Quality education is a critical tool for breaking the cycle of intergenerational poverty.

But in a country where more than half the population lives below the poverty line, the barriers kid face to make it into classrooms are extremely high. While they may already be struggling to afford basic necessities, families face the costs of school uniforms, supplies, transportation, and the student’s lost income. As a result, today 2 million children in Guatemala, a majority of them girls, don’t attend school. Sixty percent of the indigenous population cannot read or write and most children will only receive four years of formal education.

In response to the education crisis in their own community, a group of elders and mothers in the remote Guatemalan village of Santa Avelina called on HELPS to launch a primary school 20 years ago. They had a simple request: “We want a better life for our children.”

HELPS volunteers answered that call with the William M. Botnan School, a one-of-a-kind primary school where best practices in teaching meet respect for local language and culture. With the effective teachers, safe classrooms, high parent involvement, and quality supplies they need, our students are mastering skills that will help them lead their community out of poverty.