Pop Wuj Spanish School
The Pop Wuj Association Spanish Studies Centre is a school that was founded in 1992 and is located in the heart of Quetzaltenango, very near to markets, theatres, and the city’s nightlife. It offers Spanish language classes to international students, from a social impact perspective. The idea behind its establishment was to create a school to support the running of social projects, such as the installation of better-quality ovens, the creation of scholarships for low-income children and young people and the establishment of a nursery near to Santa María Volcano, as well as supporting recycling and reforestation programmes. Ten years after the Pop Wuj Centre was founded, a free medical clinic to meet the health needs of the local population was created, and a programme bringing healthcare to rural communities through medical visits also began.
In Pop Wuj, the Spanish programme comprises the following components: one to one Spanish classes; complete immersion in the language through host family residencies with Guatemalan families who live between 2- and 15-minutes walk from the school; cultural conferences informing students about the political, cultural, social and economic situation; and social impact, where the students can interact with the communities that the school serves. There are three Spanish programmes on offer: standard immersion, a Spanish medicine programme (for medical professionals or students), and online classes so that those who are not physically present in Xela or Guatemala can study from the comfort of their own homes.
Pop Wuj also runs its own social projects for which students can volunteer alongside their Spanish classes. Unlike other schools, these activities are not carried out through working with outside organisations, but are directly promoted by the school, thus ensuring that student participation will be a rewarding experience. For example, medical students or professionals can share their experience and knowledge with communities who are in need of medical assistance through the school’s own health programme.
The Spanish centre is aimed at students who want to learn a new language, but who also want to promote and support social change. Students who are supportive and who want to do good are welcome and can meet these desires, because learning a language is not only about learning the grammar, but also interacting with people, knowing the culture, participating in everyday local activities and being a part of social action. The majority of the teachers and families who interact with the students have worked with Pop Wuj since it was founded, which facilitates an easy interaction, as well as creating an atmosphere of friendship and trust.
The school has a small library, a kitchen for the use of teachers and students, and a small cafeteria which has tea, coffee and water available at all times. Free internet is also available across both the school and medical centre. In addition, on special days Spanish-language films and documentaries are projected, trips to communities and places of cultural interest are organised, as well as cooking classes, volcano hikes, or coffee farm tours. Once per week graduations take place, during which, through dinner and a night of celebration, the hard work put in by the students at school is recognised, and they are granted a diploma accrediting their new Spanish language skills.
Cover photo: Pop Wuj Spanish School