More than two decades later, the communities of Ixcán, in the North of Guatemala, are still reeling from the impact of armed internal conflict that ended in 1996. Many families were displaced from their homes and lost their lands, causing widespread poverty. The communities have made significant efforts to create peace, rebuilding confidence and strengthening the local economy. However, the area’s youth still lack access to quality education — especially young women. In this region, only five out of 100 young indigenous women have access to secondary education.
Magdalena, age 17, is one of 610 young indigenous women studying in the boarding schools of Talita Kumi. Magdalena receives nutritious Rise Against Hunger meals at school distributed by partner Salesian Missions. Magdalena gets up very early each day to study and learn, doing many of the tasks of the boarding school: agriculture, animal husbandry, food production and cooking. She is part of the group that prepares food for the rest of her classmates, including Rise Against Hunger meals for lunch.
Magdalena shares, “I like to eat the Rise Against Hunger meals, because there are bits of vegetables and meat. When we eat it with beans or with sauces, I like it a lot. Here we learn to cook the rice in many ways because when we return with our family, we also teach them to cook different things. In my village, we eat a little bit of rice, because there is not much; there is only rice and beans. When I go home, I teach them to cook rice in many other ways, and also to prepare other foods that we learn. Here, they teach us that it is good to eat differently, especially what we can produce in our own community.”
Sonia, the residence coordinator at Magdalena’s school, says, “The Rise Against Hunger meals help us a lot in the boarding school, because there are many students that live with us. They all come from the countryside and were born in rural communities. Their families trust that here they will study and learn in a safe place.”
She adds, “The young women also learn to cook, so we always try some new ways of preparing the Rise Against Hunger meals. With the young women, we have made “tayuyos” of rice (corn tortillas with rice inside) or rice in tamales (a mix of rice with corn flour and tomato sauce), rice cakes. We also combine the rice with the fruits that come from our orchards: green beans, potatoes, onions, carrots, tomatoes and other vegetables. Sometimes we separate the ingredients of the Rise Against Hunger meals, using the vegetables and proteins to make meatballs and cooking the rice with milk, sugar and cinnamon to make atoll.”
Jorge Hugo Cárcamo, school director, says, “In Guatemala, the majority of indigenous women have more obstacles to entering high school than someone who is a non-indigenous person in the city. In the rural area, the women normally become mothers while still very young. Without this opportunity to study, many of our students would have one or two children, they would have only a primary education and they would hardly know how to overcome the conditions of poverty. The Rise Against Hunger meals that they send to us is converted into alternatives for education for hundreds of young indigenous women in the whole north region of the country.”