There are few schools in the world that can be found on top of a remote mountain, (less one that boasts a resident jaguar as does the Adopt-a-Village Mayan Center). I know of one distant school in the Chilean mountains, just across the border from Argentina. It’s on the way to a ski resort, so I’m not really sure that it qualifies. Other educational boarding facilities tout their remoteness, such as another one in the Nevada desert, but really, it’s only half an hour drive to pick up a burger and a six-pack, even though the school administration frowns on the idea.
The Mayan Center for Education is situated in a pristine rainforest four hours north from a bone-jarring drive over four-wheel roads of Huehuetenango’s northernmost supply town of Santa Cruz Barillas. Even their inhabitants don’t really know where it is and as most are non-aficionados of the wilderness, really don’t wish to know. Nevertheless, Mayan youth who were born in isolated mountain villages call it home for two years as they live, study, and work on campus to earn their accelerated two-year diploma. Once in hand, they can choose one of several paths—begin university studies, train in a professional facility, or even start a small business.
In addition to academic classes (where students receive 30% more class time than “city” schools), intensive training is provided in sustainable organic gardening. Guatemala suffers from the worst level of chronic child malnutrition in Latin America and the fourth highest level in the world, according to United Nations statistics. Every student graduates with the ability to provide his family and village the help they desperately need to produce sustainable food to stem the staggeringly high rates of child malnutrition from which they suffer.
Mateo Ordoñez, pictured here with his father, Pascual Ordoñez, and the school director, Osman Casteñada, has already introduced to his community the unique methods of soil preparation, green composting and multi-crop planting. His father, an enthusiastic of the Center’s sustainable organic growing techniques, has volunteered to head up village committees to encourage others in these methods of food production.