The Hopes and Dreams of the Girls of Qach’Umilal

The Hopes and Dreams of the Girls of Qach’Umilal

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Surrounded by mountains, with volcanoes in the distance, sits Santa Maria Chiquimula. The municipality is made up of several smaller neighborhoods, spread out along the mountain road in the rural Western Highlands of Guatemala. Families are Mayan and still speak in K’iche, their indigenous language, and hold on to their traditions very closely. It is here in this remote area, that Hain Celestial and CARE hosted an art contest for girls in the area primary schools.

These girls came together for the art contest, but this would be the first of many meetings as they would all soon be a part of an afterschool program called Qach’Umilal, or “Guiding Star,” in K’iche. As a part of Qach’Umilal, the girls will meet regularly with other girls, teachers and mentors to participate in group projects and discussions.

The program is meant to be fun, but has serious goals. Many of these girls have not had the opportunity contribute in school, to find their own voices, to feel confident about their skills, value and worth. Sadly, many will not continue with their schooling after the 6th grade. Qach’Umilal was created to build confidence, self-esteem and leadership skills, and to keep girls engaged in and excited about school.

During this very first gathering, we asked the girls to draw pictures of what they hoped to be when they grew up, or what was most important to them, or what they valued. Many girls giggled, covering their mouths while they laughed. Many looked to their friends to see what they might be drawing.

Unlike what one might expect with a group of primary school girls in the United States or even a more urban setting in a developing country, these girls didn’t know where to start. They weren’t accustomed to the idea of being allowed to just create.

But slowing, girls began to draw. Once started, there was no stopping them. They had brand new sharpened pencils and crayons. They had clean sheets of paper, ready to capture their creativity.

They drew their homes, the beautiful mountains surrounding them, portraits of their families, and pictures of what they wanted to be when they grow up.

These girls came to life with giggles and creativity, just like any girl in any classroom. Their teachers and mentors encouraged them, laughed with them. And just like that seeds of self-confidence begin to take root.

You can help cultivate these girls by giving to the Qach’Umilal program.