In November, I traveled to Guatemala to attend the MAIA Impact School graduation. It was a whirlwind three days of travel, meetings, and connecting (or reconnecting) with Girl Pioneers (GPs), MAIA staff, and fellow Board members.
It’s been difficult to put into words all of my thoughts and feelings from this particularly poignant event in the history of MAIA, the Girl Pioneers, and their families on top of a return to Guatemala after a four year hiatus. Here are a few highlights:
– 41 Girl Pioneers, escorted by their families, graduated from high school in November 2022. Many of these young women are the first in their families to graduate from elementary and middle school, let alone high school. Despite astonishing adversity that increased during the pandemic, when provided opportunity, these bright, courageous pioneers have seized it. They will go on to attend university, participate in paid internships, and enter the formal economy.
– MAIA has chosen new leadership, turning the Co-Executive Director role over to Andrea Coche and Martha Lidia Oxi. This transition makes MAIA the first organization of its size in Guatemala with an executive leadership team that is 100% indigenous. Travis Ning, the out-going co-ED, writes, “We have long said our goal was to structure MAIA so that Girl Pioneers could one day hold any position in the organization. This leadership transition signifies that we have completed this task.”
-The Volcan del Fuego near Antigua provided a little fireworks display and Lake Atitlan and the surrounding volcanoes delighted with their spectacular beauty.
– The reunion with colleagues and friends and the reprisal of human connection and some post-COVID-years normalcy was incredibly invigorating.
If ever my passion for the work MAIA is doing and all it has achieved as an organization flagged because of the many distractions and issues that come up over four years in one’s own life, returning to the school and connecting again with the staff, GPs, and fellow Board members refueled me completely. Even though it was school break, there were some programs running. Being able to see the school filled with students and the vibrancy of what happens there during the school year was rewarding. The school has grown into the building since I was last there.
While all of the challenges Guatemala and the school and its students face had been laid out to me in one way or another through news articles or program notes or discussions during Board meetings, to physically be present in the place, to connect with the students and staff who have lived through these challenging times, and to hear it from them and see it firsthand was powerful. The school’s work has become ever more critical in the face of more families slipping into extreme poverty, more issues with malnourishment, more clarity in terms of the entrenched barriers the GPs face as they pursue advanced degrees and formal employment.
If you have ever wished for the world to be more fair and equal, the MAIA Impact School model creates the change so many of us dream of seeing in the world. In the face of great obstacles, there is so much to celebrate and to be inspired by happening in this little school in Guatemala.
I invite you to invest with me in this incredible organization. Together we can break cycles of poverty, discrimination, and inequity and, like the Girl Pioneers, be part of the solution. https://www.maiaimpact.org/be-part-of-the-solution