Avilia is a shy 6 year old Maya Kaqchikel girl from Chimaltenango, Guatemala. She lives with her parents, three brothers, two sisters, one sister in law a nephew and a niece. All ten of them live in a two-room house.
Avilia’s parents had a total of 10 children which is normal for farming-Maya families.
They had 6 girls and 4 boys. Unfortunately the youngest two boys have Down syndrome and need a lot of care from the family. Avilia is the youngest child in the family, the oldest one is 28.
Avilia’s mother only got grade 1 education because her father died when she was 9 years old. Her mother could not afford to send her to school so she stayed home and helped the family. Now she is a house wife who takes care of the children, the food, etc. Since this is a farming family every one has to help planting, weeding, harvesting etc, including all the daughters and Avilia’s mother as well.
Avilia’s father did not even complete grade 1 as his mother got sick and died when he was 8 years old. When he was 10 his father died from an infected burn on his leg. So at 10 he was forced to find a way of surviving. Since he already knew how to work on the fields a plantation owner hired him and gave him a place to live. He worked in this plantation for 9 years. At age 19 he got married to Avilia’s mother and the two of them rented a piece of land to cultivate it. At age 30 they had finally saved enough money to buy their first piece of land.
Avilia’s parents realize that if they had an education, things would be a lot easier for them. For example they would be able to read contracts and see what they are signing for. They would be able to learn better farming techniques etc. Since they know the value of education they have tried to put their children in school.
Out of the 10 children, only one daughter has been able to get to grade 3 and the reason is that every child that has gone to school does not understand any thing they teach at school. Schools are always over crowded, the teachers don’t have time to help the students and Avilia’s parents don’t have any education to help their children at school. These problems are very common in Guatemala as the education system is very bad to the point that UNESCO has ranked it among the worst in the world. The result is that all the children got frustrated and they preferred to work on the fields rather than to feel “useless” at school.
Farming work in Guatemala is extremely tough and pays very little. This picture was taken at 6:30AM. The sun just came out and Avilia’s two sisters and older brother are already harvesting strawberries. This job is very hard on the backs of the people as they have to bend over for hours at a time.
It is now 11AM and Avilia’s sisters are still harvesting strawberries. Harvesting has to be done very quickly as straw berries can rot and the family cannot afford to loose any.Despite the heat being unbearable they have to wear a blanket so they don’t get burned (it is around 30 degrees Celsius in the shade).
It is now 5PM and their day is not finished yet. Now they are harvesting lettuces.
After the farming work is done for the day, Avilia’s sisters still have to perform their home duties like washing the clothes and preparing the meals.
This is why it is so important that Avilia gets an education. She is the last child in the family and the last hope for this generation. If she learned business administration she could eliminate the middle man and sell the family’s products at a much higher price as many of their products get exported. She could alternatively learn better farming techniques, or create her own export company, etc. With education every thing is possible.
And here is where it all starts!
You can see Avilia in class (on the bottom right corner). She is learning the numbers, addition, subtraction, reading, writing, and many other things