NGO Spotlight: Mayan Families

This is a guest blog by Livvy Runyon, a videographer at Mayan Families. The original blog post can be found on Mayan Families’ blog.

Rosa’s Legacy: Marisela Advocates for Mayan Women through Education

_MG_8728.JPG(Photo by Livvy Runyon)

“Ever since I graduated high school, I had this longing to keep going, but with the resources I had, I couldn’t do it. I always had that in mind, though, to continue. That one day, I have to go. I have to go.”

Marisela speaks of higher education with fervor in her voice. Sitting outside of her home in El Barranco, Guatemala, her words strike a contrast with the dusty corn fields of the surrounding rural community. Marisela, the oldest child in her family of six, studies social sciences in the nearby town of Sololá. She dreams of becoming a teacher.

“To be able to talk about stories, to talk about productivity within the community, teaching children about politics and the history of our country – I love this. Nowadays there are teachers that have this opportunity to work but many of them don’t take it seriously, and so I want to be the difference.”

_MG_8794.JPG(Photo by Livvy Runyon)

Like most indigenous Guatemalans, Marisela has struggled to find the resources to continue studying. Only 53% of indigenous Mayans in Guatemala complete primary school, and by the age of 16, only 25% of indigenous girls are enrolled. With a lack of schools in rural communities like El Barranco, students must find a way to travel to larger towns, adding the cost of transportation to other expenses like tuition, shoes, and school supplies. With the average household income well below the poverty line, the majority of indigenous families cannot cover the cost of sending their child to school. If the resources are available, families with multiple children often must choose which one will receive an education. In the end it is almost always the son.

_MG_8746.JPGMarisela has found support from her family and now, from many others. She was recently chosen as one of the 2017 recipients of the Rosa Scholarship, an award specifically to cover the school costs for high-achieving, young indigenous women who are pursuing higher education. Now in her last year of university, Marisela describes this scholarship as a great fortune, “because now I am fulfilling my dreams.”

As a young, indigenous woman, Marisela’s opportunity to receive a degree is one that her mother’s generation never saw. For decades, Mayan women have faced discrimination by society and government alike; lacking even the most basic rights to work and participate in their communities. Even today, these obstacles persist in the daily lives of indigenous women across the country, and it is something Marisela aims to change.

“Many times they see us as Mayan women who aren’t capable of doing productive things. We have few opportunities and we hope that in the coming years this changes, that the opportunities change for us as women. Thankfully, the peace accords were signed* and this opened up the field, but we are hit once again with this situation of a lack of opportunities. Discrimination against indigenous women still exists.”

At 27, Marisela is on the brink of completing a university degree and beginning her career, traversing the difficult landscape of a poor economy, unsteady work opportunities, and a lack of educational and health resources that plague Guatemala. Where most might shy away from the progress still needed, Marisela’s eyes shine bright when she speaks of the future of her country.

“We have to make the changes. We have to think of what we can do. To have a different vision so that those who come after me have that access. We should see that the government is looking forward to the future of indigenous communities and guarantee the same rights not only for us, but also for the Garífunas, Xinca, ladinas, and mestizos. That we all have the same rights without discrimination against anyone.”

_MG_8772.JPGPhoto by Livvy Runyon

For Marisela, the chance to attend university unlocks the door to her future and the future of many others. It is overwhelmingly evident that she holds a strong spirit and a burning fire to begin the work to change things, starting with her own education.

“If there isn’t education, there are no opportunities. But I believe, for me, it is the foundation and the best inheritance we have been given,” she says softly and powerfully.

To read the full interview with Marisela, click here.

The Rosa Scholarship was established in 2015 in partnership with Living on One. Inspired by Rosa Coj, a young indigenous woman featured in the Living on One Dollar documentary who was able to return to school to become a nurse, the scholarship helps other indigenous young women who are pursuing their dreams through higher education. To learn more about the scholarship, and support this year’s Rosa Scholarship recipients, visit their page.

To learn about more ways you can give, volunteer and help women like Marisela, check out the UniversalGiving website.

Advertisements

Empower Mothers and daughters this Mother’s Day

This piece if from the World Literacy Foundation’s blog.

Mother's Day

We ask this Mother’s Day to give a gift that will change a life – in addition to the flowers and chocolates you already bought her, give a gift of quality education to empower mothers and daughters for generations to come.

We all collectively recognize that when women and girls are empowered through education;

  • Fertility, population growth, and infant and child mortality fall and family health improves.
  • They are more politically active and better informed about their legal rights and how to exercise them.
  • Their earning capacity increases, in turn, has a positive effect on child nutrition.

Education helps women and their daughters take advantage of opportunities that could benefit them and their families for generations to come; equipping them for the workforce and grasping their legal rights.

Girls all around the world are excluded from education, or are in school but not learning the skills to equip them for the 21-st century job landscape.

This Mother’s Day, we want to change this, but we need your help. We want to support mothers and daughters by providing access to the quality education they need to unlock their full potential. Because, let’s face it, when a girl is educated, the whole world changes.  

Did you know that every extra year of education a girl receives, her income will increase by 10-20%

This Mother’s Day, support Ugandan Mothers who also want quality education for their daughters, but cannot access it.

We launched a crowdfunding initiative to empower these Mothers, have a look HERE

Make sure to spread the message and empower Ugandan Mothers by providing quality education to their children.

Support towards this initiative and share on your social channels to raise awareness.

Learn more about how you can support the World Literacy Foundation at  worldliteracyfoundation.org

Youth Speaks: The Power of Language

By Pamela Hawley, CEO of UniversalGiving®

What a joy to visit Ashley Smiley and Gabriel Cortez at Youth Speaks. Youth Speaks has such a variety of programs and what I enjoyed the most is that it is not just about creativity; the program creates a long term community, life network and actually follows the kids through their life chapters. While it starts off with training in writing, the children are also exposed to numerous events regarding how to live life in a positive way, job connections, and as Ashley said, “we create a true family”.

Here are some of the programs with which I was very impressed. First, they have After School Programs all over. They are pretty much in every state and in multiple places across the Bay Area including San Francisco, The Mission, Berkeley, Oakland, etc., and in these after school programs they focus on writing.

Next, there is Open Mic. Open Mic allows you to practice and get your poetry up and on the stage. There isn’t a grading system and there’s no pressure. It is an opportunity for you to put forth your voice.

When you feel you are ready, then you can go on to formal competitions. Each stage you advance to, you must have new original content, and you are graded.

Finally, if you continue to progress, you may be chosen to be a part of a team referred to as Brave New Voices. Brave New Voices usually consists of at least five poetry creators who create three minute and thirty-second long poems. You have a coach and you go to a national competition.

With this support, there is a clear way to express yourself in a non-pressured way and in a supportive community. There is also a way to continue to ascend and become more advanced if you so choose. I like this as it doesn’t put pressure on the kids, but also shows them that there is a pathway to greater success if they like.

What is notable about Youth Speaks is that they also provide many different types of experiences. They have an annual event called Life is Living; they feature dance classes, sustainable foods, a petting zoo and speakers. Their point is to expose you to all the positive things that go on in life, and how you can live a life that is connected to the earth and doing good. It is a good example of how to make choices in your day-to-day, such as choosing organic foods or composting.

Most impressive is their work with accomplished authors. This summer, Ashley worked with Anna Deavere Smith at some of the poetry competitions. They also work closely with the San Francisco Jazz Festival and every year they have their annual competition/event. This year it will be held at the War Memorial Opera House. It is quite the impressive array of events that can meet every person’s need.

One of the most appealing aspects of Youth Speaks is its informality as well as access to elegance. You can simply take a class, which feels like a natural extension of school, or you can progress up to the heights and actually go to the Opera House for an amazing celebration with high-level authors and speakers. It is essential that our youth experience both of the following: 1) comfortable and ease of involvement and 2) access to experiences that they would never have. If you have the former, then introducing the latter is much easier. We want to open up the children’s minds as to how special they are and what they can do. They should be going to the Opera House just like everyone else.

Recently, I have been looking in to volunteer opportunities as well as helping coach some improv that could help students at YouthSpeaks when they get distracted or frozen on stage. Since I work at a nonprofit, I also felt it was critical to provide a donation. When people ask for a site visit it takes up valuable program time and we need to make sure that the people working so hard on the ground are supported.

***

Youth Speaks is a San Francisco based organization that seeks to empower youth by giving them the power to harness their own voices through written and spoken language. Youth Speaks is a leading nonprofit in the Spoken Word community, and currently provides programming and educational opportunities throughout the Bay Area and on a national scale.

NGO Spotlight: Nepali Youth Foundation

It’s so natural to get distracted and forget that the most basic matters every child deserves since birth are not actually provided for every child around the globe. In Nepal during the 1950’s, hill tribes started moving into the more fertile valleys, displacing the natives, taking their land, and finally indenturing the native families as farm laborers. These newfound landowners started to “buy” the female children of the farmers, girls as young as five years old, and forced them to work as indentured slaves. Girls lost their families, homes, education, safety, and their childhood. This practice became a terrible tradition, turning these young and unprotected girls into what is known as a Kamlari, a form of indentured servitude.

Enter the Nepal Youth Foundation, a beautiful nonprofit bringing hope to the children of the impoverished kingdom of Nepal. In 2000, the Nepal Youth Foundation launched a campaign to end the practice of Kamlari and since then have rescued over 12,700 girls, returning them to their families and communities! These girls have suffered a great deal of traumatic loss during these vital years in their childhood and also have been provided with zero education.

The program that the Nepal Youth Foundation has started is called Empowering Freed Kamlaris and it hits directly to what these girls really need. In order for these girls to be inspired and bring power back into their lives, they need to be brought back to basic education to be able to pass their Final School Exam. These girls typically struggle with this test without extra support and tutoring, due to the lack of prior education and support. Empowering Freed Kamlaris is able to facilities 8,000 girls and young women with full time staff that provides these females with amazing mentoring, training, and other specialized services in conjunction with other NYF programs in order to bring them back up to a comfortable and meaningful place within education and necessary confidence. These courses vary from Leadership Training, Economic Development, Career Training and Counseling, and even Psychological Support. It is so easy to forget how blessed we have all been with the education and support we have been provided but now YOU too can be apart of turning freed Kamlari girls from vulnerable and impoverished to empowered, strong and educated women!

Here is an amazing video done by ABC7 News showing the work NYF does to free these girls from slavery.

If you would like to learn more about the Nepal Youth Foundation and their program to Empower Freed Kamlaris, visit their page on the  UniversalGiving website!

Youth Speaks: The Power of Language

By Pamela Hawley, CEO of UniversalGiving®

What a joy to visit Ashley Smiley and Gabriel Cortez at Youth Speaks. Youth Speaks has such a variety of programs and what I enjoyed the most is that it is not just about creativity; the program creates a long term community, life network and actually follows the kids through their life chapters. While it starts off with training in writing, the children are also exposed to numerous events regarding how to live life in a positive way, job connections, and as Ashley said, “we create a true family”.

Here are some of the programs with which I was very impressed. First, they have After School Programs all over. They are pretty much in every state and in multiple places across the Bay Area including San Francisco, The Mission, Berkeley, Oakland, etc., and in these after school programs they focus on writing.

Next, there is Open Mic. Open Mic allows you to practice and get your poetry up and on the stage. There isn’t a grading system and there’s no pressure. It is an opportunity for you to put forth your voice.

When you feel you are ready, then you can go on to formal competitions. Each stage you advance to, you must have new original content, and you are graded.

Finally, if you continue to progress, you may be chosen to be a part of a team referred to as Brave New Voices. Brave New Voices usually consists of at least five poetry creators who create three minute and thirty-second long poems. You have a coach and you go to a national competition.

With this support, there is a clear way to express yourself in a non-pressured way and in a supportive community. There is also a way to continue to ascend and become more advanced if you so choose. I like this as it doesn’t put pressure on the kids, but also shows them that there is a pathway to greater success if they like.

What is notable about Youth Speaks is that they also provide many different types of experiences. They have an annual event called Life is Living; they feature dance classes, sustainable foods, a petting zoo and speakers. Their point is to expose you to all the positive things that go on in life, and how you can live a life that is connected to the earth and doing good. It is a good example of how to make choices in your day-to-day, such as choosing organic foods or composting.

Most impressive is their work with accomplished authors. This summer, Ashley worked with Anna Deavere Smith at some of the poetry competitions. They also work closely with the San Francisco Jazz Festival and every year they have their annual competition/event. This year it will be held at the War Memorial Opera House. It is quite the impressive array of events that can meet every person’s need.

One of the most appealing aspects of Youth Speaks is its informality as well as access to elegance. You can simply take a class, which feels like a natural extension of school, or you can progress up to the heights and actually go to the Opera House for an amazing celebration with high-level authors and speakers. It is essential that our youth experience both of the following: 1) comfortable and ease of involvement and 2) access to experiences that they would never have. If you have the former, then introducing the latter is much easier. We want to open up the children’s minds as to how special they are and what they can do. They should be going to the Opera House just like everyone else.

Recently, I have been looking in to volunteer opportunities as well as helping coach some improv that could help students at YouthSpeaks when they get distracted or frozen on stage. Since I work at a nonprofit, I also felt it was critical to provide a donation. When people ask for a site visit it takes up valuable program time and we need to make sure that the people working so hard on the ground are supported.

***

Youth Speaks is a San Francisco based organization that seeks to empower youth by giving them the power to harness their own voices through written and spoken language. Youth Speaks is a leading nonprofit in the Spoken Word community, and currently provides programming and educational opportunities throughout the Bay Area and on a national scale.

A Spark of Change for My International Sisters

By Kimberly Ambayec

Several days ago, my seven-year-old sister invited me to her tea party.  Dressed in her shiny blue Alice and Wonderland costume, she summoned me to sit next to her favorite doll.  Unhesitatingly, I accepted her invite and eventually found myself – saucer in one hand, teacup in the other – pondering how good life must be for an innocent, young girl.  Several thoughts later, I began pondering my own life and how it may be just as good.  Afterall, I live in a country where a call to freedom and equality reign supreme.

This blog is not about my life, however, but the lives of my sisters around the globe.  The unfortunate truth is that girls and women in places like Vietnam, Madagascar, and Tanzania lose their innocence at a young age, are limited by strong prejudices, and are daily forced into humiliating situations – rape, sexism, and trafficking, just to name a few.  And what is most disheartening is the fact that these girls and women are completely unaware that their basic human rights are even being violated.  I have sisters around the globe who bleed from many hurts.  So, in my access to freedom and equality, I am obliged to share that my sisters’ lives are unquestionably worth celebrating despite their harsh realities.

I’d also like to share with you an organization UniversalGiving™ has recently partnered with.  This organization, Spark, is committed to helping young, global citizens change patterns of inequality for women all over the world.  They unashamedly celebrate women.  Founded in 2004 by Maya Garcia, Spark empowers individuals between the ages of 20-45 to form strong local networks to address the social, political, and economic issues that most burden women.  Within its first five years of service, Spark grew “from 6 to 5,000 members around the world and raised nearly $1,000,000 for grassroots women’s organizations” in Rwanda, Mexico, Bangladesh, Jordan, Kenya, Zimbabwe, Afghanistan, and San Francisco (sparksf.org).  With just one full-time staff member and a team of volunteers, there is no doubt that Spark’s small donor engagement model works.  It is Spark’s individual donors that account for over 70% of their revenue.  Also through this model, Spark cultivates first-time and inexperienced donors to become “strategic philanthropist” – what a promising movement for both donors and beneficiaries alike!

My international sisters are worth every call to action for change.  Thank you, Spark, for reminding me that my good fortune was made to be shared with our global family.