Mentoring a Rising Generation of Leaders in Guatemala

Mentorship is one of the cornerstones of our work and is key to our success. It’s an investment in the soft skills that aren’t normally a priority in traditional schools. Centered their model around empowerment, MAIA’s mentors support Girl Pioneers to build resiliency, overcome challenges, achieve goals, learn about their rights, become active members in bettering society, and implement routines that are vital for healthy youth development. MAIA’s mentorship programs instill confidence in students and improve their interpersonal skills. Youth development is especially important in Guatemala where almost half of the population is under age 18.

Mentors at the MAIA Impact School wear various hats—most comparable to a mixture of teacher, guidance counselor, school psychologist, and friend. They lead their mentorship group through a curriculum that delves into topics that wouldn’t otherwise be discussed at school or at home. Mentors don’t just impart lessons; they listen, give advice, challenge, and encourage Girl Pioneers to reflect upon their own lives. Their job is to help the girls in whatever capacity is needed so they can achieve their goals.

Becoming a MAIA mentor is a rigorous process. The qualities we look for when hiring mentors is the ability to listen and offer encouragement, adapt to a variety of situations, find solutions, and, above all, demonstrate empathy. Five of our six current mentors are former Girl Pioneers. They understand the challenges their mentees are facing because they come from the same communities, speak the same Mayan language, and understand the local context.

Mentorship Class

With MAIA’s support, Irma graduated from high school in 2010. When she first joined the MAIA mentorship program, she was shy and three years behind in school. In 2015, she graduated from high school, and today she is enrolled in university, studying social work while working as a mentor at the MAIA Impact School. Irma starts her weekly mentorship classes with a vocal empowerment activity designed to help her students discover the power of their own voice and how they can exercise their voices to ask questions, share ideas, and communicate effectively. They then go on to explore topics ranging from nutrition and menstruation to rights and civic engagement. All this information provides a holistic education that will empower them to make safe, healthy choices.

Photos by Mary O’Connor

Photos by Mary O’Connor

Irma's mentorship class at the impact school

Home Visits

Photos by Cecilia Zygmont

Photos by Cecilia Zygmont

Each family receives a monthly home visit. Every Sunday, mentors venture out into the communities to visit the girls and their families in their homes, conducting about five visits per day. Both parents are required to participate unless it is a single parent household, and younger siblings are encouraged to join in as well. Mentors work within themes such as identifying and communicating about their emotions, discussing household chores and cleanliness, and sharing what their daughter is learning in school so they do not feel threatened by her education or left behind.

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On a recent home visit, Mayra, a MAIA graduate and mentor, compared pictures of tidy and untidy houses with the family. Then they took 20 minutes to clean their own house, washing plates, folding clothes, and sweeping as needed. Afterward, Mayra asked each family member which chores they felt comfortable doing. At the end, everyone from the father to the youngest child had an assigned chore so they could all participate in domestic duties.

One on One Mentorship

Outside of class and home visits, mentors meet one on one with each of their mentees at least once a month, more often if needed. Mentors use the WOOP (wish, outcome, obstacle, plan) goal-setting system to teach Girl Pioneers that their goals are achievable (not just daydreams) and support them to create an action plan or road map for achieving their goals week by week. With these lessons, Girl Pioneers are learning to create healthy habits and make good decisions that they will carry with them as they continue to develop into empowered women. 

One on one mentorship at the MAIA Impact School

Read on to learn about the Girl Pioneers’ favorite mentorship themes: 

  • “My favorite theme in mentorship class was learning about different abilities because it helped me discover more about myself.” —Débora Melissa Mireya, 9th grade

  • “My favorite topic was Ruksana (a young woman from India who was featured in the Girl Rising series) because I learned about the life of a girl from another place and how it connected to my life and my situation.” —Bernardina Teresa, 9th grade

  • “My favorite topic was the meaning of MAIA because we learned what the real meaning is so we can explain it in our own words.”  —Lucero Abigail, 8th grade

  • “I liked learning to organize my time to take advantage of every minute so I have time to do everything I need to do.” —Aura Marina, 8th grade

  • “My favorite theme was personal hygiene because they told me how to bathe myself, how many times a week, and that personal hygiene is very important for how we present ourselves.” —Alicia Jeaneth, 7th grade

  • “My favorite theme was my ambitious dream because we learned to keep trying to move forward and achieve our dreams.” —Vilma Aracely, 7th grade