Voices from Chajul: From a proud director

Today, I Am a Proud Director
by Katie Morrow, Executive Director & Co-Founder


January 31, 2014: On this cold, gray day in Chajul, I am a proud director and it feels like anything is possible. We surpassed our 2013 fundraising goals and we just hired two of our LHI high school graduates to lead our community library! Today I am honored to welcome David and Eduardo Rey to our library team. Along with our accomplished Program Associate, Ana Eymi, we now have three of our very own LHI graduates working for us, after supporting and training them for six years.


Katie main postOur scholars dream of finishing high school, getting professional jobs, and supporting their families. Our dream at LHI is that our youth will complete their schooling, maybe even go to university, will educate their children, and be leaders and change-makers in their own community. Today I can see both of our dreams merging, moving from the soft colors of a watercolor painting into the realism of a photo.

Today I spent some teary-eyed reflection time crammed into a corner of the van from Chajul to Nebaj, where we live, with over 30 people and many bundles of firewood and corn. We spend so much time running, it’s hard to find time to reflect, celebrate, and acknowledge milestones.

I watched a young mother get on the bus with five children in torn, dirty clothes. One girl of about eight years old (who looked younger due to growth stunting from malnutrition) stood in the van, looking at me intensely for 30 minutes, barely blinking, completely stoic, with deep black eyes and long eyelashes. I wondered what she was thinking. I imagine that if she has not already dropped out of school, she will in a few years. In less than 10 years she will likely be with her own malnourished children, with no way to provide them with an education, or glimpse of life outside of poverty.

Like this young girl, David, Eduardo Rey, and Ana Eymi are also from families with few resources to provide adequate nutrition or education to their children. Without the support from LHI, their chances of studying past sixth grade were very low. LHI offered each the opportunity to escape the trappings of poverty and empowered them to rise above the difficult circumstances they were born into.

DavidDavid is the third youngest of 12 children, but only eight of them are alive today. The youngest child has Down syndrome. His parents’ families had to flee from their homes during the Guatemalan Civil War, with the clothes on their back and their children. They lived in hiding in the mountains and lost their house, their land, and numerous relatives before settling in Chajul. There were many times that David thought he would have to give up his studies in order to help his father support his family by farming corn and cutting firewood, but with LHI support and his own perseverance he was able to graduate with his high school degree.

Eduardo ReyEduardo Rey is the oldest living child of nine siblings, three of whom have died. Rey’s father died due to hernia complications because his family could not afford to pay for surgery or medical support. As the eldest boy, Rey was expected to support his family and forgo the opportunity to attend school. With support from LHI, Rey attended school in Guatemala City while selling candy on the weekends and working as a security guard during the summer. One night, he was the victim of a hit-and-run which shattered his leg. Due to poor nutrition and a lack of bone strength, he was in and out of bed and the hospital for two years. He talked to his teachers and was able to continue his studies from the hospital. He never gave up his dream to finish his schooling in spite of every obstacle.

EymiAna Eymi is the second youngest of eight children and the only girl in her family to study past middle school. Eymi’s father, uncle, and grandfather were all taken by the Guatemalan army during the civil war and are believed to have been killed in an unknown location with unmarked graves. Her mother was left to raise all eight children and supported Eymi to achieve her dream of a high school degree. Eymi continues to study in university on the weekends.

Against extraordinary odds, these three not only graduated from prominent high schools, but as LHI scholars they participated in our work-study opportunities, trainings and workshops, and intensive Spanish program. They are fighters, they are visionaries, and they are inspiring future graduates to become leaders in Chajul. I trust them to be amazing guides, confidants, and coaches through the incredibly hard journey that extends in front of the next generation of LHI youth on their paths to success.

Today, after a month of trial work in the library, we offered David and Eduardo Rey positions as librarians. They blinked back tears as they accepted the positions with the utmost professionalism. Ana Eymi, now a year into her job with LHI, extended her hand to welcome them to the team.

I can assure you that not all days feel like today. There have been many hard days when I don’t think there will be enough funding to continue and days where I want to throw up my hands because the obstacles of poverty and a lack of infrastructure in Guatemala just seem like too much. When I started LHI with 10 scholarships and the idealism of a 24-year-old, I never thought that now I would be the leader of such a strong, vibrant, and inspiring group of staff. I have always dreamt that our youth would one day lead the community and our next generation of scholars, but I never thought it would be so soon.

Tomorrow there will be more challenges and I know the road will not be easy. But today I am a proud, confident director with the pleasure to work with an incredible group of community leaders. Today, true to our name, the horizon truly seems limitless.