The Traveling Library: Expansion Review

After nearly a decade, La Puerta Abierta is proud to have remained true to its founding philosophy of empowerment through literacy. La Puerta Abierta has offered the Traveling Library Program to early education classes as an outreach project for local schools and community centers for the past 8 years. This year, we have launched a new branch of our Traveling Library that focuses on teen literacy. Our Traveling Library Coordinator, Isaias, shares his experiences with the new program.


During this year the Mobile Library started the literacy program for youth and adolescents in the Intermediate level at public schools.

Our first experiences have been challenging. It was very new, sharing the new forms of exploration in reading with a more mature audience.

Every day the youth surprise us with their imagination and works in our literacy circle. Everyone has fun and converses about what had happened in their favorite chapter of the book. Right now we are sharing stories like “Charlotte’s Web,” “Harry Potter,” and “Island of the Blue Dolphins.”


This is Juan, a great friend of the literacy program of sixth grade. Juan is passionate about classical books and stories.

I have observed Juan during the past few years. Juan is one of the star students in our literacy class. He is always there to lend a book during Literacy Recreation. During the reading segment, he is among the students who finish their book twice, and he has fun helping his friends review the chapters and fix any confusion about what happened.


In addition, he teaches us the physical capacities are not an impediment for enjoying a journey in the marvelous pages of a book.

Juan is an inspiration for me, and his friends!

To find out more about the Traveling Library, watch the video or donate, go here.

Nuestras Notas: The Last First Day

As we enter our fourth month of schooling here in Guatemala, some of the Secondary School Scholarship students chose to reflect back on their first day of classes. Join José on his heartfelt retelling of his last first day of classes before his graduation.


I was very enthusiastic and I felt very happy because, despite economic difficulties, the first day of classes of my final year started. During the vacation, I missed my friends and I missed the courses of mathematics. Finally the awaited day arrived — the first day of classes. I was registered and was already assigned the courses of the fifth semester.

The 16th of January arrived, and in the morning it was very cold and I didn’t want to get up from my bed. But I did what I had to because I knew that I only had one more year to get my degree in Specialized Intermediate Education in Mathematics and Computation. Neither the cold nor anyone else will stop me from receiving my high school diploma this year.


I arrived at the University of Guatemala Valley. The first thing I did was to thank God for giving me another year of academic formation. The second thing I did was to look for my friends with whom I have shared two long years of friendship and so many experiences. I said hi to all my friends, and I wished them a happy New Year.

We were in our classroom when the teacher of the course Professional Ethics entered. He welcomed us, he greeted us, and he began to motivate and animate each one of us. After he began to talk about the rules and norms of the course. This is how the time passed and the course ended.


After this, I left to eat breakfast with all of my friends. After came other courses and all of the teachers did the same thing that the first teacher had. This is how the time passed and after the time to leave arrived. I said goodbye to all my friends and I felt happy because the first day of classes ended.

I returned home happily because the truth is that I will never forget the first day of classes of my last year.

Meet Our Donors, Patti and Steve!

Welcome to the music-filled lives of donors Patti and Steve. Natik is proud to be connected with such a loving and talented family, who, since their first meeting with scholarship student Martha Arriago three years ago, have supported her education ambitions. The whole Natik community thanks the Mortiers, and all our donors, for their years of generosity and advocacy. 

Patti, singing Beethoven; Patti, cantando Beethoven

Patti, singing Beethoven; Patti, cantando Beethoven

My name is Patti Mortier and I am a voice teacher and classical singer. My husband Steve is also a voice teacher and classical singer. We have sung professionally for more than 30 years and taught voice for more than 20 years. We live in Spokane, WA currently, but have lived in San Francisco, CA, Manhattan NY, Binghamton NY, Rochester, NY and Portland, OR.

Mi nombre es Patti Mortier y soy una maestra de voz y una cantante clásica. Mi esposo, Steve, también es un maestro de voz y cantante clásico. Nosotros hemos cantado por más de 30 años, y hemos enseñado voz por más de 20 años. Vivimos en Spokane, WA ahora, pero hemos vivimos en San Francisco, CA, Manhattan, NY, Binghamton, NY, Rochester, NY, y Portland, OR.

Morgan Keene, singing Katherine in Newsies

Morgan Keene, singing Katherine in Newsies: Morgan Keene, cantando Katherine en Newsies

Steve teaches voice at a University, Eastern Washington University. I also taught there for 10 years, but now just teach privately (in my home). We absolutely love what we do. There is not another career that could give us such joy. Last week I was the mezzo-soprano soloist with the Spokane Symphony performing Beethoven’s 9th Symphony and Steve was the baritone soloist in Handel’s Messiah with the Idaho Bach Festival. One of my students is the lead girl, Katherine, in the Broadway tour of Newsies. I am so proud of her. Her name is Morgan Keene. She is only 19 years old and living her dream. I am trying to give you a picture of what our lives look like and it is heavily filled with singing and music. Our students are extremely active performing musical theater in the Spokane area, so we attend shows almost every weekend to support them.

Steve enseña voz en la universidad, Eastern Washington University. También enseñé allá por 10 años, pero ahora solo enseño en privado (en mi casa). Nos encantamos que hacemos en forma absoluta. No hay otra carrera que podría darnos tanta alegría. La semana pasada fui al concierto de la mezzo-soprano solista con la sinfonía de Spokane, que estaba realizando la 9th Sinfonía por Beethoven, y Steve fue el barítono en Mesías por Handel con el Idaho festival de Bach. Una de mis estudiantes es la primera actriz, Katherine, en la gira de Broadway para Newsies. Estoy muy orgullosa de ella. Su nombre es Morgan Keene. Ella solo tiene 19 años y está viviendo sus sueños. Estoy tratando de darte una imagen de aspectos de nuestras vidas y es muy lleno con el canto y la música. Nuestros estudiantes son muy activa cuando están realizando el teatro musical en el área de Spokane. Entonces vamos a espectáculos casi cada fin de semana.

Patti and Steve

Patti and Steve; Patti y Steve

Steve and I will have been married 30 years this coming summer. And the biggest joys of our lives have been our children. Andrew is 28 years old and is married to Sara and they have a beautiful baby girl, Mattie, our first and only grand-child. They live in Seattle, WA which is a 5 hour drive. We see them frequently.

Andrew, Sara, and Mattie

Andrew, Sara, and Mattie; Andrew, Sara, y Mattie

El próximo verano, Steve y yo habramos estado casados por 30 anos. Y la alegría más grande de nuestras vidas ha sido nuestros niños. Andrew tiene 28 años y es casado con Sara, y ellos tienen una niña hermosa, Mattie, nuestra primera y sola nieta. Ellos viven en Seattle, WA que es un viaje en coche por 5 horas. Nosotros vemos a ellos frecuentemente.



Michael is 23 years old and is not married yet, but has a lovely girlfriend. He is a student, majoring in biology at the same university where Steve teaches. He is also an amazing violinist and performs professionally quite frequently.

Michael tiene 23 años y no está casado todavía, pero tiene una novia preciosa. Él es un estudiante con una especialidad de biología en la misma universidad donde Steve enseña. También, él es un violinista asombroso y el realiza conciertos profesionales con frecuencia.



Adriana is our only girl and the youngest child. She is 19 years old and is starting college this month. She is working toward a phlebotomy degree. That is a career where you work with needles and take people’s blood for analysis in the healthcare system.

Adriana es nuestra sola hija y es la más joven de los niños. Ella tiene 19 años y está empezando la universidad este mes. Ella está trabajando para su título de flebotomía. Esta es la carrera que se trabaja con agujas y se toma la sangre de personas para análisis en el sistema de salud.

Steve's dad and Mattie

Steve’s dad and Mattie; El papá de Steve y Mattie

We live in a house that has a park in the back of the yard. We see many deer, coyotes, porcupines, raccoons and even occasional moose and elk. We have a cat named OJ and a dog named Delilah. My beloved mother also lives with us. Steve’s dad lives in Portland, OR where we were both raised. We see him as often as possible. Both of my sisters and their families also live in Spokane. We are very close.

Vivimos en una casa que tiene un parque detrás del patio. Vemos muchos venados, coyotes, puercos espines, mapaches, y algunas vemos alces. Tenemos un gato que se llama OJ y una perra que se llama Delilah. Mi querida mamá también vive con nosotros. El papá de Steve vive en Portland, OR donde fuimos criados. Vemos él tan frecuente como sea posible. Ambos de mis hermanas y sus familias también viven en Spokane. Nosotros somos muy íntimos.

My mom and I

My mom and I; Mi mamá y yo

Karen Hedrick, one of my good friends, brought my Mom and I to Santiago Atitlan Guatemala 3 years ago and we volunteered sharing our music. That is where I met the beautiful Martha Angelica Simaj Arriaga whom we are so thrilled to sponsor. She sang harmony with me on a song and I felt her beautiful open heart.

Karen Hedrick, una de mis amigas buenas, les trajo a mi mamá y yo a Santiago Atitlán, Guatemala hace tres años y ofrecieron nuestra ayuda, compartiendo nuestra música. Este lugar es donde conocí querida Martha Angelica Simaj Arriago quien nosotros son muy emocionados a patrocinamos. Ella cantó una canción en armonía conmigo, y sentí su corazón hermoso y abierto.

Martha and I

Martha and I; Martha y yo

We have a very wonderful life, of course many ups and downs as life is like that, but we are so very blessed by God!

Tenemos una vida maravillosa, y también muchos cosas buenas y malos porque la vida es así, pero ¡somos benditos por Dios!


Nuestras Notas: 2016 Double Feature

It has been a busy year, so for this month’s edition of Nuestras Notas, we have a double feature. José and Alma, both Natik Scholarship Students, tell us some of their favorite parts of the school year. From cell phones calculators to interpretive dance, from pageantry to volley ball, school was edifying and surprisingly fun!

image00My name is José. First of all, I want to tell you that I am very happy in my classes. I study happily and participate a lot in my school, NUFED 34.

We have finished our first semester’s evaluations, and I am thrilled. I have given it my all, so that I could succeed in all of my courses. I studied a lot, and now I am just waiting for the grades. This first semester, we did so many different things in our classes that I wanted to share some of them with you now.

In Theater, we participated in a competition against other student groups. We organized plays, rehearsed them, and witnessed the results of our efforts. I liked how much excitement and emotion there was. After all, it is important to have fun in what you do.

In Expressionist Dance, we had to present a dance as our evaluation of the first semester. I like this class because all you need to do is practice and participate to do well in the course.

I was very happy during Physical Education. During this past semester, we learned volleyball. It was very fun. For our evaluation my professor called us up in pairs to see how we were doing. My professor told me that I was handling the ball very well.

I was also very happy in the course of Home Economics. In this course we learned to prepare food. One time the teacher told us that we had to prepare a very desirable dish, and I presented a plate of fried fish. My teacher, with a smile, told me that my food was very tasty.

I accomplished many different things that my school gave me, and it was with a great deal of enthusiasm that I completed all of this work on time. Overall, I am very happy to report that I am very content and happy along with my friends here at school.

image01My name is Alma. In this picture I am doing my math exercises. I am working on them because my teacher told us that all of the exercises should be done well when we bring them into class and wants to see if we had any doubts when working.

At school this month (in addition to doing our math homework), we held a special celebration. It is called the Day of Friendship, and before the celebration, we had to elect a Miss Friendship for our institute. First we selected one of our friends to represent our grade. My friend participated, and we helped with her dress and her dance. Everything was very exciting, frightening, and happy. While we were waiting for the results for the winner of Miss Friendship, we were filled with a combination of emotions. In the end, it was sad because our candidate did not win, but we all had a lot of fun throughout the activity. Afterwards we exchanged presents with students of the other grades. I think it was fun that we got to share with the other students.image00

Overall this day was a bit crazy for me because we also had to elect the board of directors for the ninth grade. I was a bit nervous because, when we are in the ninth grade, we need to program many special activities with our class in order to complete our schooling cycle. Every week we have a meeting to think about the activities we will have during the year.

From Gulu to Guatemala: Year-End Reflections from the Chair

Ian Ramsey-North is Chair of the Natik Board of Directors. He first worked with Natik in Guatemala in 2006 following a devastating mudslide that displaced thousands. Currently, he works in northern Uganda with the Uganda Women Lawyers Association (FIDA-U). In this end-of-year reflection, he considers how Natik and the people of Guatemala not only gave him his experiential foundation, but also inspire him to approach development work as a considerate and equal partner.  


I have spent the last six months in Gulu, Uganda, the now peaceful epicenter of the decades long Lord’s Resistance Army insurgency that plagued Uganda’s north. I’m getting a very different perspective on development, both at the international and the local, community levels. But I am also seeing the parallels with Guatemala and Chiapas, where years of war left millions marginalized and impoverished. The memory of the insurgency is somewhat closer here in Gulu, where peace only came in the last decade, but the legacy of war is enduring in any setting, and so there are echoes of my experience in Guatemala and Mexico, even here, a world away.

Africa (grouped together as a monolithic whole of a continent) is often viewed as the promised land for the well-intentioned development practitioner. With such great need, the thinking goes, there should also be some low-hanging fruit, changes that come easily and cheaply. But work here is hard. Those infomercials that promise life-altering change in the lives of children for just a few cents a day are, unsurprisingly, not an accurate description of what goes into making a lasting, positive impact.

So somewhat surprisingly, work in Uganda has made me better appreciate the opportunity to work with Natik in Guatemala and Mexico, where the history of war is further in the past, the governance is (somewhat) better, and the social status quo is less detrimental to the welfare of women and children.

Development requires constant self-evaluation to ensure that first, we do no harm. In Natik, I have found an organization that not only commits to that introspection, but also has the on-the-ground presence and honest communication with local partners that is necessary to ensure that our support empowers, instead of doing damage or creating dependency. Our local partners and staff are constantly working to improve Natik’s programs and strengthen their impact.

On a personal level, this has allowed me to maintain a relationship with Santiago Atitlan, the town in Guatemala where Natik works and which became my first home away from home when I lived there during a year abroad in college. It is a place of immeasurable beauty, with a people of deep generosity and humility who (like all human beings, even those of less luminous dignity) deserve every opportunity to flourish and thrive. It can be difficult to honor those people we leave behind in our privileged, semi-nomadic lives. Natik provides an anchor of commitment and relationship, a way to pay back what was given to me by the wonderful people of Santiago Atitlan.

So I’m happy this holiday season to celebrate all that Natik has accomplished this year. Among my favorite achievements:

  • Our scholarship students in Guatemala and Mexico continue to advance to levels of education that no one in their families has previously achieved.
  • The Traveling Library, which brings books and teachers to children who need extra literacy support, recently published a manual so that other organizations and communities in Guatemala can adopt its great pedagogical model and methods.
  • After years of operating within borrowed and rented spaces, the Yo’Onik Learning Center moved its after school programs to a building constructed just for its work with Chiapas’ children.

These are just a few of Natik’s successes. Please check out our website or find us on Facebook to see even more.

Happy holidays from Gulu!

Dear Natik Friends

Nancy Johns, PhD., founder and Executive Director of two Parenting and Family Non-Profits in Philadelphia, has almost sixty years involvement in dozens of development organizations and institutions throughout Latin America, and is currently retired and living in Portland, Oregon. Today, she talks about her own giving during the holiday season.

nancy and turk 2

I love this time of the year: the sense of anticipation, the many colorful lights, the traditional music, families and friends gathering – a season of love and togetherness.

What has grown more troubling for me over recent years is the blatant materialistic and commercialization of the season’s meaning. We are bombarded from every corner that in order to demonstrate our love we need to shower our friends and family with THINGS. Material gifts for folks that already have an abundance of possessions!

So this year my partner and I have decided that our giving will be in the form of “virtual gifts.” We will make contributions in each person’s name, to programs that work year round to help transform children and adult lives through education and economic empowerment.

We have chosen Natik because of our family ties to the extended Natik family and because we know every penny is spent wisely. In fact, Natik has survived for over a decade on the generosity and conviction of families who believe that material abundance carries with it the responsibility of caring for those less fortunate.

We will choose each “donation gift” carefully and lovingly to match the person in whose name we give the donation. We hope that our gifts will spread the joy that comes from sharing with others and a sense of connection with a larger world-wide community.

Please join us in donating to Natik, or another organization of your choice, that is working to bring about empowerment and change in a world that so desperately needs it.

Fall Fundraiser: Words of Wisdom

every child is an artist

In the quote above Pablo Picasso tells us, “Every child is an artist. The problem is continuing to be one once we have grown.”

Creativity is at the heart of what we do, and Puerta Abierta is dedicated to helping children keep and explore their own. But we use words like creativity and critical thinking a lot in education, and it is not always clear what do they mean, or how educators can encourage them in their classrooms?

This great articleIMG_3327 explores creativity, critical thinking, and how all teachers can keep them in the classroom. The author explains in a clear and helpful way that they are among the most powerful tools we have, and essential for people to excel.

As he says, “You can be creative in math, science, music, dance, cuisine, teaching, running a family, or engineering. Because creativity is a process of having original ideas that have value. A big part of being creative is looking for new ways of doing things within whatever activity you’re involved in.”

We hope the students the Traveling Library will grow up to be the creative thinkers their communities their communities need. With their original and valuable ideas, they can make Santiago Atitlan all that it should be.


Please consider donating to Puerta Abierta’s Traveling Library fund as we promote creativity through group reading sessions and imaginative literature.


Fall Fundraiser: How Teachers Learn More Dynamism

The Traveling Library is an effective model for many reasons. While children receive exposure to reading and interactive activities, class-room teachers gain training in how to incorporate literacy into their curriculum.
 1st grade teacher Milchora comments:

The Traveling Library delivers a new bag of books to my classroom  on a weekly basis.  I’ve learned how to read stories to my students in a dynamic way by participating with the traveling librarian from La Puerta Abierta who works with us.  My students look forward to returning to the class-room after recess anticipating the new book which will be shared with them.

Say hello to some more of our teachers who benefit from the Traveling Library.




Please consider donating to Puerta Abierta’s Traveling Library fund as we promote creativity through group reading sessions and imaginative literature.

Fall Fundraiser: Our Dynamic Duo

The Traveling Library needs more than just books to function. Its dedicated educators help kids value books. They show them what books can teach and how they open the doors to imagination–a lifelong asset. 

Meet Ellen and Isaias.

Isaias is our Traveling Library coordinator, better known to local school children as the story teacher.  Isaias visits 8 rural schools throughout the week with a back pack full of books, art supplies and the story of the day.  In addition to bringing literacy supplies to participating classrooms, Isaias comes equipped with an enormous smile, an endless supply of energy, and a talent to connect with children of all ages.Untitled(3)Ellen, an early childhood education specialist and Director of Academics at La Puerta Abierta has been collaborating with La Puerta Abierta for the past year supporting staff with professional development and creating curriculum for our center.


Together, Isaias and Ellen have developed a manual for exploring literacy through story books and creativity. The manual unites Ellen’s foundation in early childhood education and Isaias’ experience working with rural school children.

The new traveling library manual contains 10 thematic units focusing on a variety of themes that will allow children to explore the world around them. Themes include school days, countries and culture, art, the five senses, nature appreciation, fairytales, community, colors, weather and family. Each unit contains four lessons and each lesson is connected to a carefully selected story for children to enjoy.

We are excited to share our new manual with the community of Santiago Atitlan and with other educational institutions who practice and appreciate the love of reading.


Mil gracias Ellen and Isaias!

Support the Isaias and Ellen in their mission by visiting our Razoo page and donating today.

Fall Fundraiser: Education in Guatemala Today

We continue our fundraiser with an eye towards the national problems in education in Guatemala. The below statistics are from US AID. 


  • Today, primary school enrollment rates in Guatemala are almost 100%, and there is nearly equal enrollment of boys and girls.
  • However, more than 30% of students did not pass first grade in 2013.  In addition, only about three-fourths of those enrolled in primary school graduate from 6th grade (80% of boys and 73% of girls), and the enrollment rate for middle school (7th-9th grades) is less than 40%.
  • Education quality is also a pressing issue.  According to 2010 Ministry, of Education data, just over 50% reach national standards in reading.
  • Even when students are able to complete primary school, many do not acquire the necessary skills to advance. Furthermore, while there are nominal national differences in school enrollment between boys and girls, the enrollment gap between rural and urban areas is significant.



Please consider donating to Puerta Abierta’s Traveling Library fund as we focus on promoting reading skills and a life long love for literacy.