MEET OUR NEW BECA STUDENTS FOR 2015! December 1, 2014 No Comments

This weekend our advisors in Guatemala, the directors of the Cooperativa Spanish School, held a meeting for our new 2015 students and their parents.

Beca Group2


Ana Maria Ujpan Gonzalez (with her parents)
Ana Maria Ujpan Gonzalez y padres

Bryan Oliver Gonon
Bryan Oliver Gonon

Domingo Sacach Chavajay y padres (with his parents)
Domingo Sacach Chavajay y padres

Juan Navichoc Cortez
Juan Navichoc Cortez

Gerson Danilo Sohom (with his parents)
Gerson Danilo Sohom y padres

Yoselin Carolina Petzey
Yoselin Carolina Petzey

Lucia Garcia Toc (with her father)
Lucia Garcia Toc y padre

Pablo Yojcom Chavajay (with his mother)
Pablo Yojcom Chavajay y madre

Rosa María Navichoc
Rosa María Navichoc y padres

Telma Elizabeth Canajay (with her mother)
Telma Elizabeth Canajay y madre

Florinda Rosario Tuch Quiacaín (with her family)
Florinda Rosario Tuch Quiacaín y familia

Here is our latest lovely addition, Ingrid Canajay; if she looks familiar, it’s because she is the twin sister of Telma, above

You can view a more complete set of photos HERE.


In October 2014 Mike and I returned to San Pedro La Laguna, timed to celebrate the graduations of a dozen Beca Project students from 5 different programs. I have posted a few photos below. You can check out an extensive post on my travel blog HERE and a huge set of photos HERE.

On November 6th, 2014, 6 Beca students graduated from the Luisa y Benjamin Paul Basico program (like our 7th/8th/9th grade).

Flor (left) makes her entrance

Francisco receives his diploma

Sharon and Candelaria have their much-deserved moments in the sun

That’s me to Candelaria’s left – I was asked on stage to give out diplomas

Eugenio is greeted by his proud parents

Jeany and her family

On November 7th we attended 2 graduations. The 1st was for Tono, Mariano, and Dorcas who graduated from the Magisterio (Teacher training) Diversificado program.


Dorcas is on the right in the yellow huipil (blouse)

Tono with his diploma

Mariano signs the ledger

In the neighboring town of San Juan, we watched Maria Elena graduate from a Bilingual Secretarial program.

She was 1 of the speakers!


We didn’t learn until we were in San Pedro that Mayke was set to graduate from a secretarial program in San Pedro 4 days after we had to leave; we were sad to miss it but I’m happy to share a few of the beautiful photos she emailed to me after the event.



Another Beca student, Miguel, graduated from a Diversificada program in the city of Xela, about 3 hours from San Pedro. I am BURSTING WITH PRIDE that all of these Diversificada graduates plan to enter university programs in 2015.

In addition to these beautiful ceremonies, we were also invited to a special Catholic mass and to meals and parties in the homes of some of the students. The pride of the families was evident at every turn. Happy trails!





2014 Beca Project Celebration September 24, 2014 No Comments

Another highlight of my 2014 trips to San Pedro was a celebration luncheon that included well over 300 Beca Project students and their families and more than a dozen sponsors. Staff of the Cooperativa Spanish School and some of their spouses prepared the meal which was served at the school’s beautiful new campus.

So much joy! I’ve included 9 photos below and you can click HERE to see the full set.





photo (31)





2014 Family Visits 1 Comment

As always, visiting Beca families was a highlight of my 2014 visits to San Pedro. I have included 15 photos below. The 1st 7 are from June and July visits with Beca sponsors who made the trip to San Pedro to meet their students. The final 8 are from visits Mynor and I made to the remaining families in July and August.

For a set with more than 200 photos including visits with all 55 families, click HERE.








Here are a few favorites from later in my trip.








New Kamoon Home #3! January 19, 2014 No Comments

In 2009 the Cooperativa School directors dreamed of building homes for the families of San Pedro La Laguna with the most severe need. That dream is coming true for a 3rd family this year, the family of Petronila Navichoc Ujpan and her children. You can watch a video about the family and their home HERE.

This new home was funded almost entirely by donations from Beca Project sponsors, including one couple who donated more than $10,000 so this family could have a safe, comfortable new place to live. I am so grateful for their generosity and proud that Beca Project can help support this important work.

An eager group of directors, teachers, and volunteers – including Spanish students from the school – gathered early this morning to begin the process of demolishing Petronila’s old house. These 1st 4 photos show how much they accomplished in just 1 morning and continue reading for updates on the progress.

The house “before”

Petronila and 1 of her daughters watch from the doorway

Cooperativa teachers and volunteers gather

Ready to start

Hard at work

End of 1st morning – no house!

Early March update – great progress!

Early April update: the cement roof goes on. I like seeing that Spanish students at the Cooperativa Spanish School are volunteering.
April Petronila 1

April Petronila 2

April Petronila 3

April Petronila 4

Early May update: top floor goes up – looks like another month will do it!




Early June – nearly complete!



In June there was a celebration and the family moved in to their beautiful new home. Here are 4 photos from the special day…





And 1 from a visit I made to their home with a group of Beca sponsors in July.


If you would like to view a photo set that includes photos from this as well as the 2nd Kamoon Project home, click HERE. You can also view videos of the all 3 Kamoon Project homes on the Cooperativa Spanish School’s MEDIA PAGE – more videos are on the way. Onward and upward!

New Beca Students for 2014! December 10, 2013 No Comments

We have 17 new Beca students for the 2014 school year, bringing our total of supported students to 55! Earlier I posted photos here of the 1st 9 students and I’ve added 8 more; you can view additional photos of them in this set on my flickr site.

You might have read on the ‘About Us‘ page on our website that the 1st seeds of the Beca Project were planted when I visited local families in need in 2009 with my Spanish teacher, Mynor, and learned that children in the community can only continue in school beyond 6th grade if their parents can afford tuition; this has created a devastating cycle of poverty. The conversation started because of the 2 beautiful, bright-eyed girls in a family we visited; it broke my heart thinking that they wouldn’t have access to life-changing education and how that must feel to their mother, Manuela. The older daughter, Rosalia, received support for her education through a different organization. The younger daughter in that family is pictured twice below:

In 2009, as the inspiration for the Beca Project
Visiting families

And now, as an incoming Beca student: Maria Guadalupe Tuch Mendez (center)
Maria Guadalupe Tuch Mendez4

I have visited María and her family many times over the years and look forward to meeting these new students and their families next summer. So happy and proud to welcome them to the Beca Project!

Federico Alexander Meletz Mejia
Federico Alexander Meletz Mejia1

Aleida Rosario Mendez Sipac (center)
Aleida Rosario Mendez Sipac2

José Santiago Cortez Ramos
José Santiago Cortez Ramos1

Erick Nicolas Pichilla Yaxon (center, back row)
Erick Nicolas Pichilla Yaxon4

Paulina Adriana Bixcul Rodriguez
Paulina Adriana Bixcul Rodriguez1

Karina Mendoza Aju (on right)
Karina Mendoza Aju3

Jennifer Paulina Quiacaín Gonzalez

Mayra Elena Gonzalez Coche (center)

Paola Isabel Gonzalez Berduo (on left)

Vilma Rosario Bixcul Tepaz (center)

All of the above students have completed primary school and will be entering Basico, similar to a 7th/8th/9th grade Middle School in the US.

Jesus Briyit Ratzan Tuch has completed Basico and will be entering a 3 year program to become a bilingual secretary; since the 2 languages represented are English and Spanish, Jesus will be trilingual, since Tz’utujil Maya is the native language of all of our Beca students.
Jesus Briyit Ratzan Tuch1

Mariano Puac Mesia will be entering his 3rd and final year in a teacher training program.
Mariano Puac Mesia

Jeany María Hernández Chipir will begin her 3rd and final year of Basico this week.

In early March we added 3 more wonderful kids to our Beca family!

Lufi Concepción Ixtetela Pop with her aunt

Juan González Coche with his parents and little brothers

Ana Judith González (in her gym clothes) with her mother


‘We Participate’ Photo Project May 22, 2013 No Comments

In December 2012 Anna Stafford, a photography professor from England, provided a wonderful opportunity for 10 of our Beca students to learn the art of photography. It was a great success! When I visited San Pedro in March, I was able to meet Anna; she is hoping to return to San Pedro in the near future and would love to work with additional groups of Beca kids.

W/ Anna - photo project gal

Here is Anna’s We Participate project page on facebook. This is the project she has created to facilitate participatory photography projects and workshops internationally and in the United Kingdom.

Here are a few photos Anna took during the project and you can view more in a set on my flickr site by clicking here.

Anna's We Participate Photos

Anna's We Participate Photos

Anna's We Participate Photos

Anna's We Participate Photos

Anna's We Participate Photos

Anna's We Participate Photos

Anna's We Participate Photos

Anna's We Participate Photos

Here are a few of my favorites among thousands of photos taken by the students of each other and their world. Click here for a set of 49 images.

Beca Students' We Participate Photos

Beca Students' We Participate Photos

Beca Students' We Participate Photos

Beca Students' We Participate Photos

Beca Students' We Participate Photos

Beca Students' We Participate Photos

Beca Students' We Participate Photos

Beca Students' We Participate Photos

Beca Students' We Participate Photos

Beca Students' We Participate Photos

Beca Students' We Participate Photos

Beca Students' We Participate Photos

Beca Students' We Participate Photos

New Cooperativa School May 14, 2013 4 Comments

I have loved the Cooperativa Spanish School since my 1st visit in 2007. What really makes the school great are the directors and the teachers and their wonderful social projects, but part of the attraction has been the gorgeous garden setting overlooking the lake.

With rising lease costs and lack of control, the directors of the Cooperativa School – our advisors in San Pedro – decided to invest in a centrally located property and build a new school facility from scratch with 2 styles of study cabañas dotting lawn and garden areas (which will grow more beautiful with time) and a handsome new office structure. At 1st I was sad about the move but am charmed by the new location and the choices they are making. When I visited in March they were just a week away from the move and I’ve posted some photos I took when I was there; you can see the full set here.

The new Cooperativa entrance
New Cooperativa School

Office tile in and awaiting grout
New Cooperativa School

Study cabaña
New Cooperativa School

Mynor checking the progress
New Cooperativa School

I am excited for the Cooperativa staff for this accomplishment and especially for the changes it could mean for the Beca Project.

In the past, having a base for Beca activities like letter writing, tutoring, study groups, English classes, photography workshops, parent meetings, and scheduled use of the laptops (donated to the Beca students last summer) has seemed like a fantasy. Now an opportunity has surfaced that sounds like the perfect solution. The school directors approached me during my March visit about the construction of a shared activity room on the roof of the office, for the activities I mention above as well as dozens more yet to be envisioned. They have shown unending devotion to the Beca Project (without renumeration) and report that sometimes their Spanish students ask to volunteer with the Beca students; having an available space at the Cooperativa School would be perfect.

They have also agreed to the construction of a small apartment. Visiting sponsors and volunteers could use the apartment as well as families who are temporarily homeless while the Cooperativa housing project builds them a new home. When it’s vacant, the school could rent it out to interested Spanish students.

I am very excited because these shared spaces will be a win-win, cost-effective way for all of us to have the space we need to continue our outreach. We are working together on the designs.

The photo below shows the school office during their grand opening celebration – the people on the roof are standing where our new shared spaces will be located and the last photo shows the lovely view.

Cooperativa grand opening

New Cooperativa School

Mike and I will be donating to get this project off the ground. If any of you are interested, donations specifically for the activity room will be gratefully received!

Beca folks around town April 10, 2013 No Comments

If you haven’t figured it out yet, I really, truly love being in San Pedro La Laguna. It feels good to be there and to know so many people. It’s great to run into the Beca kids and their families around town; here are some photos of those moments and you can see a larger set of photos by clicking here.

There are lots of additional photos – pushing 800! – including images of my host family, market scenes, Semana Santa (Easter week) celebrations and more in the 14 sets in my Guatemala 2013 collection; check them out if you’re interested!

Acolyte Francisco in a night procession
Acolyte Francisco

With Miguel’s great grandmother
With Miguel's great grandmother

Emilson’s typing practice
Emilson in typing class

María Concepción and her dad in the church band

Mynor and I run into Rosemary and her mother
Mynor with Rosemary and her mother

Noe (in the shades) shoulders an anda in an Easter procession
Carrying an anda in a Semana Santa (Easter) procession: Noe

María Ujpan Tuch (left) launches a 3 pointer
María Ujpan launching a 3 pointer

Tono’s mother (left) sells flowers in the market
Tono's mother selling flowers

Candelaria at her dad’s jewelry table
Candelaria at her dad's jewelry table

Pedro Nehemías (left) and his mother and brother stop by my room with a gift for his sponsor
Juan Ixcamparij, mother, brother

Shopping No Comments

We took some of the kids shopping with money from their sponsors. I’ve included a few photos in the post below and the rest are here in case you’d like to take a look.

Pedro Nehemías trying on shoes
Pedro Nehemías

Juana Micaela, Evelin Elena, and María Ujpan Tuch checking out the shoes
Juana Micaela, Evelin Elena, and María Ujpan Tuch

Juana’s selection
Juana Micaela

Emerson likes the jacket (Emilson in back with jeans)

Rosario and new sweater

Busy shop keeper
Harried shopkeeper

Paulina’s selections

Vincenta – lots of options

Some of the sponsors gave money to the families, too; here is Ana Petronila’s dad heading home with 100 pounds of corn
Ana Petronila's dad with corn and Mynor