Refuge International

Improving lives through healthcare, nutrition, clean water, and education.



  • Guatemala has the lowest literacy rate in Latin America. Only 3 out of 10 children graduate from 6th grade in Guatemala. (USAID)
  • Indigenous girls are often the most disadvantaged group as limited schooling, early marriage and frequent childbearing perpetuate the cycle of chronic poverty. (Global Education Fund)

Most international development organizations agree that education is the best step toward breaking the cycle of poverty and poor health in countries like Guatemala.

Rural, indigenous children are often forced to drop out of school to help their family earn income or simply because the family cannot afford school supplies, uniforms or transportation. To pursue an education past the 6th grade, children living in remote villages must move to larger towns yet costs to live away from home and travel expenses are impossible for most families to afford.

When Refuge International began funding two full-time teachers in Sarstun, school enrollment more than tripled. We’ve been able to build a second school on property owned by Refuge International and it has been exciting to see the growing commitment locals are making to educating the children of this rural area.

How Can You Help?

  • Underwrite a teacher. ($2,500 annual salary)
  • Adopt a classroom by providing school supplies or Spanish books. 
  • Build or improve school facilities by donating much-needed funds.
  • Purchase a school desk for just $50 each.

Our Supporters Make Change Possible Every Day

Connelly Cowen

When Connelly Cowen celebrated her 8th birthday, rather than asking for presents for herself, she opted to collect school supplies for children in Guatemala. She delivered several large boxes to Refuge International that included over 1,000 pencils and dozens of packages of paper, crayons, pens, spiral notebooks and plastic school supply boxes. Every year since, Connelly's efforts have grown. Her donation items have also included toothbrushes and toothpaste, school desks, and she even raised enough money to put in a water well. We couldn't be prouder of this young philanthropist!

First United Methodist Church

For several years, young members of this church in Longview, Texas have collected school supplies and backpacks for children in Sarstun, Guatemala. Thanks to their efforts, more than 90 backpacks have been distributed to some very excited little ones in the remote Guatemalan village.

American Youth for Equal Educational Opportunities

This group of students from Washington collected supplies and funds to help the school children in Sarstun. This is how they tell their story:

“Derek and I are two juniors who have always received the best education that our district has been able to provide us. Growing up, we've come to realize that not all children have the same opportunities that we have had. We decided to start an organization, with some assistance from a local organization called Youth Venture, called American Youth For Equal Educational Opportunities (AYFEEO) that aims to provide less fortunate children with educational materials so that they may learn and succeed in school. A friend mentioned Refuge International and we thought that it was absurd that children don't have the chance to get at least a middle school education. To help out your cause, we spent two days in a local mall collecting donations and raising awareness about the education situation in Sarstun, Guatemala. In all, we raised over $750 and countless supplies that are currently en route to you!”

The following is a copy of the message they sent with the supplies:

To the Children of Sarstun:

“In America we are very privileged to have a well-supported education system. Many of us, however, take this system for granted and don’t realize how amazing an opportunity it is to receive a quality education. We hope that, with these supplies, we will be able to help you receive quality educations as well.

We are very hopeful for your futures and the future of Guatemala. We hope that you take advantage of this opportunity to learn and to grow in life. We know that at times school may seem just like work but it is very important to learn so that you may grow up to be successful. We hope you not only use these supplies to learn and grow to the best of your potential but also that you learn how to help others and that giving back is just as important as receiving.

We wish you the very best of luck for your future and hope that your educations will be filled with excitement and wonder, just as ours are. We sincerely hope that these supplies, as meager as they are, will help improve the quality of your educations and your lives. Know that there are those throughout the world—particularly Refuge International—who truly care about your futures and educations.

American Youth for Equal Educational Opportunities

On behalf of the people of Guatemala that we so proudly serve, we'd like to say thank you to all of Refuge International's dedicated supporters!