Guatemala has 23 officially recognized regional languages. While Spanish is the country’s official language, Spanish is a second language for many indigenous Guatemalans. Often the only time many of the indigenous young women speak or write Spanish is at school. In July 2010, the Kateri Tekakwitha Fund hired Emilsa Peren, a graduate of the Scholarship Program, to manage a Writing Program, in order to help these young women learn Spanish writing skills that are critical to their future careers.
Peren is a teacher in “basico”, which covers the 7th to 9th grades. As the Director of the Writing Program, Peren meets monthly with the Kateri Education Fund’s scholarship recipients. Peren provides these young women with a general template for writing letters to their sponsors and then coaches each student individually as they write. As the young women in the Writing Program represent a wide range of ages, grade levels, and writing experiences, Peren’s individualized coaching has proven to be the most effective method.
By focusing on letter writing, Peren is able to help the young women understand the basics of business communication. Prior to the start of the Writing Program, many of the women were not able to clearly communicate in letters. The letters often were broad, or contained many random thoughts that were not fully explained. Peren has helped the young women improve the content of their letters, by encouraging them to give more details about the topics, and follow a clear outline. Peren also helps correct grammar and spelling.
As a result of the Writing Program, the young women are learning how to express themselves more clearly in Spanish, a second language for many. In addition, the young women enjoy the opportunity to write about their experiences, and the sponsors are able to enjoy learning about the amazing young women that receive scholarships. Since the program began in 2010, the young women’s writing has progressed as they continue to improve their communication skills by writing letters to their sponsors.
If you would like to become a sponsor, and receive a monthly letter from a Kateri Tekakwitha Fund scholarship recipient, go to http://www.mission-guatemala.org/. All letters are translated into English, and knowledge of Spanish is not required to become a sponsor.