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At the end of this year, JUNTOS will be celebrating 10 years of programming in Latin America. This is an exciting time for us as we look back on the tremendous growth that has happened over the last decade, and reflect on the stories and organizations that have touched us along the way.

Although we often share the stories of our programming, and of the experiences that have inspired staff and alumni to be a part of the JUNTOS mission, we rarely share the stories of partner organizations. We travel through Mexico, Nicaragua, and Guatemala, always encountering organizations that inspire us, guide us, share wisdom with us, and connect us.

Today we will share one of these organizations, Education and Hope, that has done just this.

As described on their website, “Education and Hope is a small, non-profit education foundation based in the western highlands of Guatemala. [Their] program aims to increase access to education among impoverished children and young adults in this area by providing students with comprehensive scholarships, as well as by offering academic reinforcement in the form of tutoring after school.”

Julie Coyne, the founder and Executive Director, explained to JUNTOS that Education and Hope started 23 years ago with just a couple of kids and some snacks in her small house. It has since grown into a much larger after-school program, and has expanded to include a daycare program and Casa Esperanza, or “The Hope Center,” a family and wellness center based on the idea that a student’s education and growth is inextricably linked to the success of a family. Casa Esperanza also provides a monthly food pantry for those in need, small grants for home improvement, and loans for medical emergencies.

With such a vast set of resources available to students and their families, the organization hopes to elevate the level of education in Guatemala. Yet what lead JUNTOS to working with Education and Hope was not only their focus on education, but the emphasis and value they place on the arts.

“E&H is different from other after-school programs” shared Eleanor Frechette, a JUNTOS dancer that visited Education and Hope for two consecutive days during JUNTOSAbroad Guatemala in 2017. “Julie really makes sure to integrate art into the educational aspects of the organization. Walking into the program feels like coming home.”

Eleanor also mentioned how lively and attentive each student was during the JUNTOS workshops and performances, and how excited they were to learn. She attributed this enthusiasm to the support that surrounds them, the educational training that they receive, and the friendships they make while at Education and Hope.

Having the opportunity to collaborate with this organization created an incredible experience of learning, dancing, and intercultural exchange for JUNTOS. Finding organizations abroad like Education and Hope that started in the founder’s home are not rare. They are, however, always an inspiration.

JUNTOS Collective will be returning to Education and Hope during JUNTOSAbroad 2018 and looks forward to sharing more with our readers.

You can watch this video to find out more about a day with Education and Hope: