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Shaping the children of today for a BETTER WORLD TOMORROW with Niños del Lago

To invest in a better future, you need to invest in the children of today. They are the ones who will grow up to bring about positive change in the world. Unfortunately, in a developing country like Guatemala, children’s education often falls by the wayside as their families struggle to simply make it through the day. This is why the work of organizations like Niños del Lago is so important. If you study at San Pedro Spanish School, San Marcos Spanish School or Quetzaltenango Spanish School, you’ve probably seen their logo depicting two people holding hands. So what is Niños del Lago all about?

Niños del Lago, or more formally the Community Educative Assocation Niños del Lago (ACENLA), was established in 2003 with the aim of providing educational support to local children. At first, the project had one part-time teacher helping five children of primary school age. Over time, it has expanded and now offers much more than just helping kids with their homework.

Niños del Lago’s philosophy is that to educate a child, you need to focus on more than just covering the school curriculum. Meaningful education also teaches children those values that they will use throughout their lives to be upstanding members of their community and help bring about positive change: values like honesty, kindness, respect, dignity, perseverance and solidarity with others.

To help instill these values, the organization offers local kids a range of activities and services. There are daily programs for both primary and senior students, with extracurricular activities like arts and crafts workshops, sports and games presented on the organization’s dedicated premises in San Pedro La Laguna. These activities help the kids improve their life skills while keeping them entertained. The activities are tailored to the children’s individual needs, abilities and interests so that they have a meaningful impact and aren’t simply a way to pass the time.

Then there is a focus on schoolwork too. The children are encouraged to read and volunteers help them with their homework and school projects. They receive tutoring in the areas they struggle with and learn how to think critically about the subject matter.

Many children in the area don’t have access to everything they need for school, so Niños del Lago also offers full scholarships. These cover not only school fees but also school supplies and uniforms. These scholarships aren’t just hand-outs, though: to continue to get the organization’s support, the children have to show their progress in school. They are monitored bi-monthly.

Unfortunately, no matter how hard a child works, they won’t thrive in school if they’re not thriving in general. A hungry or sick child simply won’t be able to focus. To address this – especially in a country with one of the highest rates of malnutrition in the Americas – Niños del Lago works with the children and their parents to help promote preventative healthcare. The children get to go for regular check-ups and visits to the doctor and dentist. They also receive help with medication they might need to stay healthy.

As a non-profit organization, Niños del Lago relies heavily on donations and the help of volunteers. Part of your tuition fees at San Pedro Spanish School, San Marcos Spanish School and Quetzaltenango Spanish School go towards funding Niños del Lago. However, you can also donate money and goods like teaching materials, furniture and equipment, vitamins and over-the-counter medicines and personal hygiene items. In addition, you can sponsor a child.

If you don’t have the financial resources to donate much, you can help Niños del Lago with your time and energy too. The organization offers a range of opportunities for volunteering. You can help children with their homework, for instance, or teach English or Math. You can get involved with the arts and crafts workshops and sports activities. You may even present a workshop about something you like to do, such as painting or playing music.

Of course there’s something in it for you too if you get involved with the work Niños del Lago does. Because you’re interacting with local children, you get to learn about local culture and about the daily lives and challenges of Guatemalans. These kids may help you see the world through different eyes and give you perspective. You’ll get to make new friends and improve your Spanish through actually speaking the language. Best of all is that at night, you can go to sleep in the knowledge that today, in your own way, you helped make a difference. As the Nobel Peace Prize winner Archbishop Desmond Tutu said, “Do your little bit of good where you are; it’s those little bits of good put together that overwhelm the world.”

If you’re a bit of a cynic, you may find yourself wondering, “Is this Niños del Lago a legit organization, though?” Well, Niños del Lago is a registered charity that operates with the authorization of Guatemala’s Ministry of Education, the Municipal Government of San Pedro La Laguna and SAT, the Guatemalan Tax Authority.

If you’d like more information, you can contact Niños del Lago directly at


© 2017 Study Spanish in Guatemala. 

Photography by Rene de Carufel / additional images by Martin Gray

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