Advancing education levels for young Maya people wishing to obtain higher education was and still is the goal of the Maya Educational Foundation today. Providing educational opportunities so the students can change the trajectory of their lives through their own hard work.
In late 1992 a few members of the Guatemala Scholars Network, as well as several Mayas and non-Maya Guatemalan citizens, decided to start the Maya Educational Foundation (MEF).
This was a concerted effort to help the Maya people who had suffered so much in the 36-year-long violent civil war in Guatemala which peaked in the 1980s.
The war in Guatemala had left especially the indigenous rural Maya population traumatized.
About 200,000 Maya people were killed or disappeared and, to this day, many still remain unaccounted for. During that war many Mayas from Guatemala had fled to southern Mexico, especially Chiapas, and also to southern Belize.
Two of our Guatemalan Maya cofounders who had studied abroad wanted other Mayas to have the opportunity to study at universities in Guatemala.
They were instrumental to MEF by establishing our first scholarship program for Maya students, the Programa de Becas Mayas in 1992 in Guatemala City. It later grew into the official Guatemalan nonprofit FEPMaya (Fundación para Estudios y Profesionalización Maya), our largest scholarship partner still today.
In 1992 in Guatemala
almost no indigenous person had the chance to get higher education, mostly due to a lack of money but also for impossible logistics, rampant discrimination and political non-representation of the indigenous people in a country where 10 percent of the elite own 90 percent of all land holdings. Many Maya families even today live off of tiny parcels of land, their milpas, where they grow corn and beans for subsistence. If they grow coffee, they don’t drink it themselves but sell it to generate some income.
MEF started with two university scholarships in 1992
and now serves more than 500 students in total through scholarships and other educational support in Guatemala but also in Chiapas, Mexico and in southern Belize’s Toledo District.