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Girls’ Voices Day Three: Education, Family, and Opportunity

Location: San Juan de Bautista, Sololá, a 30 minute boat ride from Panachajel across the beautiful Lake Atitlan.

The bell rang and out poured the mass of almost 300 children running from their classrooms down to the yard. Receso.  (Recess). Adelina positioned herself smack dab at the bottom of the stairs, camera pointing up, ready to capture her classmates as they gallop down the stairs, weave through the hallways, and funnel out to the yard.  And come they do, but almost all stop mid-prance as they see their friend Adelina with a video camera, filming them.

¿Qué haces? ¿Qué haces?  (What are you doing?)” A chorus of inquisitive elementary and middle school (básico) students inquire.

“Estoy haciendo mi propio película sobre la importancia de la education en mi vida. (I’m making my own movie about the importance of education in my life).” Suddenly, Adelina is in the middle of a quasi-bear hug as all her peers crowd around to see what she has recorded. Her shy giggles slowly transform into a proud smile, as she announces she now wants to film the kids playing soccer and then record footage in math class, mi clase favorite (my favorite class).

After two hours of filming directed by Adelina, we set off to find Lucy, who took an hour away from studying for her economics exam to record bits and pieces of her daily life. She brought us in her home and filmed her sister as she prepared the loom and began to weave the beautiful Tz’utujil indigenous dress. We then walked her to her brightly colored school, wished her luck on her exam, and left amid a lot of attention by her friends for her role as a filmmaker.

Finally, we went to find Maria, who had a plan to film her mother and grandmother explain and demonstrate the process of dying fabrics. She visibly glowed with pride as her mother and grandmother collected the plants that would be cooked to extract the dye. Crouching down so as to get the best angle possible, Maria filmed her mother cut the root of the banana tree, which contains a liquid used to keep the dyes intact, and circled around her grandmother as she cut oregano to ensure a full 360 view.

Back at the house, Maria explained the connection between these dyes and her education: with a university degree in business administration, she can help women like her mom organize into women’s cooperatives. Her mom then told her personal story, one of a desire to learn but no money for education, and promised she would not let the same happen to her daughters.   No matter where in the world, there is an undeniable link between education, family, and opportunity that we are only just beginning to explore.

As we walked back through the brightly colored streets lined with cocoa and maize stalks with the breathtaking mountains in the background, we prepared for a new day where we would help four more girls film footage for their videos.  Stay tuned!

by Daniel Olitzky, March 1, 2017