Throughout Guatemala’s violent, decades-long civil struggle, an estimated 200,000 folks have been killed. Amongst them was Brenda Lemus’s father, Bernardo Lemus Mendoza, a outstanding educational and mental who spoke out in opposition to the federal government.

“There have been many individuals who have been preventing for his or her rights, who have been being repressed,” Brenda Lemus stated. “My father (fought for) … their proper to an training and entry to work. He was persecuted, he was exiled from the nation many occasions, and he was finally assassinated.”

Lemus’s father grew up in poverty within the small rural city of Purulhá, a number of hours outdoors of Guatemala Metropolis. Regardless of the chances, she stated he managed to graduate faculty and ultimately turn into the monetary director on the San Carlos de Guatemala College.

Throughout the peace course of, the Guatemalan authorities wished to dignify the reminiscence of these killed by the state. To commemorate Bernardo and his love of literature, the federal government donated 180 books to his household to begin a library in his hometown. In 2011, the Bernardo Lemus Mendoza Library opened in Purulhá.

Lemus relocated her household there and devoted herself to getting the library off the bottom. At present, it serves as a beacon of hope and a middle of studying for younger folks residing in excessive poverty.

From the beginning, Lemus noticed how the neighborhood was struggling in some ways.

“The neighborhood’s youth had lots of wants, particularly in training,” Lemus stated. “However all of the books that got to us … have been in regards to the armed battle. None of them have been for youths or younger folks, and there have been no schoolbooks in any respect.”

Youngsters would arrive on the library in search of books so they might attend faculty and do their homework. Many households couldn’t afford faculty provides. So, Lemus acquired faculties to comply with donate books, and he or she began giving them to kids locally.

She additionally noticed that college students wanted notebooks for sophistication. Some have been writing on crumpled, outdated, torn items of paper.

“It made me take into consideration once I was youthful, going to high school and hiding my notebooks as a result of I didn’t need to do my homework. I had every little thing. And but right here have been a bunch of youngsters who had nothing, holding on to a rotten piece of paper to have the ability to take notes,” Lemus stated. “That crammed me with compassion for these children. I wished to assist them as a lot as I may.”

Realizing that younger folks in Purulhá have been rising up underneath comparable circumstances as her father had, Lemus wished not solely to handle their wants however to assist them break the cycle of intergenerational poverty.

In 2012, she co-founded Yo’o Guatemala, a nonprofit whose title means “collectively we go.”

She started offering after-school programming and seen many college students had bother focusing.

“I needed to repeat the themes typically till one of many children stated to me, ‘Please, don’t repeat it to me once more. I simply can’t focus as a result of I’m so hungry,’” Lemus stated. “We realized that a lot of our youngsters have been malnourished, some chronically, and it was not possible for them to give attention to anything.”

Her group began a diet program for greater than 40 households affected by continual malnutrition and has since expanded, offering intensive literacy, well being, and neighborhood constructing packages.

CNN Hero Brenda Lemus

“My aim with all of that is to ensure the children on this neighborhood get a correct training, eat properly, and get forward with the identical alternatives as in the event that they have been my very own children or yours,” Lemus stated. “We’re dignifying the reminiscence of my father, and we’re dignifying the lives of the youngsters of Purulha.”

CNN spoke with Lemus about her efforts. Under is an edited and translated model of their dialog.

CNN: The help you present is consistently evolving, relying on the neighborhood’s wants. How are you serving to ladies to entry training?

Brenda Lemus: In Purulhá, ladies cease learning very early, get pregnant, get married, and the cycle repeats itself. It’s a cycle of poverty that appears infinite; it’s like a spiral that takes them to the underside. We need to break (that) by training.

Mother and father normally reject sending their daughters to high school as a result of they assist mother at residence. The women don’t carry out the identical as boys at school as a result of it’s completely different: The boy goes to high school, and when he leaves, he goes to play soccer. The lady goes to high school, and comes residence to cook dinner, care for siblings, wash garments. And so she drops out of college as a result of she doesn’t do her homework. In fact she doesn’t do her homework as a result of she has an excessive amount of of a burden at residence. The women have the complete burden, and it isn’t straightforward.

We at the moment have 10 ladies in our residency. The women come on Mondays, leaving on Fridays. They spend weekends at residence. We’re in command of every little thing with respect to them throughout that point. And we make it possible to the women who’re far more weak relating to dropping out of college. I’m satisfied that by giving the women an integral academic alternative, with high quality, we will break the cycle of poverty.

CNN: What’s your focus with the “Mi Nino Bonito” program?

Lemus: We started a daycare program for kids. We obtain them very early as a result of most of their moms work within the native market. We give them a heat breakfast. We give all of them the stimulation that they need to have in keeping with their age, however we train the youngsters to be impartial.

They’re normally the youngest of their home and the final within the meals chain, so that they must combat for a bit of bread. We train them to clean their dishes, to scrub up in the event that they spilled. We give them pediatric check-ups with nutritional vitamins, taking care that they don’t get sick. They turn into very impartial kids who then excel.

CNN: How does your eco-brick program work and what’s its significance?

Lemus: The eco-brick program has a particular magic as a result of it’s the training of the youngsters, by the youngsters, by rubbish. Youngsters whose dad and mom are unable to purchase them faculty provides have the chance to recycle supplies similar to non-recyclable aluminum or single-use plastics, encapsulating them in PET bottles ceaselessly.

The kids acquire rubbish, clear the setting, recycle, they usually obtain faculty provides because the tradeoff – for 10 eco-bricks, they’ve their full record of college provides. In the event that they ship 5 extra bricks, they get to take a brand-new backpack. With (the eco-bricks), faculties are inbuilt different elements of Guatemala by volunteers who come from the US.

The worth and dignity of the exhausting work they do is instilled in all the youngsters. They supply their neighborhood with cleanliness and sanitation by recycling; this offers them dignity. The kids come right here in hopes of with the ability to end their research with out dropping out. However they earn it with pure, exhausting work. This has allowed youth to have higher alternatives for extra dignified paid jobs.

Need to get entangled? Take a look at the Yo’o Guatemala web site and see the way to assist

To donate to Yo’o Guatemala by way of GoFundMe, click on right here

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