How one NGO is helping the children of Chajul rebuild their community through transformative education
Roughly 250km, and an arduous 7-hour drive north of the capital city in Guatemala, lies the remote town of Chajul, surrounded by the Chuchamatanes mountains, a town rich in Ixil Maya tradition and culture. This indigenous region of the Western Highlands was at the heart of a 36-year-long genocide during Guatemala’s civil war, killing and forcibly displacing an estimated 200,000 people. Chajul and its people continue to battle postwar challenges such as emotional trauma, land displacement, family separation, and a deep mistrust of outsiders.
Despite daily hardship and being haunted by their past, there’s an educational revolution happening for the children in Chajul. Meet Limitless Horizons Ixil (LHI), an NGO driving change through education and mentorship.
LHI started as a grassroots organization, sending a handful of students to school with supplies backed by financial sponsorship. In 2010 Saber Sin Limites opened its doors as the first community library in Chajul. In January of 2022, LHI opened Colegio Horizontes, a school comprised of 2/3 female and 1/3 male students, set to reverse gender stereotypes in a machismo culture.
Head Librarian of Saber Sin Limites, and past LHI scholarship recipient, David Bernabe Imul Calel shared, “my mother wishes she had that opportunity, but it wasn’t allowed. It wasn’t the traditional view of the community, which was not to educate girls. Through LHI and working with a team of women, I recognize how much work my mother, sister, and wife do. I see their hard work and the minimal opportunities they are given. Women always have to be brave – be resilient in difficult situations, and being an Ixil woman is especially hard.”
For decades, LHI has been building trust through its relationships with the community, the students, and their families, breaking down barriers to ongoing educational development. The heart of the students and the educators at LHI are dissolving the trauma of Chajul’s past and carving space for a positive future filled with hope.
The director of Colegio Horizontes, Odilia Catarina Cedillo Ceto, says, “The philosophy we’ve always had is that it will be slow. We say we’re agents of change. Our goal is to work with them (the students) to create the best version of themselves so that they will go out into the community and work as agents of change. Maybe it’s a drop in the ocean, but that’s where you must start.”