Limitless Horizons Ixil embodies its commitment to work for Chajul by working with Chajul. After two years as a staff member and one year as a board member, I continue to be impressed by the incredible work the organization does. Even more important is how LHI does it's work - always under the leadership of our Guatemalan staff members. LHI is a community-driven organization impacting the entire community of Chajul.
This organization embodies the principles of mindful, community-driven sustainable development. As a Board member, I have seen the organization grow over the course of the past five years, reaching more and more people and becoming locally lead. One of the things that makes LHI stand out is its concept of growth.The team on the ground continually strives to work better and achieve more impact, but the ultimate focus is on providing programs and services that really make a difference, rather than on growth for its own sake.
LHI is composed of passionate, committed individuals who think critically and creatively about how to make a real difference in Chajul. This has led to uniquely integrated programming. It is a pleasure to be involved with an organization that is not only changing lives and the face of a community, but doing so in a way that is lasting, in alignment with and sensitive to the community's values.
I began working with Katie and Pedro in 2008. I could see that they were strong leaders- eager learners, dedicated humanitarians, good thinkers, smart spenders. They kept the long-term self-sufficiency of Chajul families at the center of their work. They weren’t in the NGO business to put their stamp on a place and leave. They weren’t about charity—taking funds from the first world and turning it into ‘handouts for the poor.’ No, LHI was, and still is, a vehicle for opportunity for Chajul children and families to make changes in their own lives and in their communities.
When I last visited Chajul, there were visible signs of progress: LHI had become a community center, where youth and families went to hang out, access educational materials, ask for help, and volunteer. LHI’s local program director had built the confidence to lead a group of women in a voice activity organized by Mothers Acting Up. Cecilia Jacinta, the young woman my mother sponsors, had grown from a near-silent 7th grade student to a confident, smart, funny, hopeful 9th grader eager to show me her 2-room adobe home, introduce me to her family, feed me her delicious boxbol, and act in LHI’s first play—a social commentary of life with an open cooking fire contrasted with life with a safe stove.
There were signs of attitudinal changes; LHI’s work helped people value other vegetables besides corn, which will contribute to the battle against malnutrition. LHI helped parents to see the value in sending their children to school in a community when most children stop schooling after primary school. There was a sense of community and trust among LHI’s growing population of scholarship students and families that came from different religious and political viewpoints.
Today, LHI is reaching more of the community than ever, with its new expanded library, full of eager students every day, who are trying to position themselves to do well in school and launch sustainable careers.
In the last six years, LHI has:
1. Supported six girls from 7th through their 12th grade graduation in a community where only 1% graduate from high school. These girls are proud to graduate this October; they would not have attended and succeeded in these upper grades without LHI’s financial, emotional, and academic support.
2. Increased the number of students served each year from 10 students in 2005 to 85 students in 2011 through our scholarship program alone, increasing the number of students graduating from middle school each year.
3. Brought new services and programs to town: intensive Spanish classes, student work-study opportunities, tutoring, family gardens, safe stoves, Story Hour, teacher workshops, career panels, and many more.
4. Opened Chajul’s first public library, expanded it due to high demand, and registered over 600 users.
5. Created local employment for four full-time local employees, two part-time employees, and work-study opportunities for youth.
6. Reduced the number of dropouts due to marriage and childbirth within our scholarship program to ZERO.
LHI has accomplished all this efficiently (with an annual budget less than the average lawyer’s annual salary) and sustainably (community members have both leadership and skin in the game) in the rural, indigenous community of Chajul, Guatemala.
LHI is different from most international aid organizations, as it is embedded in and driven by the community itself. It has been an honor to serve as a board member of LHI. I have learned so much from Katie and Pedro, and feel that every hour and dollar I spend in support of LHI translates to important, life-changing work.