Where We Work
Antigua Guatemala is a tourist hub located 1 hour from Guatemala City. Many indigenous peoples from other departments of the country have migrated to Antigua in search of better opportunities for themselves and their families. One of the biggest migrant groups to Antigua are indigneous people from the Mayan K'iche community, coming from Quiche, Totonicapan, and Sololá departments. Because of lack of education and employable skills, as well as language barriers, families often work as street vendors in Antigua, working day to day selling candy, traditional souvenirs and jewelry.
Due to the fact that Antigua is largely non-indigenous, children of these families face many challenges when they begin school, and often face discrimination in the classroom for dressing different and speaking another language. In Sacatepéquez, the department where Antigua is located, there are no schools that provide instruction in K’iche, despite pockets of students who speak it as their first language due to large migration from rural departments. When these children attended public school, they were tasked with learning all the new skills in school plus a new language, and many fell behind on crucial skills like numeracy and literacy. This coupled with low education levels in parents meant many children were falling behind and failing, without receiving the support they needed. Sueños was started in response to this growing need for educational and social support for these families.
The idea to form an organization to support families working as street vendors began in 2014, where children were offered dance classes in the park from volunteers. The first version of the organization, named Camino A La Escuela (The Route to School), was founded formally in 2016. This organization was focussed on working with preschool-aged children to provide the tools necessary for success in first grade, while ensuring that families were able to navigate the process of enrolling their small children in primary school. Almost two years after the founding of Camino a la Escuela, the organization found that there were new needs in the community, and better ways to provide for students of all ages. In 2018, Camino a la Escuela changed its name to better reflect its work with a population of students ages 0-18, as well as their families.
Sueños stands for Sembrando Unidos la Educación para los Niños (Sowing Together Education for the Children) to represent a change in the focus of the organization. Sueños began to provide after school education and learning support to local students. The Guatemalan School Day is from 7:30am to midday, so students arrived at Sueños in the afternoon for help with their homework, extra tutoring in math, literacy and social studies, and for a nutritional meal. From working in a donated space above a cafe to renting our own building, maintaining a consistent location for our classes was a monumental change for us that has greatly impacted the attendance and consistency of our students, who were participating five afternoons a week.
In March 2020, Guatemala went into a nationwide lockdown because of the COVID pandemic. Schools closed, families were confined to their homes and the city of Antigua shut down completely. Many families, who work day to day to pay for food, rent and other expenses, were forced to remain inside. As public schools switched to “at home learning,” parents became their children´s only learning source - something difficult when 70% of the adult population of Guatemala is illiterate. Most students received monthly homework packets and took home food from their respective schools, however were still lacking actual learning and educational support. During 2020 only about 5% of students had regular contact with their teacher. Based on our observations of learning, our conversations with families, and a repeated interest from multiple parents, in 2021 Sueños began providing education directly to families, taking over the role of the school, through a preschool and elementary-level program.