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Category: enrichment

The Land That Time Forgot

Sandra Levins, a Konojel partner for the last 2 years, recently wrote about her recent trip to San Marcos, in which she and her team brought donated goods from the Iowa Conference United Church of Christ.

“San Marcos la Laguna on Lake Atitlán is like the land that time forgot. There is a weird combination of the ancient and the modern. Here they fish in dugout canoes made from hollowed tree trunks and scavenge for firewood, but almost everyone has a cell phone. The women dress in traditional clothing and many weave their own fabric on backstrap looms in the early Mayan tradition. The language spoken in the home is Katchikal, but when the children enter school they learn to speak Spanish. Then we gringos came along and out of necessity some, but not all, became trilingual. In my grandson’s school, every lesson is taught three times: in Katchikal, Spanish and then English.

Mother Theresa said that each one of us is merely a small instrument. When you look at the inner workings of electrical things, often you see small and big wires, new and old, cheap and expensive. Until the current passes through there will be no light. That wire is you and me. The current is God.

Let us continue to light up God’s world and change lives.”

Read about Sandra’s visit and experience on her church blog.

Volunteer Experience: Konojel, Kaqchikel, Marquenses

Kaity Fitzgerald and Katrina Langhammer volunteered for one month at Konojel through an opportunity with JUSTA & Global JUST Designs. A letter from Kaity (unavailable via Shopify as of 2020) describes her experience with both organizations, and here are a few excerpts:

“We found Konojel on a whim. It was the best, last-minute thing I had even come across.”

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PACE Foundation plants seeds of growth at Konojel


We had the pleasure of welcoming 16-year-old Robert Subtirelu and his father, Allen, to Guatemala last week. Robert founded the PACE Foundation, based in Long Island, New York, and funds it by boarding dogs with his mother at ComPAWnions, the highest rated boarding service in their area.

In 2014, Robert donated $7,000 to Konojel to start our enrichment programs, planting seeds in San Marcos that have been growing this past year to become the most important piece of our programming. After spending a week together in San Marcos La Laguna, I interviewed Robert to learn a more about this inspiring young man.

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Staff Spotlight - Laura Maria Sancoy, Children's Enrichment Program Director

Staff Spotlight – Laura Maria Sancoy, Children’s Enrichment Program Coordinator

The Konojel Community Center, previously Nutrition Center Konojel, began in September 2011 from humble beginnings. At first, the program focused on providing 65+ meals for the most at-risk demographics of the population—chronically malnourished children, pregnant or nursing mothers, and elderly citizens not being cared for by their adult children. Over the past few years, Konojel has gradually branched out into a number of other initiatives to more holistically support the community of San Marcos La Laguna, here on the shores of Lake Atitlán, Solola, Guatemala. One of these initiatives, the after school Enrichment Program, provides a space after lunch for 20-40 elementary school-aged children to play educational, confidence-building games, do their homework with adult supervision, enjoy being kids, and much more.

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SUNY and Konojel

State University of New York Brings Sustainability to Konojel

Luz Porras, Professor of Spanish and Latin American Studies, SUNY New Paltz

Luz Porras, Professor of Spanish and Latin American Studies, SUNY New Paltz

I’d been living in San Marcos for close to two years, and running Konojel for about half that time, when I met Professor Luz Porras, Professor of Spanish and Latin American Studies at my alma mater, State University of New York at New Paltz (SUNY New Paltz). While visiting my old stomping grounds one early spring afternoon, a friend in the Study Abroad office invited me to join a conversation practice session being held for a few of the class sections from the Department of Foreign Languages. After listening in for a few minutes, I was asked to introduce myself, and told the students and their professors a bit of my story. As a graduate of SUNY New Paltz, I’d earned my teaching certificate and used it to teach Spanish in at-risk areas of New York City. After explaining that I’d since moved to Guatemala, a faceless voice boomed from the other end of the table, and Professor Porras rose from her seat to learn more about how I’d gone from her department to her home country. So began the connection between Konojel and SUNY New Paltz.


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Konojel Young Artist Initiative

This is an interview with two Konojel volunteers, Luke & Emily, who worked with us for 6 months in 2014 and 2015. They started the Young Artist Initiative, giving classes to the children at Konojel in photography and other creative arts.

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Volunteer Experience — “In Which I Am Proud of My Kid”

Jennifer Miller, who has been traveling the world with 2008 with her 4 children in tow, wrote a beautiful article about the experience her son, Elisha, had while volunteering at Konojel for 6 months.

“The Konojel building looks a lot better, Mom. The work days last week made a big difference. It just feels tidier. The ladies will unlock the kitchen soon and start cooking, they begin early. We feed the kids outside on the patio with long tables and benches. That’s where we do our activities, outside too. From the kitchen out back you can look up at Imelda’s house. I wave at her sometimes. Some of these kids this is their only good meal. Most of them don’t grow well because their nutrition is so bad. They think I’m a giant. That’s the house where the kid who tries to beat me up lives.” He offers that last part as an aside and I interrupt:

“Wait, there’s a kid that tries to beat you up every day??”

He laughs, “Yeah, but he’s, like, this tall,” holding one hand by his waist, “And he’s only teasing, he’s just a little scrapper and he likes to have a try because I’m so big. We laugh every day.” 

“Oh, okay. Just checking.” He chuckles and gives me his give-me-a-break-mom eye roll.

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“Gaining Sustainability in Guatemala”

Our friend and colleague, Zachary Towne-Smith, has been working with Konojel for the last 2 years, helping to guide the development of our programs and of the Sabor del Sol women’s cooperative. His blog post outlines some of the ways that Konojel engages with the local community to identify community issues and come up with viable and creative solutions to those problems.

Konojel — A Volunteer Project to Get Behind

A big part of long-term travel for many people is volunteering. Volunteering, no matter what you do, is all good, right? How can devoting your time and/or money to help people in need not be a good thing? You might be surprised to find out that many volunteering projects end up causing more harm than good.

A few weeks ago in this column, Jennifer Miller shared her disdain for short term mission trips. Some who read this article thought she was calling for an end to all types of volunteer trips, fundraisers, activities, and experiences, which is the furthest thing from the truth.

Today, Jenn is sharing a personal story about a project that she believes will leave a lasting impact on the community that she currently lives in, which is what we believe most people who get involved in this type of work hope to accomplish.

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