How to Fill a Room with Imagination: Puerta Abierta to Yo’onik


In January, Myrcka Del Rio, a volunteer from Antioch College in Ohio helped determine what made Puerta Abierta in Santiago Atitlan, Guatemala, work so well for students. These best practices were applied accross the border Zinacantan, Chiapas to the Yo’onik project. Below are some of her reflections on that process.

For the past week I have been in Santiago Atitlan, Guatemala, observing Natik’s sister program, Puerta Abierta. The team in Santiago is a powerhouse to say the least. Over the past eight years they have developed an amazing program for their community. During one of our workshops the team was asked to share their personal definitions of community, it was moving to hear that they all had very similar definitions; “A group of united individuals working towards a goal to change their community in a positive way.” It is clear that every team member at Puerta Abierta is there for a simple yet extraordinary reason, for the kids — to educate and empower them through literacy and education.

Puerta AbiertaA few weeks ago a theater professor explained to me the importance of how we use space. A room with no one in it is just empty. We bring life into a room by the way we choose to interact with the space. The Santiago team is using their space in a way that will help children flourish and help them become their best selves. And what could be a better goal then helping children feel comfortable and safe, being completely themselves without apology? They have taken two rooms and have turned them into something magical and beautiful to keep the students’ imaginations active.

The trip to Puerta Abierta was very inspiring. The teams’ dedication to education reminded me why I love working with young students and to be in a room full of adults with the same goals. They remind me of a quote that has stuck with me since the time I started working with kids, “I may not change the world, but I might spark the mind of someone who will.”


Learning Plus Pictures Equals….


Isa is the Preschool Coordinator and English Teacher at La Puerta Abierta. Originally, she volunteered as a Natik high-school scholarship student, but she was so inspired she began working at the center after graduating from teaching school. Isa teaches preschool and English, and aspires to open a language school in Santiago. In addition to her passion for teaching, Isa likes drawing, singing, and…photography.

Below are some of the pictures of her students of La Puerta Abierta Traveling Library from February!

  • Knowledge + Fun = GROW The schoolhouse and library Puerta Abierta fosters a wonderful childhood in the lives of many children in the community. Many children enjoy a creative and fun education and enjoying the magnificent it is to be a child.
  • Teaching and learning fun is always an unforgettable experience for all children visiting the library. Not only the kids enjoy the benefits of programs La Puerta Abierta, but the teachers too enjoy creating the atmosphere of friendship and enthusiasm.
  • The different activities and materials spark the imagination, creativity, curiosity and imagination.
  • Playing and learning is wonderful.
  • Storytelling molding the minds of young readers.
  • While learning, friendship flourishes.
  • And more smiles!
  • The smiles of gratitude never fade from the children's faces when they are in school.



A Message to the Girl’s Club of Manhattan

IMG_9672 anita

Below is a message from Anita Smart, Executive Director of Natik.

Natik means “home” and Yo’onik means “heart” in Tsostil, so when artists from the Lower East Side Girl’s Club of New York came all the way to Chiapas last week to
paint our “Home of the Heart”, the transformation of the space was delightfully fun and truly felt like family.

I like to think of it as Heads, Hearts, and Hands uniting to do what families do: help each other and enjoy being together.

On behalf of all people who are touched by Yo’onik’s dedication to community education, keeping kids in school, and economic empowerment of women, we thank the Girl’s Club for sharing their artistry and cheerful celebration of working together for the common good.




The Lower East Side Girls Club of Manhattan can be found here. They will be holding a fundraiser in support of Yo’onik next week (03/08/15 – 03/14/15), so visit soon!