The Quetzal University Fund
Providing scholarships to deserving young women in Guatemala
Welcome to the Quetzal University Fund Website
While you are here we hope you take the time to explore. Scroll down to the bottom of the page to better understand the context we work in and why we do what we do. Use the navigation menu at the top of the page to learn more about us - our Mission, our History, our Team, our Partners, and our Scholars. You can also keep up to date on the latest news and upcoming events. Most importantly, you can learn how to become involved as a donor or a sponsor. If you have questions or suggestions to make this website more helpful, we hope you will use the Contact link to send us your thoughts.
One Girl's Story
Zonia and her small family live up long, windy roads that look like spaghetti thrown across the mountains far above the capital city of her region. There they grow corn and a few vegetables. Their home consists of two small rooms built from cinder blocks with dirt floors. A couple of chickens scratch around outside. Zonia’s mom and grandmother speak no Spanish, only the local Mayan dialect, ensuring that they will never have a paying job outside their small, rented plot of land. They are the face of rural poverty in Guatemala.
Fortunately, Zonia had a few things going for her. The first, in spite of all her primitive living conditions, was her mother. This is a woman who was determined her daughter have a better life and was sure that education was the ticket to the door of a better future. That’s how Zonia finished 6th grade when almost all of the girls nearby dropped out to help at home.
The other advantage Zonia had, and it was a perfect fit with her mom’s dreams for her, is that she’s smart. Very smart. And that’s how she got recommended for a spot in the MAIA program, which, among other things, included a scholarship and a hands-on mentor for the next 5 years.
So Zonia finished middle school with high grades and, because of her mentorship program, a new sense of what a Mayan girl like herself could do. Now her dream was to become a nurse and help those in her community, where there were no medical services. To this end she petitioned MAIA to send her to a private pre-med high school located about 1 ½ hours away down those steep mountain roads.
It’s hard to say no to a girl with this much grit and a passion to help others. The extra funds were procured, her request granted, so off she went via the backs of pickups, and two buses. The problem was Zonia is plagued by carsickness. She suffered nausea and debilitating headaches on these twice daily trips. Often, she’d come home and have to go to bed before being able to do her chores and homework. Undaunted, she persisted. And graduated at the top of her class.
Now it was time to tackle university studies. Zonia applied and was accepted to one of the country’s top nursing schools. This was the first time she’d lived away from home. It was a tough transition, but she never wavered. This spring she passed both written and oral tests to receive her RN. It was a proud moment for her and her mother. In three more years she’ll have her BS in nursing. This is what happens when talented, deserving, but poor girls are given a chance. They are no longer relegated to the backroads of oblivion but can step forward as dedicated, contributing members of their community and country.
Why Girls' Education?
Indigenous girls in Guatemala are among the country's most disadvantaged group with limited schooling, early marriage, frequent childbearing, and chronic poverty. The need to invest in education, particularly for under served girls is acute. Education is one of the most critical areas of empowerment for women. It is also an area that offers some of the clearest examples of discrimination women suffer. Among children attending school there are twice as many boys as girls, and among literate adults there are twice as many men as women. Offering basic education to girls is one sure way of giving them greater power, enabling them to make genuine choices over the lives they wish to lead. This is not a luxury. It is a basic human right.
It is not sufficient to stop with basic, secondary education. Providing an opportunity for young women to advance to the next level of education at university is essential if the existing macho culture is ever to change. University graduates will become tomorrow's leaders of transformational change.
The current state of the education system is substandard. Many classrooms, especially in rural Guatemala, do not have adequate teaching materials. Additionally, with more than half the population living below the poverty line, many children – especially rural and indigenous children – are forced to drop out of school to help support their families or because they are unable to afford the cost of uniforms, books, supplies and transportation.
Gender disparity in Guatemala is among the worst in the western hemisphere, second only to Haiti. This key problem is seen in education statistics. Of the 2 million children in Guatemala that do not attend school, the majority are indigenous girls living in rural areas. In fact, over half of the Guatemalan population is indigenous and less than 30% of poor, rural indigenous girls are enrolled in secondary school. Almost none are enrolled in university.
There is no better time. The world is changing fast and Guatemala needs to change with it.
"When girls are educated, their countries become stronger and more prosperous."