Project Brings Education Opportunities to Mayan Children in Guatemala

dōTERRA leaders Fred and Carrie Donegan and family partner with nonprofit organization Youth Service International to provide scholarships to underprivileged children in Santa Catarina Palopo.


doTERRA leaders Fred and Carrie Donegan became involved with the nonprofit organization Youth Service International, Inc. (YSI) when their son began volunteering with the organization. YSI organizes and sponsors a variety of programs that provide assistance to those in need both locally and internationally. An important part of YSI’s mission is to help their young volunteers develop a willingness to serve, as well as a sense of solidarity with others who are less fortunate. The young men that volunteer with YSI are encouraged to grow intellectually, socially, and spiritually as they donate their time and talents to the service of others.

In 2016, YSI developed a project that allowed 13 high school students from New York and New Jersey, along with five staff members from New York, to travel to Guatemala and serve the people of Santa Catarina Palopo.

Santa Catarina Palopo is a rural town located on the shores of the beautiful Lake Atitlan, and lies 100 miles from Guatemala City.  As a result, Santa Catarina Palopo benefits from the tourism industry in this area of Guatemala. This industry is the only source of income for the people of Santa Catarina Palopo, however, so most families in this area live in extreme poverty.

YSI recognizes that education is one of the most powerful tools to empower impoverished communities to break the cycle of poverty, and has observed that the children of Santa Catarina often leave school at a young age to begin work in their family’s corn, onion, or bean fields to help provide for their families’ needs. Additionally, because the people of Santa Catarina speak a native Mayan language, obtaining employment opportunities in the surrounding Spanish-speaking communities can be challenging.  

For this reason, this project with YSI was largely focused on providing educational opportunities for the students of Santa Catarina. During fundraising, Carrie Donegan suggested reaching out to the doTERRA Healing Hands Foundation™ to participate in a matching campaign, which they did. 

Once fundraising was complete, the YSI volunteers traveled to Santa Catarina. During the expedition, YSI volunteers helped construct a concrete pathway in the town, install basketball hoops in the courts built by YSI in 2015, paint a few houses, organize a summer camp for local children, and deliver toys and clothing to the community.

Volunteers then had the opportunity to meet together with the school principal in Santa Catarina Palopo, who is responsible for managing the education of students in Santa Catarina. Funds raised by YSI for this project were used to provide educational opportunities to 18 new native students; 15 will attend high school, and three will attend college. Fourteen additional students were able to continue into their second year of high school, college, or trade school thanks to this project.

One such student is Josue, a Santa Catarina Palopo native. Last year, Josue was able to attend his first year of college studying accounting. This year, thanks in part to the doTERRA Healing Hands Foundation, Josue will be able to continue his education and participate in a pre-internship accounting program through a firm in a nearby town. He hopes that this opportunity will help him obtain a full-time job upon graduation. Josue expressed his sincere gratitude to YSI and the doTERRA Healing Hands Foundation for the opportunity to finish his studies, and the potential career opportunities it will offer him.

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