The students of the Natik Santiago Atitlán Scholarship program are currently working to transform their scholarship program, which has historically been 100% dependent on international grants and donations, into a financially sustainable and independent entrepreneurial venture by the year 2021.The students are using capitalist business skills and directing the profit toward local social needs; a model that is known as Social Entrepreneurism.
In 2014, we began working with the students and the leadership of several local organizations to conceive a culturally appropriate micro enterprise that would generate income for university students who demonstrate financial need and academic excellence, and that utilize the skill sets that are taught at the local technical high schools; primarily teaching, business administration, accounting, tourism, and bi-lingual secretary.
The result is a language and cultural immersion program for international students and tourists. The students named the program Ruk’ux, which means “heart in action” in Tzutujil Maya, and is pronounced rook-OOSH, with the “oo” as in “root”
The university students will work their way through school, and the younger students will be supported with scholarships as they ease into greater degrees of responsibility within the entrepreneurial venture.
This project will also contribute to local organizations through the labor of international volunteers, and to the local economy through home stays and the activities shared with the international participants by local people who continue to practice the traditional crafts and knowledge of the Mayan culture.
The students decided to invest the money they had earned as tutors of their first “trial volunteer” to travel to nearby San Pedro to meet the directors of the Cooperative language school and request formal training for teaching Spanish to foreigners.
The school was so impressed by the students’ initiative that they offered an introductory teacher training course at a reduced group rate. The students paid for the first session out of the funds generated by their first ‘test volunteer’. A generous grant from DAI Global LLC is permitting on-going compensation to the school for the rest of the teacher training courses. The students are eager to continue their language training in preparation for the formal international project launch in the fall of 2017!