UUSC Task Force/Guatemala Partners
Love Crossing Borders
This Task Force supports the work of the Unitarian Universalist Service Committee (UUSC), which promotes human rights at home and abroad.
As UUSC representatives we focus on those who are marginalized, threatened by the system and impoverished. At our core, we are about environmental justice, respectful activism and supporting people’s civil liberties. We believe in valuing and supporting all people. We believe in love crossing borders. Learn more about the work of the UUSC and how you can be involved here.
Our primary work is to support a Scholarship program in Rabinal, Guatemala through fundraising and to build relationship with the Mayan community through cultural exchange trips. We work in partnership with the UU Church of Arlington Virginia, and ADIVIMA, the administrator.
Why Support the Scholarship program?
As Unitarian Universalists we believe in justice, equity and compassion. We cannot stand by doing nothing, while minority groups suffer at the hands of the majority. We feel called to action.
Mayan people have been oppressed in Guatemala for generations. During the 70’s, 80’s and 90’s, there was a civil war. During this time of chaos, in Rabinal like in many other areas of Guatemala, thousands of Mayan people were massacred. Around the same time, the Chixoy Hydroelectric Dam was built in the Rabinal region which inundated 33 Mayan Villages. In almost all cases, lives and homes were lost. The Maya Achi were promised homes in a resettlement village called Pacux, a former army camp with electricity, running water and fertile land to grow crops. Many of them moved there in good faith, but as you can see from the picture below, they were never hooked up with electricity and were only given access to land with little or no water.
We cannot undo what happened, but we can recognize the inherent worth and dignity of the Maya Achi. What we can do, and what we will continue to do, is support future generations by providing hope and respect through education.
We feel proud of our achievement and humbled by the continued generosity of this congregation. We supported 3 scholarship students when we started in 2007, but since 2017 we have been able to support 60 students every year. We hope to maintain this number of students, but it will only be possible with your continued donations.
Who are the students?
In order to receive a scholarship:
- Students must be of Mayan descent and a direct descendant of a victim or survivor of the massacres.
- Families must be unable to pay for their child’s education because they live in extreme poverty.
Other details about the selection process:
- Many more students apply for the program than can be accepted. As it stands, we are only able to admit approximately 10% of applicants. More students could be supported through the scholarship program if we and our partners could raise more money.
- Our program is unique because students are not admitted based on demonstrated merit, but rather on need. Once they are in the program, students prove their commitment to working hard at their studies by maintaining a high GPA.
- We have celebrated 81 Graduates since 2007, 7 of which were in 2022.
- Close to 200 students have received scholarships so far. Of those students, 60 were male and 136 are female. Many have received the scholarship for all 5/6 years of their secondary schooling.
Looking beyond the numbers, our students are enthusiastic, motivated young people who are driven to lift themselves and their families out of poverty. They have dreams of going to college and becoming part of the professional workforce. In so many ways they are like the teenagers in our families, here in Colorado, but unfortunately were born into circumstances that do not afford them the opportunities many of us take for granted…school, transport, food and clothing.
Did you know?
- In Guatemala, Government funding for education stops after middle school. Supporting a child through high school means that families who are already impoverished must find the money for tuition, transport and supplies as well as relinquish the financial support of having their child work full time.
- It costs approximately $840 per year to send a child to a government funded Middle School. This is due to the costs of books, transport, clothing, technology, food etc. We therefore support Middle Schoolers as well as High Schoolers. Without our help, many students would leave school with just an Elementary Education
- With the additional cost of tuition, in 2023 it will cost approximately $1020 per year to support a High Schooler.
- Two-Thirds of scholarships are awarded to girls. ADIVIMA is acutely aware that social development among the Maya is led by educating their women. A good education can give women greater power over their future and control over meaningful decisions that impact them, their family and community. They are then able to support their children making the same decisions.
- ADIVIMA is not just a scholarship program. It is an organization founded and run by victims, to support victims. Their goals include preserving the historical memory of Maya Achi and promoting their cultural identity. To find out more, visit their website http://www.adivima.org.gt/
How to Donate
The program is fully funded by one-time donations and recurring monthly donations from JUC members, in partnership with the UU Church of Arlington VA. We also encourage gifts to the scholarship in memory of loved ones. Regular, monthly donations help us sustain the program and ensure students know that once they start, they will be able to graduate with our support.
You can become a monthly donor by printing and filling out this short form. Forms, cash or checks will be gladly received by our office. Forms, cash or checks will be gladly received by our office.To donate online, please click here.
Visit the students
Each year, the Taskforce organizes a cultural exchange trip to Rabinal. Trips enhance understanding of why we are called to create compassion and justice in the world beyond our borders. These alternate between adult-only trips during the US school year and Family Trips during the summer where teens attend with a parent. As of 2022, 78 JUC members and friends have visited Guatemala. Trips are a powerful, memorable experience for both visitors and hosts. Most members of our current taskforce joined after visiting Rabinal, meeting members of the Maya Achi and being inspired to do more to help. Click here for a copy of the 2023 Trip Leaflet/handout.
What else can you do?
If you have 5 minutes
- Watch a student interview below.
- Watch a survivor interview below (This video is powerful and might be upsetting to some viewers)
- Visit with a member of the Taskforce in the commons after service.
If you have an hour
- Have a conversation with a young person here in America, considering the viewpoint of the teens/families we support.
If you have more time- thank you!
- Attend a committee meeting to learn more about how we raise funds for and awareness of this program.
- Attend I heart Xmas, our annual fundraiser. It’s great fun!-Attend our annual fiesta.
- Join a Cultural Exchange trip.
Our funds are highly impactful because decisions about how they are spent come from those on the ground. This means that when ADIVIMA’s leadership speaks, we listen and act.
- Initially, some students enrolled in our program were struggling, with some choosing to drop out. Due to language barriers (families speak Mayan, classwork is in Spanish) and their parents working long hours, our students were not able to keep up with the demands of middle and high school. We agreed that ADIVIMA could allocate scholarship funds for a full-time tutor to become part of the ADIVIMA staff. This tutor travels from home to home offering additional academic, and emotional support as well as acting as a liaison between schools and families if needed.
- Book donations from our congregation have doubled the size of the library in Rabinal, Guatemala.
- A donation of 17 sewing machines was made by JUC member Joe Rotello. The machines and materials led to The Sewing Project and Maya Women in Art, where mothers could use their incredible skills to try and generate income for their families.
- Interacting with women in the village of Pacux, we discovered that there were midwives working in most of the communities with almost no supplies. During a JUC trip, essential supplies (which included cleaning supplies, stethoscopes, blood pressure cuffs, pregnancy wheels and thermometers) were delivered in kits to each midwife and very gratefully received!
- In April 2020, JUC responded to an urgent request for funds for technology. When the Covid-19 pandemic closed schools worldwide, our scholars were expected to participate in online schooling without smart phones or laptops. Thanks to generous donations, we were able to help.
Want to learn more?
- Visit the Guatemala Scholarship website.
- Watch a video from a victim, student, family member or an employee of ADIVIMA
- Read ‘Estamos Vivos (We are Alive)’. Translated to English by Eric Banner, this book was written by those at the Community History Museum in Rabinal, for ADIVIMA and the community. It recounts the recent troubled history of the Mayans in Baja Verapaz that underlies the impoverished circumstances of our scholarship students and their lack of opportunity. For copies, please contact one of the people listed below.
- Contact one of the following people. Any of us would happily talk with you about the program and answer your questions. Gretchen May (303) 883-1413, June LeCrone (505) 410-6560, Maria Davison (720)448-0777, Lisa Bickford
A Just Journey to Guatemala- Survivor Stories
If you only have time for one video…watch this one. We encourage you to take the time if you can. Chris and Steef Sealey have put together this powerful (and in places disturbing/upsetting) video to illustrate why the work we do is vital, and so impactful.