“Making a difference means breaking a cycle of poverty and repression by providing our fellow students in Guatemala with an opportunity to complete their education.”
You are never too young to make a difference, and Emelia Bowie-Buffam, Kara Cameron, Kate Thornton and Lilli Strong are proof. As part of the Guatemala Stove Project “Students Helping Students” initiative, the four 13-year-old students at Glen Tay Public School in Perth, Ontario have been engaging their fellow students and community in support of a scholarship program for 11 Mayan students from the villages of Chicutama, Cantel and Panimaquim in the northwestern highlands of Guatemala.
The local chapter of the Guatemala Stove Project (GSP) has been operating at Glen Tay for the past six years and when each of the girls learned about the lives of rural Mayan farming communities and the work the organization was doing, they eagerly committed to supporting local fundraising and awareness-building activities. “After you hear all of their stories you can’t help but want to do more, and the Guatemala Stove Project has given me an opportunity to do just that,” says Kara.
They raise money through speaking engagements in schools, churches and businesses throughout their local community. The funds raised support the “Students Helping Students” scholarship program in Chicutama, Cantel and Panimaquim and have also contributed to building cookstoves and a chicken coop that help support the livelihood of the communities. “When we speak to others we are hoping they will become inspired to make a difference in the lives of another person or group,” says Emelia. “We hope to educate them on the issues other people face and want them to donate their spare time to not only our organization, but any organization that is benefitting the lives of others.”
The girls have worked hard balancing their school work with their enthusiasm for learning about the challenges faced by Mayan farming families and sharing what they learn with others. As students themselves, they have all come to appreciate the importance of the scholarship program and the key role education can play in pulling communities out of poverty. “Other kids my age don’t have the opportunities that I do, and if they did, the world would be better for everyone,” says Kate.
The girls credit the GSP with teaching them the importance of well-informed projects that are community driven and able to demonstrate how the money they raise is being used and impacting the communities in Guatemala. Through GSP’s close connection to the villages in Guatemala the girls are able to receive direct feedback. “The community is amazed that 13-year-olds from a small town in Ontario can actually impact and change the lives of teenagers in a village in Guatemala,” says Lilli.
Guatemala Stove Project helps to improve the lives of indigenous families in Guatemala by building masonry cooking stoves and establishing sustainable micro-enterprises in partnership with local Guatemalan NGOs.
Read more about the other 2013 Global Changemakers here.
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