The enormous toothy grin he wears from ear to ear gives him away—Diego Set Cuc is thrilled. Today Cooperative for Education and the Guatemala Literacy Project is delivering all-new textbooks to Chumanzana Cooperative School in Chichicastenango, Guatemala, where Diego is in the eighth grade. Today is a good day.
“This is my first time using books in class,” Diego says, “and my first time meeting people from North America!” He is amazed that people would come so far to visit his school, saying, “It is incredible for you to travel all this way, and for me to have the opportunity to learn more about the United States and Canada.”
Diego adjusts his glasses before sheepishly inquiring if he can ask a few questions about life in North America. His curiosity and love of learning are evident; his smile growing wider each time a question is answered. He is astonished and elated to have been given the gift of education by complete strangers so far away and cannot wait to learn more about them.
Diego has extra motivation to learn about North America since his dad lives in Canada for five months out of the year, growing fruits and vegetables in Quebec as part of a temporary worker program. Neither of Diego’s parents ever attended school. His mother is completely illiterate, and his dad had to make the same impossible decision as so many parents in Guatemala: stay and remain mired in poverty, or leave for a chance to give their families something better. Diego misses his dad when he is gone, but understands that he wouldn’t be able to stay in school without this incredible sacrifice.
Diego works as a shopkeeper when he is not in school, selling earrings, comic books and other trinkets to help out his family. When asked what he wants to do after he graduates, he says, “I just want to be a professional. I really like math and computer class, but as long as I have a degree, I know that I will be able to provide for myself and my family.”
As one of ten children, Diego understands the importance of education and the consequences of not being well-educated. His three older siblings all dropped out after middle school and now have limited opportunities to find work. As a result, Diego is determined to make it through high school, and the statistics are in his favor—schools demonstrate a 46% decline in dropout rates after joining CoEd’s textbook program.
Teachers also spend 53% less time dictating or writing on the chalkboard once textbooks are introduced, a difference that Diego has already noticed, saying, “Before the textbook program, our teacher had the only book and dictated to us for the entire class. Now, we use our textbooks every day instead of copying down what the teacher says.”
Thanks to YOUR generosity, Diego’s love of learning will continue to flourish, and his parent’s sacrifices will not be in vain. Your support has also given Diego something more intangible than books; the knowledge that people in this world care about him. Diego continues to be amazed that complete strangers are genuinely invested in his education. “But after all,” he says with a smile, “I guess we aren’t strangers anymore, but friends.”