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Ak Tenamit in Guatemala
OrganizationAk' Tenamit
Program Costs 
Room & Board 
Language Requirements 
Ak' Tenamit means “New Village” in the Q’eqchi Mayan language, because our organization is transforming life in the Q’eqchi villages of eastern Guatemala. Those villages are located around the Río Dulce, far from the nearest road – most are reached by a boat trips and hikes through the rain forest – and they lack electricity, running water and basic sanitation. When Ak’ Tenamit was founded in 1992 by a small group of foreign volunteers and village leaders, most of the communities it serves lacked access to medical care and had only rudimentary schools, if any. Few students studied to the sixth grade, and most girls dropped out by third, or fourth grade. Illiteracy rates were 70%--80%, and malnutrition, parasites, and various curable diseases were common.

Ak’ Tenamit consequently began improving village schools, providing teacher training, and coordinating donations of school supplies. The local people built a riverside clinic while foreign medical volunteers began visiting villages and training health promoters, while others taught groups of women to make paper from cornhusks and other waste. Since then, those initiatives have evolved to include preventative medicine programs, promotion of education for girls, a floating dental clinic, a secondary school that offers practical training in sustainable tourism and development, a network of cooperatives that produces and markets an array of handcrafts, and specific programs promoting gender equality, environmental protection and preservation of Q’eqchi culture.

Ak’ Tenamit now provides basic healthcare to approximately 26,000 people in 124 villages and has about 400 students in its an innovative secondary school – the Fr. Tom Moran Center – where the national curriculum has been adapted to the students’ rural reality, and includes hands-on training at the school’s farm, handicraft center, gift shops and restaurants. Graduates of that school work in Ak’ Tenamit’s programs, promoting sustainable development in their communities, or for other nongovernmental organizations.

Our original project site is located in the village of Barra de Lámpara, on the banks of Río Dulce, a 40-minute boat trip upriver from the town of Livingston. Its facilities include a 24-hour clinic, a floating dental clinic, a primary school, a training center, sleeping and dining facilities for project staff, volunteers, and dormitories for female boarding students. A short boat ride away, in Tatín, is a larger site with the secondary school, boys’ dorms, an organic farm, a handicraft training center, and an ecotourism center complete with gift shop, restaurant and bakery. The project also has a restaurant and gift shop in the town of Livingston. While money from the restaurants help support the project, they are also part of the secondary school’s tourism training program, since they are run by students, whereas the gift shops sell the work of artisan cooperatives that Ak’ Tenamit has helped organize.