Working Together / Giving Back
These communities have a history of a collective and collaborative spirit. Nuevo San José and Fátima were created after a long labor struggle. Houses were built, electricity brought in, streets paved as community projects. The families work together to decide priorities, identify goals and figure out how to achieve them. The School and its related nonprofit, La Montaña Fund, provide some financial and organizational support. You can help them attain their goals of a better future for their children Maintain the Momentum – DONATE ONLINE.
Women’s Garden Project
Women in the community have organized together to create a collaborative gardening endeavor. Their first effort is growing vegetables and raising pigs.
During the covid pandemic, the families lost most of their sources of income. They hunkered down and relied on the monthly food distribution that La Montaña Fund donors so generously supported. But women wanted to find ways to supplement these staples with fresh produce and meat. They also wanted to find solutions that could be ongoing and last beyond the pandemic. They decided to raise more of their own food. And they found creative ways to garden – using recycled soda bottles and pvc pipe as containers for their plants.
Young Leaders Scholarships
Schools in Guatemala are not free. Our scholarship program supports teens from more than 15 neighboring communities by paying a monthly scholarship to help with their school fees and expenses. The scholarship recipients commit to maintaining passing or higher grades and to demonstrating leadership through participation within their communities. That might include involvement with local youth groups, grassroots organizations, church youth groups or activities at the Escuela de la Montaña such as leadership training or helping with the Arte en el Campo program.
Otto René Castillo Community Library
Illiteracy and poor education systems are an enormous problem in Guatemala, especially in this part of the country. High school graduation rates are less than 10% and the illiteracy rate is over 60%. Local schools do not have books in the classroom and certainly don’t have computers. Kids do not have a place to do their homework – houses are tiny with little furniture and usually only one light bulb in the room. Many children leave school without having read one entire book.
Casa de Salud in Fátima
In rural areas, residents have little access to health care. Because of this, local health houses were built and run in nearby communities. Unfortunately, funding to support these important projects ran out, and the government in recent years has also failed to support rural health care. For that reason, many of the local Health Houses have been closed, even as public hospitals and clinics in cities nationwide have also experienced grave funding cuts.
In 2015, a former student at the Mountain School offered to provide support so that the community in Fátima could open their health house once again for a few afternoons each week. A trained health technician sees patients. Patients can check their blood pressure, weigh and measure their children, get diagnosed for common illnesses, and purchase common medicines at reduced prices.
Additional donations to Community Health helps build the supply of medicines, provide community talks on subject such as hygiene, nutrition, and prenatal care.
Equipment has been donated for a computer lab on the upper floor of the Otto René Castillo Community Library. Children and teenagers who are studying at primary or secondary school are often expected to investigate and find out information about specific topics for their homework. This means that their parents have to pay for them to go to an internet café, a cost that the majority of families can’t afford. This extra cost can prevent them from continuing at school. In addition, teenagers studying at middle school often have to pay extra tuition fees for computer classes, and so some do not take these courses and are denied the chance to learn vital skills- or drop out of school altogether.
Arte en el Campo
In 1998 we started giving informal free art and guitar classes to two talented local children.
This grew into the Arte en el Campo program (Art in the Countryside), an extension of the work of the Luis Cardoza y Aragon Cultural Centre run by PLQ. Free classes are held on Saturdays, with all materials and instruments provided. We employ two local teachers to offer art and music (guitar, keyboard, marimba) classes. We cultivate a love and appreciation for traditional art and culture, which was repressed during the long history of military regimes in Guatemala. This program is jointly funded by PLQ and the Escuela de la Montaña with proceeds from Spanish language tuition, and donations.
Otto René Castillo Institute For Sustainable Education
A new school in Fátima focuses on the food industry and offers bachelor’s degrees in sciences and letters with an accompanying certification in gastronomy and ecotourism. Targeted at youth in the municipalities of Colomba and San Martín Sacatepéquez, the school places social and environmental education at the center of the curriculum. In this way, “we empower our students to value their lives, families, communities, and environment, and to graduate with the skills needed to continue at university as well as to develop projects of their own design.”
The school grounds include a small hillside planted with coffee, where we are able to provide some employment for locals to farm the coffee each year. For several years the workers pooled their money to pay for community-wide projects like electricity and paving.
Now that most of their projects have been completed, the Escuela pays the workers in Fátima semi-annually, and they divide the funds depending on who has done the work during the year to weed, prune, fertilize and pick the coffee.
Our coffee is shade grown with no chemical pesticides or fertilizers. We have replanted coffee and shade trees with the help of Mountain School students. The cafetal is thriving, with a harvest of almost 600 pounds of coffee. Coffee is sold at the School and is a tasty treat for students to take home with them.
Impressive People, Aren’t They?
Students at the Mountain School thought so too, and created a U.S. nonprofit organization, La Montaña Fund, to keep the momentum going. The people we met were warm, generous, optimistic, and so welcoming to us that we wanted to give back. You too can help them achieve their dreams of a better future. Choose which project you want to support.