When most people from developed countries like the United States think about Guatemala, they think about crime, drugs and poverty. But many come here and fall in love with a country of extraordinary beauty and a welcoming people. Count among those visitors some of the founders of Asociación Juntos Podemos. We came to Guatemala, fell in love with it, stayed for a long time (even years), and continue to be drawn back.
Though we fell in love with this beautiful country, it's impossible to be blind to its problems. Illiteracy is common. Crime and violence are rampant. Unemployment is high. Poverty takes its toll, with its attendant problems like malnutrition and poor healthcare. Women particularly suffer within this machista culture. The rate of femicide is one of the highest in the world.
So along with our love for the country came our desire to help. But where to begin? We believe that one of the keys to Guatemala's future lies in developing its youth through better education, job training, and better health. We became involved as volunteers and interns in a variety of local organizations that promote these solutions.
Unfortunately, in 2018, two of our favorite and most impactful projects were in danger of closing down. The Garden of Hope in Jocotenango had been providing a safe and joyful space for children and families to learn about agriculture since 2014, but its founder had to return to the United States. At the same time, the nonprofit Las Manos de Christine needed to drastically scale back the amazing literacy work it had been doing for years in the village of El Hato.
A group of us – Guatemalan residents and foreign volunteers – did not want these important projects to end. To keep them going, we founded the Guatemalan nonprofit Asociación Juntos Podemos. The Garden of Hope and the newly dubbed El Hato Literacy Center were folded into the new organization. At the same time, our U,S. sister organization, Together We Can Guatemala, was founded as a U.S. 501(c)(3) charity to help put Asociación Juntos Podemos on more secure financial footing and to provide other support.