David Feurerbach was a Natik intern during the summer of 2016, between his junior and senior year at Denver University, in the International Studies Department. His job was to document all our projects in Guatemala and Chiapas through photographs and videos. Somewhere along the way, he fell in love with all of Natik’s programs…
Another project in Zinacantán that was born when a need was recognized in the community is Yo’onik. Yo’onik is a learning center that provides educational support and recreational activities for the children of the community. The founders of the center, Xunka (pronounced SHOONG-ka) and Yoli, are two of the daughters of Doña Magdalena. Xunka and Yoli started the center because they recognized that many children in the community were not finishing school, and, thus, were entering the world with a disadvantage. With very little support and resources, they started Yo’onik and began holding after school classes for the children. Through the years, the project has grown immensely and continues to grow today as Xunka and Yoli work hard to create an educational impact in the community.
Today, both Mujeres Sembrando la Vida and Yo’onik have the support of Natik. Natik helps both projects economically and also gives support in many other ways. For example, Natik supports Mujeres Sembrando la Vida by using its greater access to contacts throughout the world to find new markets for the cooperative. For Yo’onik, Natik brings in interns and volunteer groups to assist in the center’s activities. In addition, Natik uses its connections to help advance the programs of the center.
Earlier this year, Natik brought two teachers from the Puerta Abierta School and the Traveling Library, two projects that Natik supports in Santiago Atitlán, Guatemala, that are very well established and successful, to Zinacantán to help Yo’onik advance its educational programs and expand its impact in the community. Yo’onik benefited greatly from this visit as it developed new ideas and structures of education. In addition, Yo’onik is now currently in the process of developing a Traveling Library based on the model of the Traveling Library in Santiago, Atitlán.
Natik provides a great deal of support as a collaborative partner, not as a superior. And I believe that this is an excellent model for an NGO. Often, NGOs fail because they come in from Western countries to poorer, lesser developed countries believing that they have the solutions, and generally, the projects fail.
Both Mujeres Sembrando la Vida and Yo’onik are projects that were born in the community. They are projects that began when individuals within the community recognized a problem and developed the solutions. Thus, the ideas for change were never lacking; what was lacking were the resources to accomplish their goals. Today, Natik continues to support Mujeres Sembrando la Vida and Yo’onik, based on the collaborative partnership model, realizing that given the resources, the community can develop solutions from within and can shape its own destiny.