It’s no secret that Guatemala is among the poorest countries in the world, with 40% of its city-dwelling population living in poverty – subsisting on about $1.50USD a day. Rural communities have it even worse, with about two-thirds of all children in Guatemala living in poverty. There are many reasons for this, which I won’t get into for the sake of brevity.
Antigua is surrounded by rural communities, all which have varying degrees of poverty. While there are urgent, short-term needs that need to be addressed, namely food and medicine shortages, one of the surest ways to improve the long-term well-being of its children is through education. Unfortunately, the government doesn’t devote nearly enough resources – schools are woefully underfunded, which leads to high illiteracy rates. It’s an uphill battle to even see that children in Guatemala finish 6th grade – the rate of completion of at least six years of elementary education is less than 60%, lowest in Latin America.
Open Windows – Ventanas Abiertas
One organization that is attempting – and succeeding – at providing the necessary help in the area of education in Guatemala is Ventanas Abiertas (Open Windows Foundation). They have built up, in my opinion, one of the best learning centers for disadvantaged children in the area.
Open Windows building, San Miguel Dueñas
The children of Open Windows
Last month, I had the pleasure of visiting Open Windows, located in nearby San Miguel Dueñas. There’s a free guided tour every month, so you can learn more about the foundation and get a glimpse of the living conditions of coffee pickers in nearby coffee plantations. The under-2-hour tour, run by David Dean, a Board of Directors member, is well worth taking.
David Dean, Board Member, and Tour Guide
Open Windows’ mission is to provide educational help to disadvantaged children in the area. To accomplish this, the center runs various programs:
Open Windows Library and After School Program
- After-school Program: They provide tutoring and homework help to children. An interesting fact is that Open Windows has a strong relationship with the schools in the community. Often, schools plan their homework assignments counting on specific resources provided by Open Windows. Their library has grown to house more than 11,000 books.
Group activities at Open Windows
- Activities Program: Students are encouraged to participate in group reading and other related activities designed to develop their thinking skills. An afternoon snack is also provided.
Computer Lab – Computers donated by Rotary International
- Computer Program: Open Windows has the only public computer lab in the area. This 4:40 pm. center is used to teach not only computer skills and homework research (Internet access is available), but much-needed job skills to teens either about to enter the workforce or pursue higher education.
Space for health checkups behind the school
- Medical Program: Volunteer doctors perform routine health checkups on the children every month, also free of charge.
To learn more about Open Windows, please visit their website at http://openwindowsfoundation.com. Open Windows runs entirely on donations. Contact them if you’d like to volunteer as well.
A free, guided tour of Open Windows is available once a month, on Wednesdays. The free shuttle leaves at 3:00 pm from Cafe Condesa, across from Parque Central, and is usually scheduled to return by 4:40 pm.
Have you visited Open Windows?