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Providing university scholarships to deserving young women in Guatemala

Why I Sponsor a Q Fund Scholar in Guatemala

By Margaret Swahn

Sandra Bibiana

Quetzal University Fund Scholar

Siﹶ, puedo in Spanish means Yes, I can. This is the attitude exhibited by the Quetzal University Fund young women in Guatemala.  These scholars come from profound poverty with little support beyond family and they represent indigenous women who are looked down upon in their own country and who live in a culture of solid patriarchy. To get to university these students have to travel great distances and they have to learn at least two languages (Spanish and English) beyond their native Mayan dialect. When I went to university many years ago, I had the support of my family and friends and the means to do a work/study program to decrease my tuition.

We know that people internalize ideas from their socialization. Without a Q Fund education that leads to internships and ultimately jobs, these young women are left to feel “less than” and that their life holds little beyond quitting school sometimes before the end of elementary school, marrying as a young teenager, having many children, and maybe being able to make and sell

Margaret Swahn


tortillas or do some craft work that is sold to a middle-person who eventually sells it in a local market.

In 2018 I visited Guatemala on a Q Fund Insight Trip. To meet these young women, to see what they have accomplished and the goals they have for themselves was truly humbling. These young people want to become attorneys, teachers, social workers, biomedical engineers and many other professions so needed in our world today.  My scholar, Sandra Bibiana, is close to finishing her nursing program and has been instrumental in working for public awareness about the COVID crisis in Guatemala. I could not be prouder of her. The annual amount to sponsor my student is a pittance compared to educating a young person in the US. The rewards are exponential.


James Hollis, a depth psychologist has said, “ fear and lethargy are the enemies of life.”  These young women inspire me daily as they push through their fears and certainly, they are not lethargic in any way.  Yes, I can sponsor a young woman who will give back as an employable professional whose horizons have been broadened, and whose relationships have been expanded. Won’t you join me?


By Connie Ning

Beverly Tecun

Quetzal University Fund Coordinator

If one were looking for the perfect staff person to be in charge of the on the ground, daily challenges of the Quetzal Fund girls, one would need look no further than the amazing Beverly Tucun.


For starters, Beverly holds a B.A. in business administration, an unbelievable accomplishment for a Maya woman from rural Guatemala (only 1% of indigenous women in this country attain this level of education). But Beverly brings so much more to the table than her degree. Somehow she manages to keep in touch with all 45 Q. Fund students through all their obstacles and successes. She’s their “other mother,” someone they can talk to when grades and self-confidence tumble. She’s a tireless mentor and cheerleader, locating tutors for difficult subjects and encouraging perseverance. Beverly understands the Maya culture and is an expert at handling dicey family situation with gentle but persuasive diplomacy. She knows just how to help our new students find just the right university to pursue their career choice.


by Connie Ning

Juana Simaj

Juana lives in Santiago. Like everyone in her town, she is called an “Attiteco” meaning she lives in the biggest indigenous town on Lake Atitlan. This picturesque body of water, ringed by mountains and three volcanoes, has a handful of Mayan villages and small towns scattered on the shores of its shoulders. Santiago is one such town.  

Arriving by boat we climb onto the dock and follow a staff member through twisting paths like branches of a gnarled tree to reach Juana’s home. It is a cinderblock affair with a dirt floor and a line of machetes on one wall. Functionality is the operative word here. There is nothing charming about this level of poverty.  Juana, her parents and a younger brother with his black, scraggily puppy on a rope leash greet us. They have arranged a few plastic chairs for us while they sit on the floor.

We start the interview by asking Juana a question and she is off and running. She claims to have been timid before entering the MAIA program but this stretches the imagination as she cheerfully chatters on about the big changes in her new life as a college student and a Q Fund girl.

Guatemala COVID-19 Update


June 14, 2020


As of June 14, there have been 9491 cases of Covid-19 in Guatemala with 367 deaths.  the curves for both confirmed cases and deaths continue to rise steeply.  There are cases throughout the country including around Lake Atitlan where our students live.  Most of the country continues under strict lockdown.  All of our students are safe at home with their families continuing their studies on-line, but most are affected by shortages of food as mothers and fathers are unable to work.  Hunger has become an issue for many families.  

Q Fund Student, Chonita, at work for Humans in Action mask initiative.

 Throughout Guatemala people have adopted a flag system to let others know of their situation.  A white flag means food is needed; a red flag  means medicine.  The Quetzal University Fund is providing food supplements to the families of our students.  Each of the students has a bank account and funds are transferred electronically directly to their  bank accounts.  If you would like to contribute to this effort, please click here and designate your donation RELIEF FUND.


Several of our students are engaged in activities to fight the corona virus pandemic.  Four of our nursing students continue to serve as translators for a hot line where people can call in to get advice from medical professionals.  They provide a critical link for residents who speak only one of the indigenous languages and doctors and nurses who speak only Spanish and/or English.  Because the demand has not been high, three of these nurses have been shifted to serving the families of Q Fund and MAIA-Impact School students, calling the families each day to provide corona virus information, (prevention, protocols, hand washing, etc).  We also have a student coordinating the process of mothers of MAIA students sorting and cutting t-shirt scraps to ready them for sewing into masks, and  

Fund Student, Cristina managing the mask production project at the MAIA School

another in Antigua who is one of the key folks helping to manage the Humans-in-Action mask initiative.  Check it out at:  https://www.maiaimpact.org/buy-a-mask-and-donate-three

Our MAIA partner is also heavily engaged in the fight against the corona virus.  It provides a valuable source of information about the corona virus in the remote communities from which their students come.  Most notably, some of the staff have recorded public service announcements on prevention, symptoms, how the virus spreads, how to safely shop at the local markets, how to buy necessities, and social distancing, in three native languages.  These PSAs are receiving widespread distribution through radio and social media.  For more information on MAIA’s initiatives related to the corona virus:  https://www.maiaimpact.org/maias-response-covid19

“Food Relief Drive” Update

June 29, 2020

By Anita Kreider

Our “Food Relief Drive” has been amazingly successful!!  The recipient families as well as those of us on the QF Executive Board are so very grateful for the generosity of all of you who donated.  We raised enough money to extend our support beyond the 3 months we initially planned!  This is great news as COVID is on the rise in Guatemala, and like here, a return to normal is not on the immediate horizon.  We expect that some of the families who were initially doing well, may now need assistance. 


Our Guatemalan Program Coordinator, Beverly Tecun related that we had ten families who reported being in “Red”.  The parents were unemployed and there was either no income or just the income from their student’s job or internship. There were six families in “Yellow.”  Most of them were farmers and had some food from what they were able to grow but needed more food.  Other families were in “Green”.  They had adequate savings or employment that their food needs were covered for now. 


There is really no safety net in Guatemala so these families in Red or Yellow were in desperate need.  Beverly has reported that the students and their families are pulling together in this very trying time.  Their resilience is extraordinary.  Beverly said many students shed tears of gratitude at receiving the food assistance.  Some of them took photographs of the food they received, and we are posting those moving pictures below. 


Thank you again for contributing to hunger relief for some desperately needy families in Guatemala!


Malala Yousafzai

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