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Concepción and her family are from the small city of Santiago, Atitlán. Santiago is the epicenter of the Mayan Tzutujil group, and Tzutujil is Concepción’s mother tongue. Like the majority of indigenous women, Concepción’s mother never attended school, nor did her father. Both are illiterate and unable to speak Spanish. Concepción’s mother married at 16 and began having children at 17. The predictable yet devastating cycle of poverty has produced 9 living children (2 that died under the age of 2). It took everything that both Concepción and the family had to get her through the 6th grade.

Concepción is starting the 8th grade this year and is in her second year of the Starfish One by One program. Starfish One by One provides Concepción with a partial scholarship that ensures her access to secondary school (this is provided by an individual donor). This small scholarship is a critical component of Concepción’s ongoing education. However, Concepción still faces many daunting obstacles on her path to empowerment. Her parents are unable to help her in school and the “double burden” (school fees + lost labor) that her schooling represents is a continuous strain on the family. At age 15, Concepción is quite capable of performing the regular household tasks such as childcare, cleaning, washing clothing and cooking. This stress was particularly acute in 2010 when Concepción’s mother fell ill and she was quite near dropping out of school because the family could not afford the medical and educational bills, and Concepción had to assume a larger amount of the domestic duties.

What kept Concepción and her family focused on the long-term vision for her? It was her Starfish mentor, Wendy. Wendy intervened on Concepción’s behalf and convinced the family to stay focused on the long-term vision of an education and the difference it will make.

Concepción emerged from this crisis and is thriving in middle school and in Starfish. Her grades are excellent and she is a leader in her Starfish peer group that meets weekly. It is during these weekly meetings that Concepción and her peers received the Starfish Empowerment Curriculum. This includes: Financial Literacy (last year, Concepción opened up her own savings account), Reproductive Health, Environmental Stewardship, and Social Responsibility. Concepción also volunteers at a small children’s library in Santiago. Her dream is to become a business administrator.


  • October 2015 Update from Concepcion Xep!

    Thank you to everyone who supported Concepcions scholarship! Concepcion Chonita, age 19, became the first person in her family to graduate from high school in 2014. In March 2015, she and Andrea, another Starfish graduate, opened a store in Santiago called Fempoderada, to provide a safe space for women to purchase undergarments. In addition to operating their store, both Andrea and Chonita are also enrolled in a nursing program at a local university and will successfully complete their first year this November. Chonita is also participating in the Starfish internship program for graduates, and is currently interning at a local pharmacy where she can learn valuable skills that will prepare her to become a nurse in her community. [img]/images/user/1983_2622485546663787044.png[/img] Chonita and Andrea, pictured outside of their store, Fempoderada.
  • News from Concepcion!

    Concepcion is making lots of progress and enjoys sharing in her Starfish group. In August she participated in a workshop to talk about career options and get a better idea about what she wants to do with her life. Her mentor worked with her to role play and talk about different career paths she has available and how to set goals and meet them. She is learning study skills and also about caring for her environment and taking an interest in caring for her community. You can read more about Concepcion and leave comments for her to respond to on her group blog .


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