It all started when…
In 2001, three women from San Miguel Dueñas - Jean Uelmen, Teresa Quiñonez and Ericka Kaplan - established both the learning center called Asociación Ventanas Abiertas and the US-registered 501(c)(3) organization, Open Windows Foundation. The learning center was housed in the childhood home of Teresa Quiñonez and initially had only 20 children assembling in a small room where they had access to 300 books donated from a library which had closed. The organization has both Guatemalan and US boards which raise funds to support the learning center.
In 2003 Rotary International donated 10 computers to Open Windows which allowed the center to offer computer classes to children and to allow them to do their homework on computers. When Rotary made a donation of an additional 10 computers in 2007, Open Windows built a computer lab above the new library which had been constructed in 2005 and which now houses more than 12,000 books. By this time the organization was not just encouraging children to come to the library and learn to enjoy reading but was also offering technology training, educational programming and tutoring to the children in the community.
2003 was also the year in which the Foundation’s board chair, Tom Sullivan, initiated the scholarship programs which paid for tuition, books, fees and transportation to junior high and high school for students from San Miguel Dueñas. There were three scholarship students the first year; today there are 30 and more than 170 children have received scholarships since the beginning.
Over the years Open Windows has added community development projects to its menu of services to the community. Spurred by the Canadian organization, Developing World Connections, which wanted to send construction volunteers to the community, it began a program of building houses for some of the families who lived in homes made of cornstalks or tin with dirt floors. In addition, it has delivered ecostoves to hundreds of families who otherwise would spend much of their income on firewood for cooking on open fires which filled the houses with smoke. All of this is done with volunteers and a staff of just seven teachers.