The school is led by Camila Mendoza, who started this initiative with her husband in 1996. Very soon, more classes and, thus, more funding were needed. Unfortunately, the government would not support this private initiative and the poor local community could not pay for private education. When a Belgian group of friends visited the school in 2003, they immediately decided to support the school financially. Finally, in 2007, the association AJPOPOLI VZW was created with the purpose of giving support to this educational project.
Guatemala is “the country of eternal spring”, but remains one of the most poor and violent countries in Latin America. Especially Indian communities, such as the Mayas, live in difficult and poor conditions. Guatemala is a beautiful country, but still has to overcome a lot of political, economic and social issues. The country and its population are slowly recovering from a thirty year civil war, which ended in 1996.
San Juan Comalapa is a small mountain village located 80 km Northwest of the capital. The majority of the population are Maya Indians living in poor conditions. Education is only limited and many people are analphabetic. Most men cultivate vegetables for their own use on small pieces of land. Women often stay at home and try to support their families by creating and selling small linen craftwork on the local markets. As their income is very low, parents cannot afford education for their children. The local language is Kaqchikel, while Spanish is only being taught at school.
The school is called “Centro Educativo Ajpopoli’ Ak’wala” (ie. bringing wisdom to the youth) and gives education to 300 pupils from the 3rd kindergarten until the 3rd secondary grade. 60% of the students are girls. Ajpopoli vzw entirely finances the 24 teachers and staff members of the school through foster parents programs and other funding campaigns. Camila Mendoza Pérez, born in 1961, is the school’s key person. Her husband, Pantaleon Simon, with whom she founded the school, passed away in 2005. Camila was fortunate to get proper school education and studied for teacher. In 2014, she obtained a degree in Psychology and Social Counseling through weekend schooling. Her commitment to the school and the childrens’ local families is huge. Families often ask for advice and support in social, psychological, medical and financial matters.