Brenda grew up in Panajachel and is the firstborn in a family of nine children. Her father did not have the opportunity to go to school, and her mother studied until 2nd grade. When Brenda was born, her father worked as a fisherman and her mother stayed at home. For much of her childhood, Brenda was acutely aware of the challenging conditions that came along with her family’s lack of economic resources. In 2005, things became even more difficult when her family’s home flooded during Hurricane Stan and her father couldn’t fish, which was an important source of income and food for the family. Following that time, she started to work in the morning, cleaning houses and waitressing at small restaurants to help pay her fees for school in the afternoon. She did notice that there were other students whose parents paid for all of their expenses and were able to stay at home in the mornings before school, but says, “I didn’t feel bad because I knew I wanted to achieve my dreams and educate myself.”
Brenda was an intelligent student who consistently had good grades, but she didn’t expect to keep going to school because she couldn’t afford it. After learning about MAIA from a girl in Panajachel who was part of the program, Brenda decided to take a chance and apply for a scholarship. She received the scholarship when she was in 8th grade and was able to continue studying. Reflecting on the change it made in her life, she explained, “If it weren’t for MAIA, I don’t know where I would be in life. I don’t know if I would have had the chance to go to school or would be where I am today—I think I would have been washing clothes or making tortillas for a living.”
After graduating from high school where she studied accounting, she took a break to work for a year and save up some money for university. That year, she started working at an architecture firm as an accountant and secretary. At first, it was difficult for her to handle the accounting of all the expenses, but over time, she learned a lot and now feels very comfortable with managing funds for projects. After a year of working at the firm, she received a scholarship to begin studying business administration in university, putting her on the path to achieve her personal and professional dreams. In the future, she wants to buy a new house for her parents and siblings since the small home where they live now has never been the same since the hurricane hit more than a decade ago. As a business woman, she hopes to open a bank to serve those who typically do not have access to formal financial services or avoid them because of high interest rates.
Sometimes her dreams seem challenging to achieve, but after everything she has accomplished so far and the lessons she learned at MAIA, she believes in her abilities. “When people hear my story, I know that it encourages them and helps them see that achieving goals is possible, regardless of how long they take to accomplish.” With her university studies and formal job experience, she knows that she is a leader in her family and looks forward to growing through her experiences. “I know that every minute, hour, day, and year are important. I’m always learning new things, and as I learn, I remember that nothing is impossible to achieve.”