#GivingTuesday: Help Support a Community-run Education, Work, & Nutrition Program in Guatemala #Konojel1128

Dr. Jessie Voigts's picture
Categories: 

In a rural Mayan village, set on the edge of Lake Atitlan, a vibrant, yet disenfranchised community of indigenous Guatemalans struggle to overcome an epidemic of poverty and malnutrition. But with the help of a small community center, Konojel, their futures are looking brighter. 

Malnutrition and poverty play out as a vicious cycle amongst the community - one cannot be overcome without addressing the other. The Konojel Community Center, an NGO operating in San Marcos La Laguna, Guatemala, provides an opportunity for recovery by providing jobs, opportunities, and meals to those who are struggling the most.

Konojel’s Director of Operations, Maria Mejia, hires and helps to train women in the community to work at the Konojel Community Center. Photo by Joshua Lawrence.
Konojel’s Director of Operations, Maria Mejia, hires and helps to train women in the community to work at the Konojel Community Center. Photo by Joshua Lawrence.

Founders Andrew, Ivy, and Maria believe that Konojel is making a real difference in the lives of the people that benefit from their services. Even though they’re up against some scary statistics, they tackle the problem one person at a time. [Read more of Konojel's story here.]

In a country with the 4th highest rate of chronic malnutrition in the world, Konojel feeds 60 of the most malnourished and at risk members of the community, daily. In addition, they provide educational support for elementary school students, a computer center accessible to the indigenous community, and coordinate a cooperative that provides sustainable, dignified work for local women.

The Children’s Enrichment Program at the Konojel Community Center provides an opportunity for social and cognitive development, one approach that Konojel takes to help end the cycle of poverty and malnutrition in the community. Photo by Joshua Lawrence.
The Children’s Enrichment Program at the Konojel Community Center provides an opportunity for social and cognitive development, one approach that Konojel takes to help end the cycle of poverty and malnutrition in the community. Photo by Joshua Lawrence.

Konojel founder Andrew Raphael notes, "From my very first day in San Marcos La Laguna, a village of about 5,000 Kaq’chikel-speaking indigenous people, it was obvious that things were dire. A young mom struck up a conversation with me, and I quickly learned that she was supporting her four children on her minimal salary cleaning a local hostel. Her husband was gone, I still don’t know where, and looking back on that conversation I realize that one of those kids is now herself a 20 year old single mom, another is struggling with drug addiction and toying with the idea of joining a local gang, and the two younger boys are both at-risk of a similar fate. San Marcos is a community with a startling rate of poverty, despite its natural beauty, engaging and humble neighbors, and booming tourist industry. At least half of the population suffers from chronic malnutrition, and addiction and unemployment have led to 40% of families living on less than $2 per day per household, according to the Guatemalan Ministry of Agriculture (MAGA). I’d been living here for over a year before I found myself accepting an offer I couldn’t refuse.

Andrew taking orders at the Konojel Restaurant, which is 100% non-profit, a way to raise funds for his community center. Photo by Joshua Lawrence.
Andrew taking orders at the Konojel Restaurant, which is 100% non-profit, a way to raise funds for his community center. Photo by Joshua Lawrence.

It was late 2012 when I heard of a little program providing lunch to at-risk seniors, young moms and little kids who had been identified as malnourished by local health agencies, and thus were invited to participate in the Konojel Nutrition Center. I realized that I was in a position to keep the center open, as the previous director was unable to continue after founding it the year prior; I felt strongly that I had the duty to try and keep the program running, as I’d come to see many of my neighbors as friends over that past year, and I wanted to do something to help them break the cycle of poverty I witnessed day after day. I didn’t come to San Marcos to help anyone but myself, but I quickly came to see that helping myself would mean helping others."

 

 

Wandering Educators: as you may know, I am a committed supporter of the All Together Foundation (registered 501C3 in the USA and registered NGO in Guatemala), which supports the Konojel Community Center in San Marcos La Laguna, Guatemala.

Konojel is full of success stories, like Elena's. "For years she collected firewood in the mountainside, loading wood on to her shoulders to light the fires that made the tortillas; the main staple of her diet. Hers is a typical story of a Mayan woman: born into poverty, with little formal education, and almost no disposable income for food. It wasn’t a life, it was survival. Elena was finally given the resources to pull herself out of the cycle of poverty. Through her fearlessness and desire to learn, she is now armed with skills, working and thriving in the community."

#GivingTuesday: Help Support a Community-run Education, Work, & Nutrition Program in Guatemala #Konojel1128
Elena

Elena’s son, Derek, and his cousins having fun at the Konojel Community Center’s Children Enrichment Program. Photo by Joshua Lawrence.
Elena’s son, Derek, and his cousins having fun at the Konojel Community Center’s Children Enrichment Program. Photo by Joshua Lawrence.

Today, on Giving Tuesday, we are making a concerted effort to raise $40,000, one year of Konojel’s operating budget, enough to feed, educate, provide access to the digital world, and support the women of the cooperative in expanding their work for an entire year. I have committed to helping from within my network, which is why I am reaching out to you today.

Adela, one of the children beneficiaries of the Konojel lunch program. Photo by Joshua Lawrence.
Adela, one of the children beneficiaries of the Konojel lunch program. Photo by Joshua Lawrence.

If you share my commitment to eradicating malnutrition and providing access to education and opportunity for the underprivileged in Guatemala, I’d like to boldly ask you to do the following:

DONATE to Konojel right now. If you'd like, put Wandering Educators in the notes of your donation
  * A one time donation will help us meet our goal
  * A recurring monthly donation will keep food on the plates of a village full of kids

SHARE this donation link to everyone you know. On your Facebook and other social media profiles, tag @konojel and use the hashtag #konojel1128

 

 

As I’m sure you know, fundraising is a numbers game. The more people we reach, the more we can raise for the kids and their families - education, empowerment, greater nutrition, and women's entrepreneurship WILL change the world.

Please don’t hesitate to reach out if you have questions. Visit the Konojel Facebook page and Konojel on Instagram to follow the progress of the fundraiser throughout the day.

 

Thank you!

 

 

Share