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Second Week of Lent: March 16-22

Guatemala

Catholic Relief Services’ community education program in Guatemala, “Nuyatalil Woklena” or “My Rights Matter” in English, encourages families to protect their child’s right to an education, play and development.

Thirteen-year-old Yuvi wants to become a nurse or psychologist one day. Thanks to CRS’ “My Rights Matter” program, she is able to pursue her goals and focus on her studies first, and work second.

Watch the video

Catholic social teaching focus:

Rights and Responsibilities

Every person has basic rights and responsibilities that flow directly from our human dignity. These rights are numerous and include the right to life, food, shelter, education and employment, as well as political and cultural rights. Along with these rights are duties and responsibilities to respect the rights of others and to work for the common good of all.

Yuvi’s Story

For many children in Guatemala, working to earn money is considered more important than homework, sports and time with friends. Many parents are forced to choose between sending their children to school and giving them enough food to eat. Some children must even work dangerous jobs to help their families earn enough money.

Thirteen-year-old Yuvilis “Yuvi” Pu found herself working in a clothing-making business to help her parents feed their family of seven. Each day after school, she came home to a long list of chores and often spent hours delivering t-shirts throughout her village. So many chores meant Yuvi had no time or energy to study or do homework, activities she knew she needed to do to reach her dream of one day becoming a doctor.

Catholic Relief Services is working to keep kids like Yuvi in school through the My Rights Matter program. CRS’ goal is to teach families the importance of education and the dangers of sending children to work. CRS visits families at home, coordinates community events and even shares information through commercials on the radio.

Parents often do not know that so much work is harmful for their children. “Before CRS, I didn’t realize that what I was asking my children to do was hard and dangerous work,” said Miguel, Yuvi’s father. Because of the My Rights Matter program, more parents understand that when children stay focused on learning, they can get a job that will pay well when they grow up.

Now, when Yuvi gets home from school, homework is first on her list of chores. Next year she will start in middle school.Yuvi’s father Miguel never finished elementary school, and he is proud of her success in class.

Read the full story.

Facts to Consider

  • Guatemala has the largest economy in Central America, but there is a big divide between the poor and middle class.
  • The indigenous population is especially affected; almost 50 percent of children under age 5 suffer from malnutrition; 80 percent of these children are indigenous.
  • While the national language is Spanish, Guatemala recognizes 22 different Mayan language groups, as well as three dialects, the Iadino, the Xinca and the Garifuna. This variety of languages reflects the country’s diverse cultural and ethnic groups.
  • Many Guatemalan children do not have access to education. For those who are able to attend school, work often gets in the way of their academics. The average years of schooling for people living in extreme poverty is 3 years, and 1.5 for those living in rural areas.
  • The My Rights Matter program works with teachers to make the experience of learning a more rewarding one in ways  that acknowledge students’ rich cultural heritage. Teachers are encouraged to use local indigenous beliefs and practices regarding human rights, obligations, community mutual help practices and gender relations to inform their curriculum.