PPhoto by Tom Fry

Providing university scholarships to deserving young women in Guatemala

Pamela and her mom

Pamela Chumil, a QFund student who began her studies in social work in 2019 at Rafael Landivar University in Guatemala, has been selected to participate in Women Deliver Young Leaders Class of 2020.  Pamela was one of 300 students selected out of more than 5600 applicants from around the world.  These students (both male and female) were selected for “their potential to have a lasting impact on the lives of girls and women”.  As a group, they have already impacted a wide range of issues, including sexual and reproductive health and rights, maternal health, LGBTQIA+ rights, peace and security, water and sanitation, gender-based violence, education, political participation, and youth engagement.  (As reported on Women Deliver website).  https://womendeliver.org/announcing-the-2020-class-of-young-leaders/ 

 

Through participating in this program, Pamela will gain skills that influence gender equality and actively shape programs that affect health and rights of girls, women, and young people.  Over the next two years she will receive advocacy training and skills, and learn about resources through various digital learning platforms provided by Women Deliver.   She will have opportunity to build networks through workshops, receive access to resources and grant funding, and enhance her influence through media and speaking opportunities.  Finally, she will participate in the Women Deliver 2022 Conference — the world’s largest conference on gender equality and the health and rights of girls and women. (From Women Deliver Web Page).

Pamela says the following regarding her involvement in Young Leaders Program: 

As young women, we have the potential to create a new generation in a more equal  world with more opportunities. We are the future. We are critical thinkers. We can empower others to speak up, to fight for our human rights, to have good health, to have a good education. We are change makers.

 

When asked what ignited her interest in gender equality, Pamela responds:

           I think all the differences that I saw in my community changed my thought. We need an equal world where everyone can access the                        different resources they need.

We are thrilled that Pamela will have this opportunity during her university studies.  She has already expressed her commitment to increasing equality and human rights in the world. Her willingness to expand her influence as a change agent to better her community, country, and the world is something for which the Q Fund is very proud.  

For more information, go to:  https://womendeliver.org/announcing-the-2020-class-of-young-leaders/

Pamela C. Selected for Women Deliver Young Leaders Class 2020

 

By Yvonne Yousey
August 1, 2020

What a Mentor Can Do

 

By MaryLou Faddick

Patsy with Q Fund Students

Remember for a moment your favorite teacher.  The one who “got you”, the one who truly cared, pushed you beyond what even you thought you were capable of doing.  The teacher who enriched your life.  This is the story of one of those teachers.  And the remarkable part is that she has accomplished this everywhere she entered a classroom in Colorado and in the hills of Guatemala.  Her name is Patricia Schmitz.  Everyone knows her as Patsy.

 

At the end of the 60’s, Patsy and her new husband, Steve, joined the Peace Corps, were sent to Venezuela, immediately getting to work teaching in rural villages for Patsy and setting up NGO support for Steve.  With their fluent Spanish they were able to understand and participate in the daily lives of the people.  This sense of true service infused their lives.  When their Peace Corps service ended, they bought a car and drove home, stopping in Guatemala.  That was a show- stopper for Patsy.  She found it beautiful, charming, filled with beautiful people weaving eye catching fabrics.  She knew she would return.

Return she did.  First with Friendship Bridge, and then with Connie and Ted Ning in their incredible new project Starfish.  Patsy’s unique talent is that she weaves her awesome talent in 

the arts with her ability to be present to each student, each young woman she works with.  While they “make” something

together that special quality of trust is building between them, giving the young student the gift of a woman who understands them and supports their yearnings to do something special in their life.  That is what is so powerful about that interaction, the life-changing power of mentorship.

Patsy’s years in the classrooms of a school she and Steve helped found brought that same magic.  Her classrooms sparked children Pre-Kindergarten through high school to dig deep into themselves to find their creative self and enjoy the process.  Her special talent of integrating art with Spanish, and practicing those important social skills that a classroom is uniquely able to do, served everyone of her students.  In her Colorado classrooms, Patsy was the quiet star.

 

Now, each year, Patsy brings those same skills to the young women learning at MAIA and the Quetzal University Fund.  These young women of Pana, Santiago, Solala know Patsy.  They trust her.  She is not just their mentor; she is their trusted American friend who has believed in them all these years, spent untold hours bringing them books, art materials, and her own unique brand of support that lets each young woman know she can be who she dreams of being.  Patsy exemplifies

the unique gift of the Q Fund - the ability to provide excellent mentoring to these young women.

 

There is a powerful “magic” in teaching.  Patsy Schmitz is proof of that incredible “magic.”  The Q Fund is fortunate to have Patsy as one of the American mentors who bring these young women that inner knowing that indeed, they can succeed.  And succeed is what they are doing.

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

Sponsor

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?

Meet Our Guatemala Program Coordinator, Beverly Tecun

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.

In addition, Beverly manages all the complicated finances that a university student encounters. This includes tuition payments, room and board for full time students, transportation costs, etc.  Beverly’s the bridge between the U.S. Quetzal Committee and the students.  To this end she’s taught herself English, her third language.

The passion Beverly brings to all of this is born of a heart as big as the ocean of love she pours out to “her girls” as well as a keen intellect to navigate a complicated university system, families that are suspect of girls education, and the challenges a girl faces academically as she tries to find her way down a path no one in her family or community has ever traveled.

 

We’re so very grateful to this amazing young woman.  Beverly is the magic ingredient that makes the possibility of a university education a reality for our Quetzal Fund students.  We wish you all could meet this charming young woman.  We could never have the success we do with our students without her magical wisdom and deep caring and compassion.

A RISING STAR 

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.

Since she attends classes on weekends in a distant town, she tells us she must be up at 4:00 a.m. to catch a 5:00 bus. Several hours later the bus deposits everyone at the university.  Juana, who up until now has rarely left Santiago, says this place is “like a different country.” It’s hot and coastal. There are kids from everywhere speaking a plethora of Mayan languages. Everything is foreign. She loves it!

 

If there was only one word to describe this 18 year old, it would be resourceful. Next adjectives in the lineup would be confident and curious. Finding herself alone in a strange land and having been warned by other Quetzal girls how hard university courses are, she was understandably frightened. And she was right. Logic and math proved difficult. After considering how she might overcome these challenges, she asked the staff for a tutor, studied long into the nights, and decided to watch YouTube videos for more insight and instruction.

 

Juana was sure she had done poorly on exams, but this was not the case. Out of all the Q Fund girls she ended up with the top GPA. In addition, because she took the initiative, she made multiple new friends, and even stayed the night in their homes, something unheard of for Mayan girls.  Juana has a positive, upbeat attitude. She trusts herself to meet obstacles and overcome them. Her dream is to start a chocolate business, not a bad idea in her town with increasing tourist traffic. She also wants to have a foundation to help disadvantaged girls like herself.

 

Juana exemplifies what can happen when a girl goes from feeling like she’s an object of patriarchy with no opinions and barely a voice to realizing she is a woman standing in her own shoes with unique talents to develop and give. It’s like turning on a light switch in a blackened room to shine into the world.  We believe all of us will be richer with such lights.

 

Postscript: Juana now has a prestigious job with a well- known firm in Antigua. She lives independently with another Q Fund girl. This is a big step for both of them. She has become a role model for her siblings and many other extended family members. Juana has broken the mold of “what a girl should do” and crafted a new footpath into a different and dynamic world of possibilities. She is a leader and a beacon of light for others to follow.

Guatemala COVID-19 Update

 

September 2, 2020

 

As of September 2, there have been 76,358 cases of Covid-19 in Guatemala with 2,804 deaths.   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. 

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

Q Fund student Cristina managing the mask production project at the MAIA school

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!

“LET’S PICK UP OUR BOOKS AND OUR PENS. THEY ARE THE MOST POWERFUL WEAPON. ONE CHILD, ONE TEACHER, ONE BOOK AND ONE PEN CAN CHANGE THE WORLD."

Malala Yousafzai

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