Why small nonprofits matter – the story of Sueños

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Why small nonprofits matter – the story of Sueños

Informal workers in Antigua’s central park are invariably indigenous children who in order to support their families, don’t go to school and work selling a variety of items to locals and tourists.

“Our name Sueños, or “Dreams” in English, describes our vision for our students and families. We strongly believe in their dreams and their ability to accomplish them.”

Sueños is a bright yellow building in the center of Antigua, less than two blocks from the central park. Inside, children and parents gather daily to participate in classes and activities focused on education and empowerment.

Our students are part of an important community in Antigua – they form a group of indigenous families that come from all over Guatemala, and now live in and around Antigua to work as street vendors. Parents and many children spend their afternoons and evenings selling ice cream, textiles, jewelry, fruit, and shoe-shines to tourists and locals in the central park of Antigua.

Like many latino towns, Antigua is designed around its central park. Bordering the park is the cathedral, the municipality, banks, and cafes – the most important elements for all of those living in and visiting Antigua. The park’s informal workers are a daily reminder to the economically prosperous, and often expat, families who live in Antigua that Guatemala is a place of harsh inequalities, and intricate, ancient culture. 

How did Sueños get started?

Above, Katie playing with the street vendor children in Antigua’s central park.

Sueños is born out of the idea that everyone in Antigua deserves a safe space where they are recognized and represented, especially children; and our connection to the community has grown out of the bonds and relationships that we have held with our stakeholders: the children of the street vendor community.

When I moved to Guatemala in 2013, after two prior visits to the country, I was introduced to a few children street vendors by a friend. At the time, the friend was hoping to coordinate some activities for these children through the abundance of volunteers in Antigua with various skill sets. I was brought in as a dance teacher and started out teaching latin dance classes to a small group of kids once a week, in a corner of the central park. Every week I would come to the park and round up kids with my wireless speaker in hand. Often, they would choose the music, the most PG-rated reggaeton we could find, and we would spend an hour or so practicing the basic steps of merengue, salsa, and bachata. One-by-one, students would pull their friends into the group, and I would be introduced to a new family working in the park. 

Over time dance classes turned into educational classes, and our space in the park slowly became more formal – in 2016 we were lent spaces in the government buildings around the park, and in 2019 we moved into our first home, two small rooms on the second floor of a cafe in central Antigua.

Now, in October 2019, we have spent just two months in our brand new building, with multiple classrooms and open space, where we hope our programs and students will continue to grow. 

Founder Katie (left) coordinating the classes in Antigua´s central park at the beginning.

Students and staff enjoying a snack at their new premises.

This year we are running three programs:

  • Soñadores / Dreamers – an after school program for elementary-aged children
  • Sueños en Acción / Dreams in Action – a life skills and entrepreneurship program for teens
  • Mujeres en Acción / Women in Action – a women’s empowerment program for mothers and teens. 

Our programs are modeled around project-based, culturally-relevant, interdisciplinary education. For example, students may be discussing why their family decided to migrate to Antigua from the highlands of Guatemala, based on their economic opportunities, while practicing their math and reading skills. We believe that education has to be both fun and meaningful for children to learn, and are focused on building self esteem, critical thinking and literacy skills; skills that are often overlooked in the public school system and that are vitally important for children’s success. We aim for children to complete their education, and beyond that, to form and achieve meaningful long-term goals, ultimately finding a way out of the park and the cycle of poverty.  

A beneficiary family of the Sueños programs.

Why are small organizations so important?

Small organizations like ours are important because of the relationships we have with our community. Sueños is so much more than just programming. Sueños is walking through the park on the way to work and being charged by a group of 5 year olds who think you are there to bring them to a class.

Sueños is stopping to say hello to a parent and having an hour pass as they tell you about something going on in their family that week. Sueños is creating community and letting every member of that community know that they have a voice, and that we’ll listen to them. 

We look forward to continuing to work with families to help them achieve their dreams, and value that having someone believe in them is the first step on their transformative journey. 

Pionero Philanthropy vets and visits every nonprofit it seeks to partner with and is proud to partner and represent Sueños.

Sueños is a shining example where even small a contribution goes a long way in their community.

To find out more about Sueños visit their website HERE

To find out more about Pionero’s nonprofit grassroots nonprofit partners, contact us!

By Katie Korsyn
Sueños Founder