Asociacion Bendicion de Dios is a community association located in San Juan Alotenango, a municipality in the department of Sacatepéquez, Guatemala. The association is located in a coffee growing village that is home to a 40 % widowed and single parent population. It was built with the main objective of breaking the chains of illiteracy, poverty, and malnutrition through education, health, and infrastructural services for over 500 families in Alotenango. The population consists of 27.8% Ladinos, and a 72.2% of indigenous population. Coffee is one of the most cultivated crops in this area.
The director, Julio César García González, founded the association’s school 18 years ago. “Profe Julio,” as he is lovingly called, has poured a lifetime into the community’s growth: “We have 540 students and behind each of them is a story of courage and survival,” said Gonzalez to Latina Republic.
Asociacion Bendicion de Dios provides free education and career preparation for 540 students. They also provide nutritious food, health care and access to medication, build homes for the families and help support the large percentage of single mothers and widows that live in the town by providing monthly food supplies, bedding and building block homes to replace bamboo homes with dirt floors, where most students and their families live. The school administration conducts home visits and talks to parents on behalf of the girls. Most families in the area view children and especially girls, as valuable agricultural hands. Sometimes these views compete with a child’s educational path.
The school currently has 540 enrolled students, distributed among children from 5 to 18 years old. They have graduated 28 students. Glenda, one of those young women, went on to earn a pedagogy and teaching degree and works as a director of education for the school.
The school prioritizes enrollment for children whose parents have not gone to school, and whose salaries do not exceed 1500 quetzales (under $ 200 per month). Many families live 3 to 4 to a bed. The parents’ salary averages in 25 quetzales daily, which is less than 4 dollars a day. The families live in bamboo homes, small houses made out of laminate, or they make their houses, with plastic and cardboard. Most homes have no floor or bathroom.
Four times a year, the school hires doctors to do jornadas medicas. They cover the cost, because families cannot afford to. The school’s goal is to build its own community clinic and hire a full-time doctor to serve the needs of the nearly 600 families that the school helps support.
Most fathers work in agriculture; some work as masons, others as carpentry assistants, truck assistants, and 70 percent work in the fields. Mothers contribute to the school by painting it and cooking the children’s meals in the school. One of the many challenges the school faces is the town’s practice of juntarse, rushing to marry at a very young age and having multiple children, binding them to agricultural work to attempt to survive. The school helps the community through provisions, medical visits, and by building sturdy homes for them.
“We want them to have a solid infrastructure. The homes we build are actually a block room with a bathroom. But for them, it is a palace,” tells Profe. Julio.
Asociacion Bendicion de Dios tackles a variety of social problems through focused strategies:
Infrastructure: Most of our students live in bamboo homes. We build sturdy, block homes for the families. We have built 240 so far. The cost to build a family home is: $1,889.64. The homes include a bathroom, electricity.
Health: we pay for private medical consultations. We hope to raise funds to build our own clinic and hire our own doctor.
Gender Views: we work to change mindsets so that all girls can go to school.
Clothing: we buy clothes for our students.
Agricultural poverty and early marriage: we empower our students to pursue professional options, to grow up to be leaders and to delay marriage.
How donations can help:
– The building of a family home: $1,890.21
– The building of our own medical clinic: $11,732.31
– The cost of hiring a permanent doctor: $912.51 per month
– 400 gym pants: $2,607.18
– Tennis shoes for all students: $2,444.23