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Paying it forward in Guatemala

While browsing in a jade shop in Antigua in 2003, Fran Lenski, picked up a flyer with a photograph of an impoverished Mayan girl on the front. Its headline, The Maya Need You, resonated with him, so he folded the flyer and put it in his pocket.

“When I returned home to home to Portland I shared the flyer with my wife, Sue, who was also moved by the photo of the beautiful but obviously poor child.” said Fran Lenski, 72, a retired attorney whose love of travel has led him to explore six continents, including multiple visits to Central and South American.

After reading about Adopt-a-Village in Guatemala’s mission of empowering youth through education, Susan Lenski signed up to become a child sponsor. A professor of literacy at Portland State University’s Graduate School of Education, Susan’s work first brought her to Guatemala. For more than a decade she has provided educational training and support to teachers in Guatemala City and rural areas and is the coauthor of a book in Spanish that offers teaching interventions and resources that help students overcome specific reading problems.

“Adopt-a-Village in Guatemala is dedicated to providing poor indigenous children with educational opportunities and to improving nutrition in their homes and communities,” said Susan Lenski. “I knew immediately that this was something that I wanted to support.”

Interested in learning more about the organization himself, Fran decided to pick up the phone and call Frances Dixon, founder and president of Adopt-a-Village in Guatemala, who at the time was living in Florida. The two spoke for over an hour.

After hearing first-hand about the grass roots organization and its tireless work to educate poor Mayan youth in northwest Guatemala, Fran agreed to sponsor three children—and the rest is history.

Fran joined Adopt-a-Village in Guatemala as a board member in 2006. In addition to serving as a child sponsor and supporting numerous building and nutrition initiatives over the years, Fran is funding five full student scholarships at the organization’s Maya Jaguar Educational Center.

“Adopt-a-Village is making a profound difference in the lives of Mayan children and the communities in which they live,” said Fran. “Education offers a path to escape the poverty that has enslaved these children and their families for generations. I am proud to be a part of an organization that provides a solid educational foundation for poor indigenous children while giving them hope for a brighter future.”

Sue and Fran receive regular updates about the children they sponsor from Adopt-a-Village, as well as personalized letters written to them by the student recipients of the scholarships they support.

“The students express such heartfelt gratitude for their education,” said Fran. “It’s difficult for me to accept the fact that children are being denied an education simply because they are indigenous and poor.”

Since 1991, Adopt-a-Village in Guatemala has partnered with dozens of Mayan villages in the isolated northwestern region of Huehuetenango to offer educational opportunities for children and families and to help fight poverty and chronic malnutrition that has resulted from the country’s 36-year civil war. Recent Adopt-a-Village initiatives include the launch of a middle school, a village literacy program and several sustainable organic gardening projects, an educational farm, the construction of a girl’s dorm, and the installation of a new RACHEL stem, which provides online learning for students.

Adopt-a-Village in Guatemala continues to offer a Child Sponsorship/Widows and Orphans Program, which helps support more than 150 children in nine villages. For more information, click here.

Eulalia Ordonez, pictured above, comes from Buenos Aires Chimblac, a community of Q’anjob’al Mayan speaking residents. She is graduating as top student in her class from Maya Jaguar’s High School in November. In addition to earning diplomas in academic and sustainable agriculture, she is earning a third diploma in computer sciences. As a fully trained computer technician, Eulalia can enter this traditionally male-dominated field where her technology skills are in great demand. Eulalia is one of the many students who have benefitted from the support of Fran and Susan Lenski.

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