In 2006, co-founder Marten Dresen came to Guatemala to learn Spanish and volunteer with a non-profit in Ciudad Vieja. During his trip, he befriended a girl named Mirna from the local community. After noticing that she was always barefoot, Marten decided to give her a pair of shoes. Mirna’s gratitude touched him so deeply that he was moved to do more for Guatemalan children from low-income families, realising that a relatively small investment could make a huge difference in their lives.
After returning to the Netherlands, Marten allied with his friend Sander Wirken and his sister Annemiek. They believed that the key to a better future for children like Mirna was access to quality education and, as a result, Niños de Guatemala was born. The organization was founded in the Netherlands and the Dutch branch started its fundraising activities. In 2007, Annemiek moved to Guatemala to start the organization there, together with Antigua local Carmen Paniagua. Sander joined them in 2008 in preparation for the construction of the first school. In 2009 the first primary school opened its doors. Currently, NDG operates two primary schools, and one middle school.
In Guatemala, education is technically free and required through primary school. Although education is provided by the government, students are still required to pay for uniforms, books, supplies, and transportation, making access to education more difficult and, in many cases, impossible. Less than 45% of all Guatemalan children continue their education after primary school. At Niños de Guatemala, over 95% of elementary school students move on to middle school.
HOW WE HELP
To address the issue of quality education within its schools, Niños de Guatemala educates 500 children a year across its three schools. NDG works to offer students so they will be prepared to continue their education. In addition to an advanced curriculum, NDG also focuses on the well-being of each student through the Family Support and Nutrition and Health Programs. Ensuring that the mental and physical needs of the students are taken care of allows for students to focus in the classroom and dedicate their full attention to their studies.