Guatemala

The Mayan Health and Education Project (http://mayanproject NULL.org/) is an independent project initiated in 2001 by Dr. Ellen Coburn, a family physician practicing in Vancouver, Canada. The focus of this project is to combat poverty in Guatemala, and promote a peaceful future for this country, still recovering from a 36 year civil war, through health and education in a rural community there. The project is in the village of Huixoc, nestled among coffee plants in the highlands of Guatemala near the Mexican border. The educational aspect of this project focuses on the children of the village. Many of the students in this area will never even complete the optional six years of education provided by the government because of financial pressures to help support their families by working for meager wages in unskilled jobs: picking coffee or doing odd construction jobs.
In 2005, we completed development of a bilingual junior high school in the Huixoc, giving the village’s children—for the first time—the chance to advance their education beyond Grade 6. This year, a third group of students completed the basic curriculum and are ready to graduate from junior high school. Most of our graduates have continued their education. Our project continues to work closely with the parents, teachers, and community elders on our shared goals, giving Huixoc’s children a chance to escape the cycle of poverty and discrimination that has hampered the progress of Mayan people for generations. One future objective is to improve students’ opportunities for computer skills training. During a trip to Guatemala earlier this year, we arranged for a computer expert to set up internet access at the school. The community planning committee now hopes to build a computer lab to secure the school’s computers and possibly to open a youth-friendly internet café. This accomplishment would require purchase or lease of a piece of land.

Another goal of the school is the recovery of many of the cultural practices of the community which were set aside during the nearly four decades of violence. One of these traditions is the playing of the marimba. Marimba classes are among the most enjoyable aspects of the school program.

 

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