CHICA: Supporting Girls' Empowerment in Guatemala

Dean's Beans Helps to Found CHICA, a Guatemalan Girls' Empowerment Organization!

Dean's Beans is proud to announce the creation of CHICA- Communidades de Hermanas Inteligentes con Corazones Abiertos (translated- Communities of Intelligent Sisters with Open Hearts).

CHICA is a Guatemalan indigenous girls' empowerment organization founded by three Amherst, MA High School students in partnership with Dean's Beans and APROS- a grassroots women's health organization founded by indigenous Guatemalan women from rural coffee villages with technical and financial assistance from Dean's Beans. CHICA organizes health and social workshops for indigenous girls to increase self- esteem, build community, and support each other in reaching their dreams.

"Universally, the girls have identified lack of access to education as the number one impediment to social and economic empowerment in their lives," said CHICA Co-founder Sarah Cycon (Dean’s daughter).

84% of Guatemalan girls do not make it past the seventh grade due to economic and gender constraints

CHICA has responded to this need by establishing a scholarship fund to support the girls who participate in the health and social forums in attending high school and college.

The Story of CHICA

CHICA was founded when Amherst students Sarah Cycon, Jasmine Costello and Kayla Zibbell traveled to APROS in January, 2008 to facilitate the first EVER indigenous Guatemalan teenage girls' health and social forum. Never before had these Guatemalan indigenous teenage girls been alone in a room with other teenage girls without an adult present. This two-day forum provided a safe, confidential space for 20 girls to talk opening about their lives, their struggles, their dreams.

Profoundly impacted by this visit, APROS invited the US teens back, this time under the formal name- CHICA. Thus a teen indigenous girls' empowerment movement was born. "This one visit lit a fire in those girls," said Dean Cycon. "Our job now is to help these girls keep that fire going and growing."

It only costs $50 per YEAR to send a girl to school in Guatemala.

The three Amherst High teens returned to Guatemala for the entire month of July, 2008 to continue their work in five rural coffee villages. They facilitated forums for over 50 girls, and taught teen leaders how to run and sustain their own forums. As well, they delivered two thousand dollars in scholarship money to APROS to be used to support the lives and dreams of indigenous teenage girls living in the poor, rural coffee villages of Guatemala who participated in the workshops. One of the girl's mothers approached Sarah after the last workshop and told her, with intense emotion, that the scholarship would allow her daughter to return to school and ultimately have a better life than her mother, which qwas the mother's dream. The girls also worked together to come up with a plan to make CHICA economically sustainable in these Guatemalan villages. The first idea was to make and sell pizza by the slice, because everybody loves pizza and it is not generally available except when the fair or carnival were in town. We sent down two pizza trays and roller cutters, and the girls made and served pizza to the participants and their families to rave reviews!

This is revolutionary stuff, and it is having a profound and lasting impact on how the indigenous girls who participated (along with their families and the greater community) see themselves and what they feel they can do with their lives in the future.

For more information on the CHICA project go to www.deansbeans.com or call Dean Cycon at 978-544-2002 x12.

Contributions to the CHICA Scholarship Fund can be sent to:

Dean's Beans
50 R.W. Moore Ave.
Orange, MA 01364
Payable to "Dean's Beans Foundation/CHICA Project"

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