By Allan Ortíz, Caras Alegres mentor
The Caras Alegres Association is a non-profit NGO that works with children and young adults in the Xeul neighborhood of Xela’s Zone 5. It was founded in 2004 by a Dutch couple who felt for the community and decided to work to support local families.
Caras Alegres (Happy Faces) aims to improve the well-being and livelihoods of the children and young adults living in conditions of poverty, neglect and personal struggle.
Even though the Xeul neighborhood is in Xela’s urban area, many families live in poverty or extreme poverty, which affects them physically, economically and emotionally. Children in these families are the most affected, as they lack basic opportunities and are particularly vulnerable as children.
Through the Caras Alegres project we work to empower approximately 60 children both academically as well as emotionally. In the morning the children attend their neighborhood school, and in the afternoon we help them with their schoolwork, providing them with whatever tools or resources they need.
We work to strengthen and empower these children while also allowing them to enjoy their childhoods. By focusing on experiential education through art and sports, they learn and practice key values as they participate in different activities. We use fun methods and tools to engage positively and ensure meaningful education for the kids.
Self-esteem is an important factor for Caras Alegres and through our different programming we encourage our students to achieve their dreams and believe that they can break the cycle of poverty, and that through education they too can become successful professionals and improve their lives.
Other projects that we work on are:
- The school backpacks project that supports families in an important way. At the beginning of the school year Caras Alegres provides families with all of the school supplies required by the schools that their children attend, which can add up to a significant cost for local families. This way Caras Alegres allows children and their family to see education as a way to overcome their situation and improve their future prospects instead of a burden.
- We provide scholarships to young adults and children for their schooling by connecting them with donors who directly help with school expenses.
- We distribute boxes of food that contribute to the better nutrition of the whole family. We give several families these boxes to offset some of their food expenses and contribute to the overall nutrition of the children and their families. The box contains milk, oats, rice, etc.
We want to keep working for these families while also implementing new projects that benefit the community, such as the reopening of the daycare, a cafeteria for malnourished children, a computer lab with internet for local kids and young adults. We’re excited about our work and we invite you to learn more about our organization at www.carasalegres.org. Feel free to arrange a visit with our Program Director Irma Oomen, at +502 4283 0781.
Caras Alegres is located at Diagonal 15, 18-84B, Zona 5, Quetzaltenango. Allen Ortíz can be reached at email@example.com, or 7926 8628.