Our innovative core program is supported by four more that together provide a structured path for the children we support. When operating at full capacity Niños del Lago’s educational programs will improve the lives of more than 2,200 children each year.
Journey to the Forest
The core of our work, children come for a week once a year for four consecutive years to our forest camp for an educational and mentoring experience with lessons in mindfulness.
Each activity the children enjoy at the camp is designed to educate and empower. Their new experiences develop their self-confidence and self-awareness.
After breakfast and mindfulness practice, children form groups to complete chores such as watering seedlings, milking the cow, caring for the other animals, gathering eggs and harvesting and cleaning produce picked from the gardens and delivering these to the cook.
Time at the camp involves attending arts and crafts classes, educational movies, songfests and learning to identify forest plants. Other activities include field sports, group games and the children’s theater productions.
Children begin the program at the 3rd grade level (around 9 years old) and they return every year through the 6th grade (around 12 years old,) as long as they stay in school and are supported by one of our La Cadena partners.
As each child graduates from the Journey to the Forest program they will have gained the formal and informal tools they need to transform their future and make their world a better and safer place for themselves, for Guatemala and for all.
We believe that successful Guatemalan university students will make the best role models for Guatemalan children.
Spanish-speaking senior and graduate level students will each live and work alongside groups of 6-8 children and serve as mentors and positive role models for them.
The university students will be trained in mindfulness and will work with us for three months as part of their university course.
Mindful Mentors will undergo a rigorous interview process and background check before they will be allowed to work with the children.
Some children who complete Journey to the Forest are at risk of dropping out of school to work for their family.
We will fund a limited number of scholarships for those with high potential so they can continue through primary school and beyond.
Niños del Lago scholarship recipients may return as Junior Mentors (aged 15-16) to work alongside the Mindful Mentors during their school holidays.
More fortunate Guatemalan 12-15 year olds, mostly from private schools in Guatemala City and Antigua, will be able to attend a sophisticated two-week program at the forest camp.
This provides the same support and mindfulness training as Journey to the Forest but with extra tutoring from US university student volunteers in subjects such as English, math or science. It also gives the children context to their wider community.
Revenue from this program helps fund Niños del Lago and its scholarships.
During the first week of the two-week camping experience, participants work together to create a simple business plan to support a one-day trip to a typical public school on the western side of Lake Atitlán. The campers will prepare extra lunches on this day to share with the younger children they will visit.
These well-chaperoned adventures will provide a memorable cultural exchange between the programs’ children and those who are less fortunate. The overall experience will expand perspectives and change the attitudes of all involved.
Every child we support is already working with one of our network of NGO partners, collectively called La Cadena (the chain). Working throughout southwest Guatemala, they provide a privately-funded, public school education to vulnerable Guatemalan children.
La Cadena’s outreach team conducts two workshops a year at each of our partners’ schools to ensure each child’s progress and measure the impact and outcome of the Niños del Lago programs.