As you can see from part one, the perilous history of most Guatemalan Mayan communities sets the stage for generational poverty and lack of opportunity. The Cardenas family started CEMOC ten years ago with the firm belief that education is the door to success. A door to a better life for the students, as well as a better life for Guatemala by raising up strong young men and women with an unwavering moral compass and capacity for independent thinking.
This past school year, CEMOC had 90 students, 30 in each grade, that correspond to the 7, 8, and 9th grades in the US. Though at times awkward and unsure of themselves, just like middle-school students in America, these Guatemalan young people have tremendous respect for others and gratitude at the chance they have been given to study.
They are taught standard academic courses such as Math, Science, History, and Spanish with additional classes in English, Accounting, Mayan Kaqchikel, and Ecosystems. Furthermore, the students study in workshops relating to ironwork, carpentry, farming, cooking, and sewing. These training areas prepare the students with lucrative skills after graduation from CEMOC. The school also operates under the strong belief that nutrition is the key to beneficial learning for children, and therefore provides breakfast and lunch to all the students- a rare luxury in rural Guatemala.
Because of all these amenities, CEMOC is recognized as one of the best schools in this region. Though the mission of the school is to provide education to those who cannot afford it, affluent families in the neighboring town, Chimaltenago, realize the quality of holistic education offered at CEMOC and send their children as well. The tuition fees paid by those who can afford it, in addition to donations from an Italian foundation, constitute the majority of the school’s income. The school also sells the items made in their carpentry and iron workshops as well as agricultural goods from the farm. Over the years, the school has started various other small businesses such as tourism, coffee, and catering to offset costs.
This is where Eric and I come in… Shortly after arriving, the Cardenas’ asked us to assist them with strengthening their current enterprises and possibly starting a new, more profitable small business. Immediately, Eric and I set to thinking and investigating. We’ve been exploring businesses such as honey, peanuts, lotions, chia seeds, and many other options for the center. Ultimately though, the decision is theirs. We are only here for one year, essentially only enough time to research, write a business plan, obtain a loan, and lay the groundwork for a new enterprise. But we’re going to do the best that we can.
It’s now that I want to thank our professors from Belmont University for preparing us for such a weighty task- creating a social enterprise that funds the education and vocational preparation of the next generation of Guatemalans. Who would think that a 22 and 21 year old would have any chance at doing such a thing? But we have been given the tools, and we thank you.
So, this is what we’re doing here.