Victor comes from Patzicía in the department of Chimaltenango. We helped him to study civil engineering from 2009 to 2011. Victor had already spent several years studying before he received our help but because of his financial problems he kept failing courses. When we analyzed his situation we realized that indeed his failures were not due to a lack of capacity but instead to a lack of financial resources. Since entering the program, his grades have been very good and in June of this year, after finishing his thesis and his practicum, he graduated as a civil engineer. Miguel and Jaime attended his graduation and noted that as he accepted his diploma he publically thanked Progresa for the help he had received. As a part of his thanks Victor has begun to repay his student loan. The following is an extract from a letter we received from him.
“I am a civil engineer who graduated from the University of San Carlos of Guatemala. I received this degree thanks to the financial and moral support offered me by the Asociación de los Amigos Cuáqueros (PROGRESA). After finishing my internship in the municipality of Patzicía they hired me under contract to work in the department of municipal planning. In this department, I will have the responsibility to develop designs for sewer drains, potable water, bridges for cars and foot traffic, graveyards and other projects. Besides this in August of 2013 I opened my own consulting office in civil engineering , thus initiating another of my goals, which is to form my own company. As for the academic side of things, I have managed to participate in various training programs and obtained a certificate in the design of plants for residual water treatment. I also have the goal of initiating studies for my master’s degree as a Sanitation Engineer in 2014.
Finally I would like to thank all the Friends who have help to finance the program, PROGRESA. Because of your help, many of us, who don’t have families who can help financially, are able to reach our dreams and goals of self-development and at the same time participate in the development of our communities. Thank you everyone!”
Victor is now the City Engineer for his town of Patzicía, Chimaltenango; a part time job, and is working on building his own private practice. He did the design and drawings for the recent upgrades to the Progresa office in Parramos.
UPDATE Milton graduated in November 2017. He continued working for the same bank throughout his studies and has been promoted to a middle level manager in the loan department.
Milton is a 21 year old student from La Libertad in the department of El Petén. The majority of its inhabitants are very poor as it is difficult to bring their crops to market. Milton’s life has been very difficult. His parents divorced when he was five years old and both of his parents started new lives with new partners. Milton lived with his mother for a short time but he was soon rejected by her and her new husband and he went to live with an uncle. Here too his life was difficult, not only did he have to work long hours in the fields, he was treated as “less than” his cousins. When he finished primary school his uncle told him that he couldn’t continue to study and he had to take a low paying job in a near-by farm.
He had always been an excellent student and luckily for him several of his teachers raised money to allow him to continue studying. Unfortunately this help didn’t last for long but when Milton learned of some nuns who ran a boarding school for poor children in Guatemala City, the teachers helped him to complete the application. He was accepted and completed his high school education in the capitol.
Milton is now working as a bank teller in Guatemala City and with our help has begun his studies in Business Administration at a Jesuit university. Milton is paying for his own room and board and in the first year received a 50% scholarship from the university and borrowed money from Progresa to pay the rest of his tuition. We are pleased for him that after his first semester his grades were so good that the university raised his scholarship to 75% of his tuition. He is very intelligent and we are sure he will do well in business administration because in addition to his intelligence we have found him to be very open and honest. If he is able to keep his tuition scholarship he will need only $1000 per year to continue his studies.
Astrid is a young woman from a village near Cobán, Altaverapaz. She entered the Progresa family some years ago as a nursing student in Cobán. After graduating, she was immediately hired by her university to supervise other students in the program on several campuses in Guatemala. After a few years, she moved on to a staff nursing position at a hospital in Guatemala City. Astrid has continued in contact with Progresa, frequently attending student conferences as an alumna, and ,one occasion, making a presentation to the current students. She would like to advance to more specialized nursing, but the training is not available in Guatemala.
Lidia is 28 years old. She lives in Hacienda Viejo, an aldea of San José Poaquil, in the department of Chimaltenango. She is the youngest of 11 brothers and sisters, three of whom still live at home with their mother. Her father was a farmer who died in 1990 when Lidia was only 7 years old. Since that time the entire family has had to scramble just to put food on the table. In 2004 when Lidia completed middle school she dreamed of continuing her education but she realized that her mother would not be able to help her continue studying. Instead of entering high school she took any jobs she could find, working in a bakery, in the fields, making tortillas and even serving ice cream cones. Most of her earnings went toward supporting the family but she saved a little and in 2006 she began a weekend high school program in departmental capital of Chimaltenango studying to be an “Office Secretary”.
For two years after high school she worked at a variety of temporary and part time jobs until 2010 when she was hired by a foundation to work as a health promoter and doctor’s assistant. Once again as soon as she was able to support her family’s basic needs she began to investigate the possibility of continuing her education. This time she found a weekend nursing program at a private university in Solola.
The trip from her aldea to Solola is arduous and relatively expensive, she must leave at 4:30 am to make a 7:00am class. She then returns home at 8:30 pm after a full day of classes. Twice a month she spends the night in Solola and has courses on Sunday as well. This makes the trip a little easier but costs her more and cuts into her study time.
Lidia has experienced some health problems and so has taken two years to complete her first year of nursing. During this time she has worked as a health promoter for an NGO and thus been able to contribute to her educational expenses although it has always been necessary for her to borrow part of the money. Sadly her contract with the foundation has expired and they will no longer be working in her aldea so she plans to supplement her income by cooking and selling “snacks.”
Gilda Mariela Hernández
Gilda is 24 years old and studies social work. She is a single mother who lives with her parents in a village of San Pedro Yepocapa in the department of Chimaltenango. She has a large family. They are ten members living together in the house: her two parents, five siblings, one nephew, Gilda’s daughter and herself. The family subsists with the income of four members of the family: one brother working as a store security guard, another one as bricklayer, the father as a janitor in the City hall and Gilda who recently got a job with the literacy national committee. All together they make around $900 per month, which is not real low by Guatemalan standards, but for a family that large it is not enough. The situation was worse in 2012 and the beginning of 2013 when Gilda didn’t have a job.
In spite of the financial problems she has faced, Gilda is an outstanding woman. She is currently in her third year of social work and is the only member of her family who has studied at university. She has a natural inclination to work in community development and has become a good leader. She has participated in different NGO’s that promote youth and women’s rights and the Mayan culture. In 2008 she received a basic course in Mayan epigraphy.
In 2010 she was elected to be part of the Guatemalan delegation that participated in the continental gathering of indigenas peoples and nations in Perú. She also got a scholarship to study a short course in filming and editing of videos as a way to promote rural development. Gilda wrote in her application letter to PROGRESA : “I want promote to women’s development and let them know that it is possible to change the general concept that indigenous and poor single mothers can’t do more than what the society thinks. I want to show that it is possible to succeed and help the community at the same time.” Her statement expresses clearly and loudly what she wants to do.