Education Helps Break the Poverty Cycle

Our founders, Jan and Bob Hatmaker, wanted to educate women. In 2003 they found that not a single girl had completed elementary school. As soon as their daughters learned some Spanish to go with their native K’iche’, parents put them to work in the market, the fields or as household help in larger towns abandoning the hope of an education. Today, in the remote highlands of Guatemala, 75 percent of adult Maya men and 90 percent of adult Maya women cannot read or write. These parents need their Spanish-speaking child to help the impoverished family.


Amigos de Guatemala is helping to break the cycle by encouraging parents to allow their children to complete grade school. Amigos sponsors children in middle and high school where tuition of $400 to $800 is out of reach for most Mayans. Annual Maya income is about $900.

In 2006 not a single young girl completed elementary school. In 2024, 78% of the 66 students with scholarships are young women. Families in the region are seeing the value of education and allowing an increasing number of children to complete sixth grade.

Early graduates of the program now teach Spanish to their parents. One graduate is a middle school teacher teaching English in the school she attended. Another went to an exclusive diesel mechanics school and has a high paying career in an area where few are educated. Amigos de Guatemala is giving hope in an area of the country that saw some of the worst savagery of the Civil War in the 1980s and 1990s.

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Educational Projects

Completed projects include a student library, a preschool library, classrooms, and computer labs. Most students in rural Guatemala do not have access to computers. An unexpected outcome was the rise in classroom attendance. Students wanted to go to school to be able to have access to computers and the learning opportunities they provide. In 2023, the government of Guatemala mandated pre-school throughout the country and provided no financial support for classrooms, tables, chairs or teaching materials

Educational Projects that Need Funding

Computer Labs

Education in Guatemala is compulsory up through the 6th grade. However, many children leave school after the 2nd or 3rd grade when they have learned enough Spanish to help the family earn a living by working in the fields, selling in the market or being a domestic.

Amigos de Guatemala has implemented several computer labs in the Zacualpa area. These labs provide all of the educational materials required by the Ministry of Education as well as the Khan Academy in Spanish. A wonderful by-product is that the children want to go to school. Attendances, literacy and grades are at the highest levels where this labs have been implemented. The goal is to provide computer labs in as many schools as possible. Partnering with Funsepa, we are working to make this a reality.

The cost is $6,000 per computer lab

New Bathroom for the Elementary School in Chicha

What if your elementary school did not have working bathrooms? Could the school conduct a full day of classes? What about sanitation and hygiene? This is what the elementary school at Chicha in the municipality of Zacualpa faces every day. Children relieve themselves in the field next to the school. Amigos de Guatemala has a request to build usable, sanitary bathrooms to accommodate all grades from preschool through the sixth grade. The details, in Spanish, can be found here.

Cost: Q95,210/$12,500

Preschool Table and Chair Sets – Funded

The Guatemala Education Ministry is requiring preschool education for all children in the country.  At the same time, no funding for classrooms, tables, chairs or instructional materials is allocated to the districts.  Some of the schools in the Zacualpa area have made classroom space available.  Still needed are tables, chairs and some instructional materials. The original request for 100 sets came from the superintendent of schools for the municipality of Zacualpa. In 2022, Amigos de Guatemala was able to provide 30 sets to outfit six preschool classrooms. Seventy more sets of the brightly colored tables and chairs are needed. 

The sets are made locally and cost Q1,000 or $135 US.  To furnish all of the schools needing tables and chairs will cost $9,450 US. They are made in Guatemala, providing work for local people.

Preschool Classroom in San José Sinache – Funded

The Guatemala government has ordered all school districts in the country to provide pre-school education.  No money was authorized for new or refurbished classrooms, desks, chairs or instruction materials.  The tiny community of San José Sinache #4 only has three classrooms to support the elementary grades one through six. Each room is used to educate two grades at a time, reminiscent of one room schools in the U.S. decades ago.

Preschool education is the foundation for future learning.  The community has the land for the classroom. The request came from the principal and superintendent of schools for the municipality of Zacualpa to ADIZ, which is a local NGO in Zacualpa, el Quiché that Amigos de Guatemala has partnered with for over 15 years.

The GOAL:  Q113,155/$14,700US

Where are they now?

Ever wonder what former students are doing? Click here to read about some of them.

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