Cecilia’s Story

“Junkabal is just like its meaning in Kaqchikel, home warmth.”

One of the biggest social issues is the Guatemala City rubbish dump, which amounts to a third of the nation’s waste as well as home to over 30.000 people who live around the periphery of the landfill. The families living around the rubbish dump belong to the most marginalized groups of Central America, living without adequate shelter, food, healthcare etc. There is also a gendered aspect to this crisis as mostly single mothers with their children live in this area, meaning that their children cannot get an education but have to start contributing to the family’s wage through dangerous informal labour on the crowded streets of the capital.  

Junkabal School was formed as a response to the situation and the lacking resources of the national education system. The Junkabal foundation addresses the needs of these families as not only children receive formal education in many different subjects (e.g. language, maths, science, music, art, technology, religious education, etc.) but parents can also take part in vocational training to improve their employability, knowing that their children are in safe hands. Cecilia one of the alumni explains how Junkabal supported her whole family’s development and especially responded to her needs as a mother:

I started studying here to become an independent woman and primarily looking for care and protection for my children. I didn’t want to leave them for a period of 8 hours, but I wanted the opportunity to develop professionally and at the same time being able to look after my daughters.  

Junkabal is a facility that recognizes that in order their beneficiaries to benefit fully from their education programmes, their personal wellbeing needs to be looked after as well, which is why there is also a health clinic on site. Cecilia, alumni of Junkabal was a student herself and now trains other women. Being diagnosed with cancer during her studies at Junkabal, she had several obstacles to overcome but she explains that Junkabal supported her in her recovery.   

This personal connection to the foundation is translated in her description of Junkabal:  “Junkabal is just like it’s meaning in Kaqchikel, home warmth. A warmth that we get since we start studying here professionally and personally through the classes we receive on human formation and entrepreneurship. They help us a lot, they show us different perspectives on how we as women can learn something and become independent. How we can help at our homes, help our husbands and our society. They also teach us to be free and independent in our communities and homes because they teach us values and technical things. For me Junkabal is like being at my house, it’s a home. 

At the same time as I started studying, I was diagnosed with cancer. It wasn’t easy to cope with but Junkabal opened its doors to me and they were always helping me. After two surgeries I knew I had to come back to finish my technical career, to keep studying and I felt very motivated with the environment the one has here as a student. It helped me a lot to overcome this hard time for me and my family. Knowing that I had to come back to study motivated me to continue and I had a goal that was to graduate as a professional stylist and I had the unconditional support of everyone at Junkabal.” 

Cecilia is an alumni of Junkabal in Guatemala.