It started as a dream…
In 2002, Jan and Bob Hatmaker vacationed in a Guatemala Mayan Village on Lake Atitlan increased our curiosity of the indigenous Mayan people living in villages throughout Guatemala. Upon learning the Jabailito village needed $3,000 U.S. to build a kitchen in their elementary school, Bob’s Groveland (CA) Rotary Club built it. Poverty, illiteracy, and malnutrition were common in rural Guatemala and the brutal 37-year Civil War that killed 200,000 Mayas ended in 1997.
Many Mayans escaped the country and were returning to find their villages and schools in disrepair. Zacualpa and surrounding villages in the highlands were hit hard by the war and the Hatmakers decided to locate a school project there. Thus, Amigos de Guatemala and the love for the Maya people began.
At first, they didn’t trust the Americans, and they didn’t know much about them. Their Mayan languages, colorful clothing, weaving, and marimba music were unfamiliar. As the U.S. teams worked side by side with Guatemala parents and tried to communicate, bonding gradually occurred. Bob raised money for the project materials and parents did sweat equity; encouraging mutual trust and respect. Soon we were welcomed into their market and homes.
The co-director in Zacualpa had a wonderful relationship with the indigenous people and their trust enabled the scholarship program to become a reality. Over the years we continued to help improve school classrooms, bathrooms, kitchens, wells, and play area. Girls began staying in their village schools to 6th grade. Parents began asking for scholarships to continue their children’s education in Junior and Senior High. Students are encouraged to cherish and preserve their Mayan culture, language, and history. Parents soon realized education enriched rather than diminished family life. Education became valued rather than feared.
Numbers Speak For Themselves
High School Graduates