Making an impact
As the new coordinator of a signature service project called Let’s Leave No Girl Behind (LLNGB) sponsored by Rotary E-Club of the State of Jefferson, District 5110, I was excited about the opportunity to see for myself how the project is making an impact on the lives of poor indigenous girls in northwest Guatemala. LLNGB was implemented several years ago in partnership with Adopt-a-Village in Guatemala, a small grass-roots organization dedicated to empowering Mayan youth and communities through education. Led by fellow Rotarian Frances Dixon, Adopt-a-Village has had a steady presence in northwest Guatemala for almost three decades. Working with an organization whose mission is education and skills training is a good fit for our E-Club, as our members are committed to supporting projects that promote education and literacy—priority areas for Rotary International.
In 2015, Rotary E-Club of the State of Jefferson launched its first project in Guatemala. Our initial funding covered dictionaries and contributions toward several computers for students enrolled in Adopt-a-Village’s Maya Jaguar schools. The focus of our project to promote education and literacy in Guatemala eventually shifted to Mayan girls because they are the most underserved and vulnerable group in this rural area. In the past four years, our project has expanded to include full educational scholarships for two girls, initial funding for a village library, and a modest stipend for a student librarian. It’s been especially gratifying to be a part of an initiative that is dedicated to helping young Mayan women earn an outstanding education, graduate, and go on to land good jobs.
Getting to Guatemala
I have become personally and professionally invested in our E-Clubs signature project and was looking forward to my “immersion” trip to Guatemala. My flight from San Francisco to Guatemala City was uneventful. The trek to Adopt-a-Village’s Maya Jaguar Educational Center, however, was rather daunting—and LONG. I rode from Guatemala City for six hours over crumbling roads as a passenger in an over-crowded minibus, changing vehicles in a small town called Coban. After an overnight stay in a modest posada, I made my way to Las Victorias where I was greeted by Juan, Maya Jaguar's logistics manager, who drove me by pickup through winding narrow roads barely wide enough for a small cart. Juan drove over the rugged terrain as if he had conquered it many times before. Climbing that last mountain made the logging roads we sometime encounter back home in rural Oregon seem incidental. The pickup truck is the organization’s all-purpose vehicle and serves as a lifeline between the schools and outer communities. It is used to acquire provisions and supplies for the schools, since the nearest community with any commercial services is more than two hours away—a trip that must be taken over steep gravel roads. It also serves as the school bus, transporting students to and from various central pick-up and drops-off points for each monthly school term.
After nearly eight hours on the "road," I was relieved when we finally pulled up to the gate of Maya Jaguar, where I was warmly welcomed by several staff members. My extraordinary one-week immersion experience at Adopt-a-Village in Guatemala’s Maya Jaguar Educational Center had officially begun.