Andrew Raphael is a Licensed teacher of Spanish and English to speakers of other languages from Brooklyn, New York. After teaching for several years in New York City, he finished his graduate studies in TESOL and moved to Guatemala in September of 2011. Soon thereafter, Andrew moved to San Marcos La Laguna, on the shores of the famous Lake Atitlán. Up to that point, his work had been exclusively in child-care and language education in public schools, and Andrew jumped at the chance to try his hand at different kinds of work including bartending, renovating a hotel and offering private language classes to foreigners looking to connect with the Mayan indigenous in San Marcos. After a year of working in these different fields, he heard about a daily lunch program that would have to close for lack of funding and administration, and Andrew committed to take over as director so that Konojel would be able to remain open.
From October, 2012, through July 2018, Andrew served as the Executive Director of Konojel and was responsible for the day-to-day running of all the initiatives during that time. Under his administration the daily lunch program found solid footing, while the enrichment program; the new restaurant; five community gardens; the computer center, the women’s cooperative that operates out of Konojel’s facility and the computer center were developed and became essential components of support within the community.
Andrew’s work at Konojel is important to him because it allows him to participate proactively and contribute positively to a community he has come to cherish and view as his own. San Marcos La Laguna, like so many rural parts of Guatemala and the developing world at large, is suffering from some severe social and economic problems; many visitors to the town are overwhelmed by the poverty and it’s consequences that so often influence the day-to-day living conditions of his Kaq’chikel (Mayan) neighbors, and Konojel represents a non-paternalistic attempt to help those neighbors raise their own standard of living. Konojel is important to Andrew because it has the potential to affect positive change in the lives of people without many opportunities to initiate that process for themselves. Andrew has invested deeply in Konojel because, surrounded by profound suffering with which his neighbors have lived most of their lives, the community center is enacting real and tangible change in their standard of living and he believes helping people who are struggling to help themselves is of vital importance; to help the world one must help his neighbors. Konojel is important to Andrew because, in the words of Jackie Robinson, “a life is not important except in the impact it has on other lives”.