Infinite Impact in Rural Guatemala

Yihemba Yikona
February 8, 2018

When I guide visitors through the Starfish Impact School, I do my best to convey how special and revolutionary it is to see nearly one hundred young indigenous women sitting at school in Guatemala at an age when many would no longer have the opportunity to continue studying due to lack of financial resources or cultural pressure.

As Communications Coordinator, a huge part of my job is storytelling—whether that is telling the story of Starfish to visitors in person, or communicating with a broader audience through online media.

What do I say?

I tell them that the young women with whom we work face quadruple discrimination from their circumstances as poor, female, rural, and Mayan.

I tell them that the average indigenous woman in Guatemala has 2.5 years of schooling, and 57% of indigenous girls in the country are married and/or mothers by the age of 18.

I tell them that Starfish is changing this reality by using education and mentorship to unlock the potential of young women to lead transformational change.

I tell them that this organization is really doing what it says it is doing and the results are incredible. The lives of Girl Pioneers are changing, as they are equipped to be changemakers in their own lives, their families, their communities, and their country.

Although so much of my job involves storytelling and spoken and written communication, I’ve found that the best way to do that comes from listening and observing. As I listen and observe, I learn from my Guatemalan coworkers and am impressed by how quickly they mobilize as we move forward to provide high quality education and expand opportunities for the young women we serve. When I have the privilege of speaking with Girl Pioneers, I am so inspired by their stories of resilience and how education has changed their lives and helped them learn the value of their voices.

These voices have power—a power that resounds in the young woman that celebrates her high school graduation despite many obstacles along the way. It is found in the eighth grader that dreams of becoming a chemical engineer, and the business administration university student that plans to open her own business one day.

As these voices express hope and determination for the future, they embody strength and perseverance. The task of empowering young women and fighting for their education is not easy, and it is an honor to see how the team at Starfish commits to this each and every day.

To learn more about Starfish, visit