Lighting hope and opportunity for disadvantaged women in Guatemala

Lighting hope and opportunity for disadvantaged women in Guatemala

Organization type: 
nonprofit/ngo/citizen sector
$10,000 - $50,000
Project Summary
Elevator Pitch

Concise Summary: Help us pitch this solution! Provide an explanation within 3-4 short sentences.

Empowering and equipping single mothers, some victims of domestic violence or trafficking with skills and confidence, and a source of stable employment, providing family income, encouraging family savings, and the means for sustainable improvements in many lives across the region. This is a sensible scalable, enterprise approach to poverty reduction, and women's and family empowerment using renewable energy and business for change. Women at risk in Guatemala will generate income with small micro-consignment sales of solar rechargeable LED home lighting systems to very poor families who presently light with dangerous and expensive candles or kerosene lamps that consume precious family income and add to CO2 emissions. Participants will receive practical start-up assistance and resources.

About Project

Problem: What problem is this project trying to address?

La Asociación Nuestros Ahijados was founded in 1991 by Patrick Atkinson to help the impoverished children of La Antigua Guatemala, Guatemala. The project’s original mission was to educate the abandoned and orphaned children of Antigua. It has grown to feed, clothe, and provide medical and psychological care to the children of Guatemala, as well as assistance to their families. Nuestros Ahijados provides these basic needs through its numerous programs and believes that access to education, medical and dental care, counseling for children and parents, food, and clothes for the area poor can combat the recurring cycle of poverty. In the last 19 years, the project has grown from its humble beginnings in an abandoned farmhouse to its current capacity—serving 12,000 Guatemalans with four locations throughout Antigua. Programs strives to educate and help the poorest in the areas surrounding Antigua. Many of the children and families who seek help come from crowded tin shacks located in area slums or very poor, remote villages or the gang-led neighborhood of Jocotenango, a 30-minute walk from Nuestros Ahijados’ primary location. Many of the 100 students currently enrolled come from very troubled backgrounds and homes, participating in gangs and prostitution.

Solution: What is the proposed solution? Please be specific!

The key innovation elements include; the introduction of small, proven and affordable, solar lighting products to Guatemala; a program that empowers and supports disadvantaged women and youth with a true business approach; the use of SMS text messaging for order management and record keeping; and the new TIGO Money service to ensure the lowest administrative costs possible while maintaining full awareness of project logistics. The ANA Mothers’ Club, a women’s empowerment group that provides weekly classes and encouragement to over 400 mothers of all ages. Members of the Mothers’ Club learn about topics ranging from nutrition, health and wellness to self-esteem and human rights. They also receive donated vegetables on a bi-weekly basis to supplement their families’ nutritional intake and offset food costs. (These vegetables, donated by area farms, are collected and distributed to Mothers’ Club members by ANA staff and volunteers on Friday morning.) For many women, the Mothers’ Club affords their sole opportunity to learn, laugh and play together and provides a respite from the male-centered machismo culture that surrounds them the rest of the week. This unique poverty reduction program will initially equip the women with the skills and materials to provide, small family affordable solar re-chargable lighting products to local families using a micro-consignment sales approach. As skills build, the women will manage and expand the program, products and participation in the initiative with the full support or ANA's social worker and community outreach programs.
Impact: How does it Work

Example: Walk us through a specific example(s) of how this solution makes a difference; include its primary activities.

In phase, 1 participating women will receive practical start-up assistance with business planning and related skills development, and the start-up resources to initiate and maintain their own small micro-consignment business. A group revolving fund approach will ensure lasting impact and help support replication. For the same monthly expense as candles or kerosene local families will invest in super efficient, purpose-built solar rechargeable LED lamps from GreenLight Planet and other suppliers. The existing, Asociación Nuestros Ahijados ( 400+ member women's empowerment group that now meets weekly to learn about a wide range of other topics will kick-start the process, followed by a rapid expansion into surrounding communities, lighting hope and opportunity. In phase 2 a women's leadership team will be developed and additional appropriate products will be introduced including low cost reading glasses, ceramic water filters, family rainwater capture, sanitation and home gardening supplies. In phase 3 the project reach will be supplemented by the regular outreaches of ANA's social workers who distribute clothing and foot-ware, medicines and other items to continue to expand the program's geographic reach and participation. ANA's program currently reach more than 12,000 persons each year. We will also equip local youth who presently study at the ANA Scheel Centre and share the approach and benefits with other organizations in regionally and across the country. The program will also share experiences, lessons learned and best practices in the neighboring countries of El Salvador and Honduras.
About You
La Asociacion Nuestros Ahijados / The GOD's CHILD Project
About You
First Name


Last Name


About Your Organization
Organization Name

La Asociacion Nuestros Ahijados / The GOD's CHILD Project

Organization Country
Country where this project is creating social impact
How long has your organization been operating?

More than 5 years

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What stage is your project in?

Operating for less than a year

Share the story of the founder and what inspired the founder to start this project

La Asociación Nuestros Ahijados was founded in Antigua, Guatemala by Patrick Atkinson in 1991. From humble beginnings—when Atkinson and a few volunteers worked to feed and educate a handful of street kids out of an old farmhouse—La Asociación Nuestros Ahijados (or ANA) has grown to encompass four locations in the Antigua area and serves thousands of individuals annually.

The mission of ANA/The GOD’S CHILD Project is “breaking the bitter chains of poverty through education and formation.”

Today, ANA includes a staff of 90+ Guatemalans, 8 long-term international volunteers, and between 50 and 200 local and international volunteers, depending on the season.


Social Impact
Please describe how your project has been successful and how that success is measured

We believe that this project is an excellent fit with the theme of this competition: Powering Economic Opportunity: Create a World that Works

In addition to the hard results based indicators that include the number of workshops; number of workshop participants; number of lamps sold; number of new contacts; percentage of ANA mothers and other participants that are active associates, income boost as a percentage of family income there are a wide spectrum of other benefits that include:
~Reduced fire risk
~Improved Indoor Air Quality
~Improved quality of indoor lighting
~Increased window for student studies
~Increased window for other home income generating activities
~Increased family security
~Innovative use of mobile phone technology
~Leadership skills development
~Business skills development

The success of our programs is framed by clear program planning and measured by careful internal monitoring and evaluation, supplemented by external reviews, audits and certifications. We recently were reviewed by Global Giving and actively fundraise using their online fundraising platform tools.

A key to all our outreach and poverty reduction programs is a core of dedicated program staff including 6 accredited social workers. In addition to weekly meetings they visit each partipating family 6 to 8 times per year.

We test our results against the Nuestros Ahijados mission: "Breaking the bitter chains of poverty through education and formation".

How many people have been impacted by your project?


How many people could be impacted by your project in the next three years?

More than 10,000

How will your project evolve over the next three years?

Realistic growth projection.

Phase 1 will involve the training and equipping of the 400 members of the existing Mother's Club and the development and refinement of the approach, support and administration materials.

In Phase 2 the women will assume leadership of the project and lead the replication phase, with the full support of the ANA project staff and social work team.

In Phase 3 this will be supplemented with the rich network of communities and families that the ANA Social Workers have. We regularly reach in excess of 12,000 persons in Guatemala annually. We will further expand the project reach with members of the Scheel Centre Mother's Club and Youth and also with experience sharing with other organizations with similar goals and interests to further expand the project.

What barriers might hinder the success of your project and how do you plan to overcome them?

The identified key barriers include:

~Literacy skills for the participants. / These are being upgraded through a variety of current programs with the Mother's Club and Scheel Centre; including the Guatemalan CONALFA approach.

~ Changing solar LED technology / We actively research new technology and deploy it in home trials with the communities to ensure that the product meets family needs and that performance is suitable for Guatemala. We presently have models from several suppliers, all of whom where evaluated with the support of the World Bank through the Lighting Africa project.

~ Ensuring adequate support to the Women Associates while keeping administrative costs as low a possible. / We intend to use the existing program support of ANA and it's 6 social workers and support with innovative use of the SMS Text messaging and FRONTLINE:SMS and TIGO Money platforms.

Tell us about your partnerships

We work alongside communities and local businesses in the region. In addition we have regular dialogue with 14,000 supporters in the USA and worldwide. The program receives 900 international volunteers in support of our programs. We utilize social media tools, and websites to help build awareness and support for our programs.

To date as we celebrate our 20th anniversary in 2011 we have been the recipient of one major grant from the US State Department that partially funds the existing ITEMP trafficking program in Guatemala.

We regularly network with other NGOs including Direct Relief and CARITAS in Guatemala to ensure that medicines, clothing and other donated goods are used in the most effective way possible.

Explain your selections

With the exception of the US State Department partial grant, existing programs funds come from a large group of international individual supporters, a network of friends and family supporters.

We also receive donations from local NGOs and businesses.

How do you plan to strengthen your project in the next three years?

We will support the project and participants through the existing ANA programs and network. We anticipate additional volunteer support for the project. The business skills materials developed will also be incorporated into the Scheel Centre Mother's Club and regular core education programming.

The project approach, results and lessons learned will be shared with others in the region to increase awareness and identify the opportunities to both refine and to scale the program. If funding can ce secured the program has strong potential for replication nationally and internationally.

Which barriers to employment does your innovation address?
Please select up to three in order of relevancy to your project.


Lack of skills/training


Restricted access to new markets



Please describe how your innovation specifically tackles the barriers listed above.

This project clearly provides the needed training and access to new technology and markets. As a result new sustainable,'green' employment and income opportunities will be provided.

Are you trying to scale your organization or initiative?
If yes, please check up to three potential pathways in order of relevancy to you.



Enhanced existing impact through addition of complementary services


Influenced other organizations and institutions through the spread of best practices

Please describe which of your growth activities are current or planned for the immediate future.

This is described in the Phased approach above. We would of course be pleased to provide additional details should you require them.

Do you collaborate with any of the following: (Check all that apply)

Technology providers, NGOs/Nonprofits.

If yes, how have these collaborations helped your innovation to succeed?

We have established close relationships with the technology providers, both solar and SMS messageing. This helps us to ensure the best technology and pricing.

We have several other NGOs who are following the project and expressing interest in possible replication.