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.
Since taking over Konojel in October, 2012, Andrew has been the Director of Operations, and is responsible for the day-to-day running of all the initiatives currently underway. This includes not only the daily lunch program, but additionally the Enrichment Program; the new restaurant; five community gardens; incubating the solar women’s cooperative that operates out of Konojel’s facility using their solar dehydrator and solar oven; coordinating with volunteers and national and international schools and universities. Perhaps most importantly, Andrew coordinates outreach and interaction with the at-risk beneficiaries and employees that participate in Konojel’s various programs. Andrew is the bridge between the indigenous and non-indigenous communities in San Marcos La Laguna, as his job requires him to know the name and often tumultuous personal story of all members of the Konojel family.
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. Konojel is important to him because he is surrounded by profound suffering with which his neighbors have lived most of their lives, and the community center is enacting real and tangible change in their standard of living. His work at Konojel is important because 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”.