Live and kicking, www.newmayas.org brashly announces our work to the world. As a non-profit, we celebrated the seventh anniversary of our incorporation this May. We glance backward with pride in our successes as well as our challenges. We look forward with hope and excitement.
Our list of donors grows longer, and so, too, do the number of requests sent to us for assistance. Our hearts warmed when we followed students who plugged their way through Middle and Secondary School, and who are now taking their places teaching in classrooms, working in offices and their small businesses, organizing in communities and studying in universities. We watched while communities in the Ixil highlands, where our students live, pulled together through their civil association, APRODEFI, to build programs and purchase agricultural lands. Teachers studying at the university on weekends have sharpened their skills.
Perhaps you noticed that the 2016 scholarship students are all young women. Why, you wonder?
The reasons are rooted in historical and practical policy.
First, please understand that the New Mayas Society does not choose these recipients. Yes, we worked with school staff to streamline and standardize the application process for in-coming students and to establish minimum requirements to maintain that support. But decisions about who receives financial help remain firmly in the hands of staff. Administrators and faculty are best able to judge needs, abilities, and potentials of young people coming to them.
Historically, the school founders always held a vision of leveling the educational playing field for young women. In Guatemalan villages, as in much of the world, parents routinely sacrifice to send sons, or at least one son, to continue in school. (After all, sons are expected to care for parents in their old age, while daughters’ labors would benefit their husbands’ family.)
But it is clear from studies conducted around the world that by educating girls and young woman through primary, secondary and beyond, families and communities benefit as well as the students. There are demonstrable increases in health, literacy and economic well-being. At first, school founders proposed accepting two girls and one boy from each village. These students were to be chosen by community elders. After a few years, however, that system broke down. The number of boys seeking admission greatly outnumbered the few girls. Thus, after several years of supporting almost equal numbers of boys and girls, the New Mayas Society provided scholarships almost exclusively to young men.
In the last two years the staff acted proactively to recruit young women, offering greater financial support of $600 for tuition, room, and board, thus, removing a family’s major objection.
So, whether we fund the education of young women or of young men, we know we offer a helping hand to the next generation, facilitate the fulfillment of big dreams, open the door to opportunities for brighter futures. In this way we give communities a leg up that they may create for their members better lives.