I began to collaborate with the JUSTA Collective a few months ago. JUSTA helps support the middle school in San Antonio Chacayá (Santiago Atitlán), organizing activities to improve education and health as well as also collecting funds to help the children to continue their studies.

My first experience with JUSTA was a powerful one. As an introduction to the project, we visited the school, to meet the principal and attend a yoga session with teachers and students.  Usually you would attend a yoga session in a spacious and well conditioned yoga shala with an altar included.  This day, we attended a yoga session with a group of tz´utujil teenagers, a little short of space in one of the classrooms of the recently built Middle School of Chacayá. 

When I found out that the school principal (Mariano) dedicates half of his day to manage the school, looking for sponsors to help him build and maintain the classrooms and support children so they can attend school and to collect some money to offer a little incentive to the volunteering young teachers, I felt really inspired. Despite the social limitations existing in our country, the inequity and the despair due to lack of opportunities, these people are changing the country by changing their community, being visionaries and glimpsing a better tomorrow for the young people.  Mariano told me that he was born in Santiago Chacayá and he was the first graduated teacher from his community; so now he donates his time, enthusiasm and good energy to make possible a better future for his community.

The yoga session was held by Rudy, a passionate and vibrant yoga teacher (and clinical psychologist) that demonstrated the love for these children as for the community of Chacayá.  Beginning with the initial meditation, trying to take from the children the stress from being poor, from all the social determinants and boundaries resulting from a history of inequity and social abuse; he led them to that place where we are all equal and we can find peace.  Between the smiles and playfulness of the kids, some really focused on the meditation and others joking and playing in the moment, everybody moved from the Me`s (cat in tz´utujil) position to the Tz´i´ (dog); performing the Juyu´ (mountain) position as a salutation to the volcano San Pedro, and I was surprised of how the practice of yoga was already familiar to these students and how they could guess when the Kumatz (snake), the warrior and other positions came. They’ve been doing this for a while.

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A boy at the back of the classroom called my attention, he was using sunglasses all the time; I must confess I assumed this would be a typical demonstration of teenage rebellion. Talking later with Mariano, he told us that this kid is an excellent student as an enthusiast collaborator, and that the reason why he wears sunglasses all the time is because of an ailment in his eyes, hyper sensibility to light. Some weeks before, this boy was absent from classes during three days; when Mariano went to his house to ask what happened (as he usually does in these situations), he found out that the kid´s glasses were broken and this was the reason of his absence, he was working as a day laborer in the coffee farm, so he could get money for buying new glasses.  His family economic income is not enough for this expense, as almost every family in Chacayá they barely satisfy their basic needs. Mariano bought new glasses for him, now he`s back in school.

There are many stories like this in the school of Chacayá, stories of children struggling to get a better future for them and for their community, to obtain one of those far opportunities that they deserve.  And stories of caring and community.

I really feel lucky to have the opportunity to know these inspiring human beings and to be part of this effort to improve these children’s education and the opportunities they have in life.  This could change the future of a community strongly affected by Guatemala´s history of genocide, inequity and injustice.  

You can also be part of this effort! JUSTA helps supporting the students at risk, whose families may not have enough money to afford the next tuition fee for them to keep studying.  You can donate on our website.

– Ingrid, Chacaya Program Coordinator, JUSTA