“Making our dreams a reality”: Building community support for education in Central America

By Kimberly McClain | October 4, 2023 | The Americas | Education

Editor’s note: This blog post is also available in Spanish.

Global Fund for Children’s initiative to support educational recovery in Central America, RECARGA, supports students across Guatemala and Honduras, who returned to classes in February 2023 following the COVID-19 pandemic. These students face new and persistent challenges, but many are also experiencing a renewed community commitment to their success, thanks to the creative efforts of grassroots partners in the RECARGA initiative.

The RECARGA initiative is a collaboration between GFC and Tinker Foundation, The Summit Foundation, International Community Foundation, Luis von Ahn Foundation, Focus Central America, Vibrant Village Foundation, and The Ward Foundation. It supports a cohort of 12 civil society organizations in Guatemala and Honduras that are working to ensure children and young people can exercise their right to education.



RECARGA is an opening to share, interact, reciprocate and unlearn
it crosses borders and plants opportunity
it is empathy, the light of hope for children
it is the unity or sum of wisdom
RECARGA dreams of liberating education
Message from Fundación Nueva Esperanza, t
ranslated and paraphrased from the Spanish and Maya Achi



The Terminal Market in Guatemala City is the largest market in Central America. It is a vibrant place, but one that is also frequently violent and where poverty is hard to escape. When schools opened for the year in February, RECARGA partner Puerta de Esperanza reopened the only early childhood learning center inside the Terminal Market, a project that the government had abandoned during the pandemic. Now, young children have a safe space to reach critical development milestones that will open a pathway through education toward a future beyond the market.

Just outside Guatemala City, RECARGA partner EPRODEP used its REGARGA grant to not only save but also expand its special education classroom to 26 students. EPRODEP provides the only special education program in its peri-urban community of more than 100,000 people, a crucial resource because government-run schools reject students with learning disabilities.

Yo’o Guatemala’s weekly supplemental classes help students explore life skills and personal development while strengthening their reading and writing. © Yo’o Guatemala

In Honduras, the Indigenous Center for Artisanal Training in Intibucá (CICAI), founded almost 50 years ago by the Lenca Indigenous people, had transformed into a fully accredited magnet high school with the help of funding from the Ministries of Culture and Education. Then, due to political corruption, it was stripped of resources over a ten-year period and ultimately left in ruins by the pandemic.

Fortunately, the story didn’t end there. Last year, the school’s new director, a young Indigenous social activist, started motivating the parent-teacher association to carry on the school’s legacy of community leadership. Using RECARGA grant funds and money raised locally, the parent-teacher association completely replaced the school’s roof, renovated technical workshop spaces, and reopened the girls’ boarding house. The school’s formal degree enrollment expanded by 34% and it was also able to welcome 22 non-degree technical students. Twenty-nine students now receive transportation stipends to travel daily from their rural communities to the school, and six girls have moved into the boarding house.

“Thanks to the reopening of CICAI and the RECARGA initiative, we are motivated to keep our commitments to reaching our goals. We are Lencan girls who are making our dreams a reality.” – CICAI students in Intibucá, Honduras

RECARGA helps individual organizations, but more than that, it is weaving networks that can catalyze collective action. After the Guatemalan partners met in person in March and April, GFC responded to their eagerness by organizing a round of participatory grantmaking. The group spent the next two months brainstorming and discussing proposals, before endorsing $20,000 in small grants. These grants will facilitate exchange visits between partners; a restorative leadership certification course; two mental health and conflict resolution projects in schools; sending students from each partner’s programs to the annual Guatemala Book Festival; and a visual arts campaign focused on education.

“[RECARGA] makes us feel that we’re not alone. Sometimes as a small project, we feel like we’re swimming upstream and that we’re trying to make changes that maybe no one else will see. So, seeing other people working like us is really inspiring. Sharing our ideas, methodologies, and educational proposals is really interesting and beautiful.”– Hilda Vazquez, Director, Comunidad La Esperanza, Guatemala

This first year of the RECARGA initiative has validated that it does take time to build a shared understanding and vision within a group, but GFC believes that when people have time and space to build relationships, the ideas, activities, and changes that come later will be better, go further, and last longer.

Puerta de Esperanza’s early childhood program provides a safe space for young children to get healthy meals and develop core skills that prepare them for school and life. © Puerta de Esperanza

Beyond strengthening networks, RECARGA makes the bold assertion that supporting community-based civil society will contribute to larger scale changes in the education ecosystem.

And many changes are needed to ensure all children have access to education that encourages them to develop themselves fully in all their diversity. While each RECARGA partner does their part, GFC also sees energy and opportunities bubbling up for collective advocacy, from articulating and artistically representing a group manifesto for change in education to joint activities with the national education advocacy network Foro Dakar Honduras. GFC is excited to continue to feed these energies and creativity in the years ahead with the RECARGA partners.



Take a look at RECARGA’s 2022–2023 Yearbook and reach out to Kimberly McClain, GFC’s Regional Co-Director for the Americas, at [email protected] if you’d like to learn more.

Header photo: The RECARGA partners meet and celebrate together in Costa Rica at the invitation of Focus Central America, one of the donors to the RECARGA funder collaborative. © GFC

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