Adopt-a-Village in Guatemala is a nonprofit organization founded by Canadian-born Frances Dixon in 1991.
An inveterate world traveler since leaving school, Frances arrived in Guatemala in the 1980s when the country was in the middle of a civil war that lasted nearly four decades.
Outside the town of Huehuetenango, she followed a narrow, unpaved road snaking into the Cuchumatanes mountains, curious to see what lay ahead. She came upon Quetzalí, one of many tiny villages in the rainforest where displaced indigenous people were living without jobs, electricity, or running water. There were few roads to speak of and no schools—not even paper and pencils. Children old enough to walk worked alongside their parents in coffee fields to eke out a subsistence living.
The violent civil war left the vast majority of rural Maya in extreme poverty. Compelled by the desperate conditions, Frances created the 501(C)(3) non-profit organization, Adopt-a-Village in Guatemala, to partner with the Maya people to help them rebuild their lives. Guatemala has the lowest literacy rate in Latin America. Its children suffer from the fourth highest level of chronic malnutrition in the world. In 1991, Adopt-a-Village began to raise funds from individuals and organizations to support priority projects in the villages.
During the ensuing almost-three decades, the organization built schools, roads, constructed homes, and community water systems in some of the most remote villages of Guatemala.
Today, almost 30 years later, Adopt-a-Village in Guatemala has stayed true to its mission. Hundreds of children and families have benefitted from the unique partnerships Adopt-a-Village has formed with the country’s Maya communities to empower youth in the region through education and skills training so that they may improve their social and economic conditions.
The Maya Center for Education and Development, which opened its doors in 2009, is the cornerstone of the organization. This innovative, first-of-it-kind learning hub was built at the top of a mountain surrounded by hundreds of acres of rainforest. Since its inception, the Center has grown into a dynamic learning community where Mayan youth benefit from practical, hands-on skills training.
The Maya Center’s thriving residential campus includes a high school, middle school, nutrition center, organic gardens, greenhouses, and housing for staff and students. The Center’s primary focus is promoting leadership, which provides graduates the opportunity to share their knowledge and skills to develop progressive changes in their villages.
Students enrolled in the schools are graduating with remarkable success. Most continue their education aspirations with advanced university-level training that has resulted in promising careers. They serve as symbols of hope and inspiration for hundreds of young Maya in the region who dream of a better future.
In addition to educational programs at the Center, funds are raised to support agriculture, nutrition, and literacy programs in outlying villages.