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Category: staff spotlight

Introducing Viviana Cabrera Contreras: Manager of the Konojel Restaurant

Viviana Cabrera Contreras a university student, studying a social work degree, who’s goal is to be able to work closely with people and help them to transform their lives. From the age of 11 she started volunteering in non-profit organizations and she has been working since she was 14 years old. She started in a perfumery for 4 years but that did not suit her, so after working there, she worked at SHARE for approximately 3 years.

Viviana then had several jobs, one of them was in a vaccination pilot project in Tecpan and Chimaltenango. As she was working and sharing more closely with people she realized that field work was a good fit because she could see more clearly the change in the lives of people. After that she was in charge of purchasing for a year and a half and was responsible for the relationship with suppliers; serving more than 250 employees and was responsible for a variety of different services such as purchases for 25 agencies and telephone communication. This was a foundational experience for Viviana.

She was living in San Lucas, Sacatepequez when she found out that there was a job in Konojel and she moved to San Marcos La Laguna. Viviana is excited and motivated by this fascinating change. As the administrative manager of the restaurant, her responsibility is to manage the accounts and expenses of the restaurant, innovate and improve the products we offer, create a work environment where women feel part of the team, and train them so they can have their own income and develop experience and individual devleopment leading to opportunities for growth later.

Viviana also manages the solar women’s cooperative and coordinates sewing workshops. She is cooking and is looking for new products to develop for market, hoping to increase the income for the programs as well as ensuring the improvement and growth of both businesses.

For Viviana, Konojel is very important because it is an opportunity to improve the quality of life for the people she serves as well as to create increased income so that the programs can function more independently. The growth of the women who work in the restaurant is also a primary focus. Viviana is motivated and excited. She has many ideas that she wants to implement so that women can have more work and we can increase our impact in the community.

She believes that we should love what we do to be happy and that is where she is now.

Introducing Angelina: Enrichment Program Coordinator

My name is Angelina Quiacain Sajvin. I am 27 years old, born on May 16 1990 in Barrio 1, San Marcos La Laguna, Guatemala. I am one of six siblings.

In 2000 I entered first grade at the local primary school, and I have many memories of the great times spent with my classmates and friends; I remember much laughter and doing things that I thought were naughty at the time but now I think are just normal kid behaviors. In 2006 I entered middle school, where I studied for three years and that experience really showed me the difference in upper level studies compared to just finishing primary school.

Then, in 2009 I enrolled in the Escuela Nacional Bilingue in Santiago, which is all the way across the lake from San Marcos and was a really big commitment for me, especially as a woman it is hard to travel and complete one’s studies when life is full of daily challenges. I managed to graduate from High School in 2011 with a degree in Early Childhood Education with a focus on Bilingual and Intercultural studies.

My Job History…

Then, in 2012 I began a job in the town of San Pedro La Laguna, a town located between San Marcos and Santiago. I was working for MANC La Laguna, an organization that focuses on educational programs based on recycling of waste around the Lake Atitlan region. It was during that job that my companions and I realized that our home, Lake Atitlan, produces a great deal of garbage, and our efforts focused running informational workshops with local women on topics like waste recycling, separation of organic and inorganic garbage; not only did we host groups of indigenous women in these talks, we also visited various schools in the area to provide information and activities in the area of environmental protection. I was fortunate because this work also led me to join the National Committee of Literacy (CONALFA), an experience that allowed me to impart literacy classes to women who had not learned to read or write, with the goal of opening doors for those women through helping them develop literacy skills. It was there that I began to observe the participation of those women and their desire to overcome obstacles in their lives, and I witnessed their efforts to help their families each and everyday, in part by improving their own skills and abilities.

In the year 2014 I began working in the Escuela Caracol in my hometown of San Marcos La Laguna. This school is the first Waldorf institute in the country of Guatemala, and I was very happy to have a job as a Teacher’s Assistant in the Kindergarten class over the course of three years. This experience was wonderful for me as I was able to learn about the Waldorf pedagogy and methodology, a really interesting way to look at education that focuses on helping children learn through developing their artistic and manual abilities starting at a young age. The main objective at the Escuela Caracol is to stimulate the potential of children with the help of adult guides.

What I most enjoyed of that experience was learning from the children, as they helped me gain confidence, to feel love, as for them I think I was like a second mother because they always confided in me about personal problems they were facing. I think the job of a Teachers Assistant is to help a child with their mental and emotional state, because sometimes children can be impatient and it’s necessary to educate with love. The parent’s trusted in me and for that I’m grateful to them, and to my co-workers with whom I shared experiences, respect and humility, and to them as well I will always be grateful.

Joining Konojel Community Center

Then, in May of this year (2018) I received an invitation to interview for a position at the Konojel Community Center. I remember the first time I entered their facility, Andrew (Executive Director) and Maria (Director of Programs) were very welcoming to me and made me feel at home in their space. They set a tone of respect and humility, and I’ve deeply thankful to them for allowing me to be a part of the Konojel team. I’m really happy with my new position as Enrichment Program Coordinator, and more than anything I’m excited to have a chance to practice my professional skills with a new group of children in an environment very different from my previous work experiences.

The Enrichment Program at Konojel focuses on reinforcing skills that local children need to finish their studies and have opportunities as they grow. These days in San Marcos there are many obstacles that children face in receiving a quality education, in part because of large class sizes and a lack of resources available to public school teachers. The work that Laura (Site Coordinator) and I do at Konojel is reinforce the instruction they receive in school through cooperative games and other activity that I hope enrich their lives and experiences beyond what they receive at home. In particular, Laura and I focus our time with them on literacy development in Spanish, Mathematics, and arts and crafts, as Konojel is fortunate to have many educational resources available for us thanks to international donors who support our work. These materials are extremely helpful as a tool for us to help them strengthen their skills as students, and as individuals.

More than anything I love doing arts and crafts with the children of the Konojel Enrichment Program. I spend a lot of time and energy planning the activities from Monday through Friday, and I can see that the children enjoy my effort; every day the first thing they ask me is “what are we going to do today, what will you teach us today?” and this to me is beautiful because it motivates me to push ahead and better myself in my work as an educator. Our goal at Konojel is educate the young people of San Marcos to have good values and to help them develop a desire to continue learning and to take on challenges that will make them better neighbors and citizens.

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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