESULTS: Our first students have now graduated from great high schools like the Universidad del Valle. Miguel, Tono, and Mayra have won scholarships like the full-ride Walton Scholarship to study in the United States. Lidia and Evelyn have won first jobs as business analysts with Torrent Consulting in Antigua. They have opened businesses, started teaching English, opened a community center, and become strong teenage leaders in their communities. They have set a pioneering standard of excellence for the younger students in the program.
DID YOU KNOW?
1/3 of Guatemalan teens drop out before age 15, largely due to poverty. Public school is only free up to sixth grade.
Lake-area villages like:
Our vision is to help them explore and expand their abilities and capacities.
- Candelaria Xep de Garcia
WHY: Mayan children in the rural villages around Panajachel usually speak their Kakchiquel dialect until they enter school. School, however, is taught only in Spanish. The first few years of school are consequently very difficult and discouraging, and parents are often unable to help, since they speak minimal Spanish themselves, and may be illiterate or minimally educated.
WHAT: Our scholarship students, who are receiving tuition assistance and further education, are the neighbors of these children, and the local "heroes." They speak Kakchiquel, but also speak Spanish, are learning English, and they are uniquely positioned to motivate and inspire the next generation. When these teenagers lead Saturday literacy and homework-help tutorials for their young neighbors, the children stay in school, and surpass that intial obstacle.
WHEN: Tutorials are held in nine rural communities now, on Saturday mornings. These are voluntary, and extremely appreciated by the families of the children.
COST: Local communities are expected to provide a location. Our program provides the scholarship student teachers, school supplies, a nutritious Saturday snack to fuel learning, first-time learning excursions outside the villages, coaching for parents, and organization.
RESULTS: Children who attend regularly on Saturdays, give their best efforts, and have their parents behind them have a much better chance at success in school. We are tracking the comparative results, and have already seen some of the children mature into successful scholarship candidates, win our scholarships, and become the teachers. Angelica, Mayrita, and Oliver are examples from the Buena Vista tutorials.
IMAGINE if you entered Spanish immersion school at age six. Would you need some extra help?
Lake-area villages like:
We want integrated education. If a future job opportunity requires computers, they will be able to succeed.
- Gregorio Garcia
WHAT: We promote nutrition programs and learning centers in rural communities, as two essential tools to help with the learning and development of the students.
NUTRITION: In the elementary schools of Xejuyú (San Andres Semetebaj) and Buena Vista, we work with the communities to provide nutritional snacks to their students. The parents, community, school board, teachers, and children must be actively involved in maintaining a positive learning environment, keeping their schools neat, clean, and safe. School gardens which produce vegetables are part of this strategy, and we monitor the progress regularly.
COST: Thanks to generous foreign donors, we are maintaining this project for dozens of students.
LEARNING CENTERS: In Buena Vista, thanks to the collaboration of many individuals and donors, we have helped establish a library with an extensive collection, a laptop lab, internet connection, copier, and printer. The program is run by our scholarship students, as well as a part-time librarian. The second pilot program in Monte Mercedes follows the same model, and has been very popular with the children of the communities.
DID YOU KNOW?
Guatemalan students must pass a typing test in order to advance to seventh grade. Most attend after-school typing classes on ancient typewriters, in order to learn.
Computers cost double in Guatemala what they do in Canada or the USA.
Buena Vista has a lab of old iBooks and MacBooks from Canada, since these can be converted from English to Spanish in seconds.
In Panajachel, the main part of the economy is tourism. When there are foreign people in your town, if you know their language, you will be able to get a job.
- Gregorio Garcia
WHO: Gregorio and I both grew up in very simple families, with very little money. Gregorio sold beadwork bracelets to tourists after school, saving $10/year from age six to ten. With that $40, he found a used sewing machine, in another lake village. His father backpacked the sewing machine across the mountains, and Gregorio put himself into tailoring school at night, graduating at age 12. With that trade, and a lot of sewing suits and pants, he put himself through high school and university.
I (Candelaria) grew up collecting firewood on the mountainsides, flowers for soup, and struggling to get to school. My father Antonio, against the mockery of his relatives, decided that his daughters were going to get an education. Because of this, I graduated high school, and met Gregorio at university. We were both working at a disorganized Spanish school for foreigners, and thought "we could do this better."
We founded our Spanish School Jabel Tinamit in 1999 with a $500 loan from a German friend, and have grown it into one of the best language schools in the nation. In 2016, we were selected by INGUAT, the Guatemalan tourist agency, to represent our language school industry at an international conference in Berlin. Our teachers teach one-on-one lessons, in person or via Skype and FaceTime, to 200+ students in 25+ countries each week.
WHY: Our dream, however, has always been to be more than just self-sustaining business owners, but to be leaders who are giving back to our community and the next generation. With this in mind, we launched Forging My Tomorrow in 2011, applying business principles and accountability to the social work that is so dearly needed by our teenagers. We do this as volunteers, while accepting donations towards the costs of tuition and programs for the children. Our friends Guatemala Conexions accept and receipt Canadian and American donations, and our friends Friends of FORMA accept and receipt American donations.
COSTS: With 25+ teenage scholarship students, and 250+ children in the tutorials, as well as libraries, computer centers, micro loans, and various other ideas in progress, we have been blessed to have many people contribute each year.
DID YOU KNOW?
In Guatemala, university can cost less than $1000/year, and classes are on weekends, so that students can work during the week.
In the Lake Atitlan area, Panajachel is the center of tourism, and English is the language of tourism. With English, our students will have job opportunities for life.
Lidia, Mayra, and Miguel were in the first video, back in 2012 when they didn't speak any English. See them now:
We are volunteers, giving of our own time and resources. We don't have overhead, official offices, Suburbans, or conferences. We help children and teenagers who are willing to work hard, and who will serve as mentors to the next generation.
You can donate to help with tuition, transport, school supplies, and training for the students, as well as our learning centers or other projects. We have registered "Forjando Mi Mañana" as a Guatemalan charitable society, which can officially receive donations from international organizations. Our paperwork and record-keeping is accountable and accurate, run with the same transparency and attention we give to our own business.
If you'd like to donate through MMF from the United States, please email us for more info at firstname.lastname@example.org.
In the United States, you can donate through Friends of FORMA, which raises money for our programs each year.
If you'd like to help volunteer, perhaps by teaching computers or conversational English, please email us at email@example.com.
Thank you for believing in the potential of our students, and for investing in them.
- Candelaria and Gregorio