Model for Community Development: Amigos de Santa Cruz of Guatemala

edited February 2019 in Other

We were fortunate to see Amigos de Santa Cruz in action in Santa Cruz La Laguna on the shores of Lake Atitlán, Guatemala, in November 2018 and want to share their story of community development done right.

Their mission is to improve the lives of the indigenous people of Santa Cruz and surrounding villages through support for education and sustainable economic empowerment so that all families have access to good health, quality education, and sustainable income, with the women, men, and youth having a voice in the decisions that shape their community.

Santa Cruz communities can only be accessed by boat or, with difficulty, by rudimentary roads, largely cutting them off from education and economic opportunities available in the larger population centers, creating high unemployment, low wages, and wide gender disparities. Amigos was started in 1998 by Pat Torpie who wanted to reduce the school dropout rate as most children left school by 3rd grade. The first children positively impacted are now some of Amigos’ staff today.

Some of Amigos’ programs include

Education and Youth

  • Educational investment alongside public schooling: lending library, afternoon reading program, nutritional snacks (impact: 60% improvement in reading ability.)
  • High school and university scholarships, to continue education past 9th grade (impact: 150 scholarships, 100 high school graduates, 6 university graduates.)
  • Santa Cruz Youth Corps: provides graduates with professional skill development, on-the-job experience, and community service opportunities with a range of professional employers around Lake Atitlán (impact: 90% employment rate out of some programs.)
  • Providing sexual and reproductive health information to 4th-9th grade students and teacher training to reduce teen pregnancies, breaking traditional gender roles, and expanding opportunities for young women.

Economic Empowerment

  • CECAP trains over 400 students each year in trades including culinary arts, carpentry, weaving, etc.
  • Social enterprise Café Sabor Cruceño employs 14 young chefs who learn practical skills that help launch their culinary careers, such as running a bustling restaurant, teaching visitor cooking classes, and catering weddings.
  • Social enterprise Manos Cruceñas Artisan Store provides work to over 100 female artisans, graduates of CECAP’s sewing, beading, and weaving courses, creating textiles and jewelry, and selling locally and across North America via their online store.

Amigos is a fantastic example of grassroots community development and can serve as a model for ­other community initiatives. Visit the Amigos de Santa Cruz websites to learn more or to support them by visiting their Café, purchasing something from their Artisan Store, or making a donation.

Leave a comment to start a discussion on this initiative or to highlight other positive examples of community development projects you’ve encountered.

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