Pop Wuj is responsible for several community development projects in Xela and the surrounding area. These projects were designed by Pop Wuj to address the immediate needs of the community, as well as promote sustainable growth and development. Part of the tuition of every student who attends Pop Wuj contributes to the continuation and success of the projects, and every student is invited to participate in the projects. While the students in the Medical Spanish have the
most direct involvement with the organization and execution of the projects, students enrolled in the regular Spanish Immersion Course also have the opportunity to volunteer in the Safe Stove Project.
Volunteers able to make long-term commitments to Pop Wuj can choose to take on more intensive leadership and organizational roles within the projects. You will find more information in the Long-Term Volunteer section.
The Pop Wuj Clinic
With the help of local medical professionals and the students in the Medical Spanish Program, Pop Wuj runs a medical clinic three days per week. The clinic is free to all individuals who participate in Pop Wuj's other projects. Other patients are charged a small fee per visit, which includes consultation with the doctor as well as medication as needed. The clinic is located in Xela in the same building as Pop Wuj's Spanish school.
The Safe Stove Project is an effort to improve the environment, health, and sustainability of the communities. The Safe Stove Project was developed in order to combat the serious issues facing households who rely on an indoor open fire for their cooking needs. These problems include deforestation due to increased consumption of firewood, severe respiratory problems attributable to heavy smoke and poor ventilation in one-room homes, back pain due to cooking over an open fire on the floor, and frequent accidental burn. Illnesses contracted from smoke inhalation are the leading cause of death among children in Guatemala and are a serious health problem for adults as well. The Safe Stove project aims to alleviate these problems and foster community development through the construction of simple yet more efficient and safer stoves.
The stoves require simple materials - concrete blocks, cement, clay and pumice for insulation, bricks, and a simple "plancha"-type stovetop which allows for both the heating of pots and pans and the grilling of traditional foods such as tortillas. The building procedure is easy enough that both novice volunteers and community members can participate fully in the project. The stoves are durable, functional, and relatively inexpensive. The design is culturally appropriate, and addresses local needs - economic efficiency through decreased need for firewood, safety through a contained fire source, and health by channeling the smoke outdoors - as well as the global needs of decreased deforestation and environmental awareness. The stoves are over 50% more efficient than an open fire. The project is also a unique opportunity for foreign volunteers to work side-by-side with community members throughout the planning, organization, and execution steps of the project. Stove building is heavy, dirty work, but the satisfaction one gains through participation is unbeatable!
Pop Wuj also manages a small Recycling Program at the Pop Wuj Spanish Language School. There is no recycling system in the city of Xela and no waste management or trash pickup in many rural communities. Often families burn their trash, including plastic. We recycle plastic, metal, glass, and paper at Pop Wuj.
One of the most important - yet least visible - projects here at Pop Wuj is the Scholarship Program. Illiteracy is a problem of epidemic proportions in Guatemala; this is due largely to the parallel problem of epidemic poverty rates. Many families must survive on a very low income, so children are pulled out of school at a young age in order to begin working and contributing to
their families' financial resources. The situation is particularly grave for young girls, whose families often perceive them to be of greater value in the home than educated and in the workforce. This attitude breeds a cycle of illiteracy and poverty, which is precisely what the Scholarship Program works to combat.
The Scholarship Program provides additional income to the family, which compensates for the gain they would receive by sending the child prematurely into the workforce, a choice that most families make out of necessity, not out of a lack of value for literacy and education. The scholarship can mean the difference between a future as farm worker and becoming a teacher.
The typical scholarship amount is currently 100 Quetzales per month for each student. This means that each family receives Q1,200 a year, equivalent to about USD $170/year. Although this seems like a very small amount to pay for a child's education, it can mean a world of difference to many Guatemalan families.
Read our Projects Blog for information about past Pop Wuj projects and current project updates. Gracias!