Who we are
The Guatemala Friends Scholarship Program was founded by members of Guatemala’s small un-programmed Quaker meeting. The program began in 1973 when the meeting provided support to one student. It has grown over the years and we are now supporting about 75 university and secondary school students.
The program is jointly sponsored by the Guatemala Friends Meeting and the Redwood Forest Friends Meeting in Santa Rosa, California. Direct in-country Quaker oversight is provided by the Board of Directors (Junta Directiva) of PROGRESA - the legal Guatemalan non-profit organization established in 2007 - a majority of whose members are Quakers. We receive financial support from Quaker meetings and from Quaker and non-Quaker friends and organizations. This aspect of the program is under the oversight of Redwood Forest Meeting. Donations to Redwood Forest Friends Meeting - Guatemala Scholarship Program and PayPal are tax-deductible in the U.S.
In 2007, the program became a legal association in Guatemala. This means that in-country donations are tax-deductible in Guatemala. The official name for our program in Guatemala is Asociación Programa Estudiantil de los Amigos Cuáqueros, which can be abbreviated as PROGRESA. As in the US, there is a board of directors (Junta Directiva) which is responsible for financial and administrative oversight of in-country activities. The majority of board members are Quakers, thus assuring appropriate Quaker oversight
In 2006, Miguel Angel, a long time employee, became Program Director. The office staff, Jaime Torres and Yesenia Perobal, administer the program under his direction. Both Miguel and Jaime are former recipients of PROGRESA scholarships. Martha Dugan (a member of Guatemala Friends Monthly Meeting and the PROGRESA Junta Directiva) provides in-country program oversight and coordination with Redwood Forest Friends Meeting.
What we do
Each year, a committee made up of members of the Guatemalan Friends Meeting and Program staff accepts about 30 new students to the program. The committee selects students with very limited financial resources, giving priority to rural students, women, Mayas, and those whose chosen careers can benefit their communities. Our selection process includes a review of each applicant's grades and financial needs, followed by a personal interview. Follow-up visits to the students' homes are scheduled when feasible.
At the beginning of the school year, we interview all the students to determine their needs. Every month, they receive a check or a bank deposit to cover ongoing expenses like tuition, travel, food and lodging. Many also apply and receive help for medical and dental supplies, uniforms, textbooks, special classes and health emergencies.
Who we help
All of our students come from very poor families. Over 90% are Maya and the majority grew up in very rural areas of the country. We support their higher education at public and private institutions within Guatemala. Very few of our students are able to obtain a higher education in their home communities. Some travel long distances in order to attend special “weekend programs”. Others must leave their families and pay for room and board closer to the university.
Sometimes they are working and are able to pay part of their expenses themselves. Sometimes their families are able to provide limited financial assistance. Often, however, they need us to cover all their expenses. We meet each student's specific financial needs using a combination of scholarships and loans.
A Picture's Worth a 1000 Words
Starting in 2013 we asked new applicants to send pictures of their homes and families along with their applications. Here are some of the pictures we received.