Layers of dust coat the cracked concrete floor of Chiquival Cooperative School’s dilapidated gymnasium. A makeshift stage at the front of the room is strewn with streamers and balloons. Students, teachers, and visitors dance together under the modest aluminum roof, the cold concrete walls reverberating with music and laughter—a celebration amidst the deterioration.

Walfre Sosa Pérez dances well for a 14-year-old boy. His rhythm and movements are comfortable, and his wide smile is contagious. He sways back and forth in time to the music, his joy palpable. Walfre is celebrating because he now has access to a world previously denied to him. He is celebrating because he finally has the opportunity to run his fingers up and down the glossy cover of a brand new social studies book. Walfre is celebrating because he knows that he and his rural community have not been forgotten.

CoEd’s Textbook Program is a welcome relief from the constant struggle of daily life in this remote Guatemalan village. Walfre says, “Having these new resources is a huge help to our community.” Generous supporters like you donated the initial set of textbooks in the core subjects of math, science, Spanish language, and social studies. Thanks to CoEd’s innovative revolving fund model, Chiquival will be able to replace the books approximately every five years, using money saved from “renting” the books to students for a small fee each year.

Walfre’s mother, Juana, who never attended school, discusses the importance of this sustainable solution, saying, “Getting to use these books is a wonderful opportunity for my son. We have very little money, but I know paying the rental fee is worth the sacrifice because one day Walfre’s little brother will get to study with books too.” She smiles down at Alfredo, Walfre’s two-year-old brother, clinging to her leg. Juana can see the future, and realizes that her young toddler is going to benefit from this investment just as much as his older brother. Her pride is evident as a woman finally empowered to give her sons what she could never achieve for herself.

Walfre and family

Unfortunately, Walfre’s father had to miss the celebration. He lives in Los Angeles, working odd jobs thousands of miles away from his family to send money home whenever he can. Walfre knows that he cannot take his education for granted, saying, “My father inspires me to work hard because he fights for us every day. He left Guatemala so that my siblings and I could study. If he stayed here, we wouldn’t have enough money to afford school.”

Juana only speaks with her husband once a week. Acknowledging that it is a huge sacrifice to be separated, she states, “Every day is a struggle, but seeing my children doing well in school and receiving help from people who care make the tough times just a little more bearable.”

Tiny Alfredo waddles over to a stack of books, his chubby fingers grazing their spines. He smiles and looks up at his big brother. Walfre grins, leans down, and picks up Alfredo while saying, “I am excited about having books because I want to discover new things. I don’t know what I want to be when I grow up, but I do know that I want to become a professional. I want to graduate and make my family proud. This is the first step.” CoEd’s Textbook Program is empowering Walfre and his brother to take charge of their futures and break the cycle of poverty in their family, and that is worth celebrating.