*This is a Flexible Funding campaign. That means that even if we don´t reach our goal we get all the funds we raise. If we raise $38.000 we will be able to match a grant for the same amount from Impulsis, a Dutch joint program for small scale development projects. This way we will keep building and get really close to our goal. Thanks for your support.*
Video Produced and Directed by Daniel López Pérez and Mishka Ballarin
Music by Teru ¨Goodbye War, Hello Peace¨
Niños del Lago is a unique, non-profit youth development organization located on six acres of natural forest, overlooking Lake Atitlan in the Guatemala Highlands. Our mission is to provide opportunities to vulnerable and disadvantaged Guatemalan children so they can fulfill their potential and become positive agents of change and empathetic leaders in their communities in the future.
Once fully operational, we will provide an inspiring and empowering educational experience to over 3,000 children every year. During an annual one-week camping experience at Niños del Lago, we will provide one-on-one mentoring and educational support to help children build self-esteem, confidence and motivation. Our program follows a Mindfulness approach and includes activities that will teach children the joy of play, creative thinking through structured learning and leadership training. The tools we provide will help the children obtain a positive mindset and inspire them to work hard to stay in school so they can achieve a brighter future.
Children may return to Niños del Lago every year until the age of 16 as long as they stay in their home school program and stay in school. The Niños del Lago graduates may apply for opportunities to work alongside senior mentors in the future. Through our collaborative efforts with our La Cadena non-profit partners in western Guatemala, we will build hope and a path for positive change in the lives of the children we serve.
We are a grass-roots organization made up of board members in Guatemala, the USA and Holland. Over the past eight years, many high-skilled volunteers have invested their time to the development and implementation of the program. Today, the Niños del Lago camp facility is nearly 75% complete and our goal is to open our doors to the children in December 2013.
Our one-week camp program will introduce children to many new and engaging experiences that involve different creative and empowering activities. Central to our mentoring program is Mindfulness -- an educational technique that encourages children to quiet the mind and focus on the present. Mindfulness has been effectively used with children as a method to encourage them to acknowledge their surroundings, to encourage focus and concentration, and to help reduce depression, anxiety and stress.
When children enter the Niños del Lago program (between the ages of 7 to 11), they will receive a basic introduction to Mindfulness. One activity of Mindfulness requires one minute of silence before every meal allowing time for the children to think about the food and the labor that produced it, where it came from and about the cooks who prepared it. The children will also have the freedom to wander and experience the natural beauty of a Guatemala rain-forest.
Children will enter the Niños del Lago program between the ages of 7 and 11, and will return to Niños del Lago for new learning experiences every year. Throughout the year, our social workers will make periodic visits to our La Cadena partner organizations to monitor progress, reinforce mindfulness training and evaluate the impact our program has on the children’s learning skills, socialization and behavior. As children advance each year, they will be introduced to leadership activities and will undertake outreach to assist younger children in their school, to promote the importance of charity and volunteer activities.
As part of the Niños del Lago program, children will also enjoy excursions to a nearby nature reserve, a boat trip on the beautiful Lake Atitlan, as well as other activities to help them appreciate their natural environment In addition, children will be given the opportunity to take part in workshops in art, music, photography, theatre, gardening and sports so they will have an opportunity to express themselves creatively. Towards the end of the week, children will be encouraged to present their projects and experiences during nightly assemblies at the amphitheater.
Our Immediate Need
Currently, we are focusing on construction of our main building that is located at the heart of our six-acre forest site: El Nido (the nest) is a large, two-story building that will contain the dining halls, kitchen, meeting areas, bath houses, medical station, counselor’s break area, the camp laundry, materials distribution center and secure storage – all features necessary for the camp to function well.
Complete construction of the El Nido (the nest) - Work includes all labor and materials to complete the building including entire cement and steel skeletal structure, beams, columns, floors, interior walls, poured cement and iron roof, PVC plumbing and drains, electrical installations, kitchen installations, exterior terrace and balcony (at second level), roof-top covered utility area, finish work: plaster (interior/exterior) final floors, installation of plumbing and light fixtures, windows and doors throughout and final painting. The total cost of construction is estimated at $145,000 (USD).
The Niños del Lago camp facility has been developed with a focus on green systems and the actual construction incorporates manners through which we can conserve our six-acre natural forest for generations to come.
These ecological practices will provide teaching opportunities that will demonstrate to our young campers, as well as our staff and members of the local community, the value of green practices. Materials such as adobe bricks and river rock are aesthetically combined with industrial features for economy and strength to help withstand damage from natural disasters such as flooding and earth tremors.
We cannot open our doors to serve the needy and disadvantaged children of Guatemala until the El Nido building has been completed and furnished. We are counting on our Indigogo campaign to fund the following project.
The Niños del Lago program will make a powerful impact upon the lives of thousands of vulnerable Guatemalan children and their communities in Guatemala for generations to come. We are not trying to just fix the short term problems; rather, we are working to help solve the root causes of Guatemala’s societal problems by providing positive role models, education, and development. Through these methods, we will teach children to have a positive mindset and we will provide them with crucial tools and skills they will need in order to better their own lives. Ultimately our vision is to inspire and empower young people to achieve a brighter future, and become positive change-makers and empathetic future leaders in their communities.
Thank you for supporting our goal to complete the El Nido (nest) building before December 2013. Any amount you are able to pledge will be appreciated and warmly acknowledged.
How does Niños del Lago sustain itself and how will it remain funded after the crowdfunding campaign is over?
All of our funding to date has come from private donations, grants from Rotary International and Dutch foundations and donations from Corporate sponsors such as Coca-Cola, XpedX and the employees of Capgemini. We receive small grants from major donors and private foundations and we continue to apply for grants.
Once construction is completed and the camp is fully operational, during the three-month off-season, Niños del Lago will open for public events such as corporate retreats, seminars, conferences and family reunions, and we will receive groups of children whose parents have the financial means to pay a fee to attend camp at Niños del Lago.
How can one week of camp change the life of a disadvantaged Guatemalan child?
The educational and recreational programs are based on research conducted with at-risk youth which has demonstrated that even one week of an organized camp experience can help develop a child’s positive self-image and lead to improved attitudes, social skills and behavior.
We also will follow a Mindfulness educational approach, in order to encourage kids to appreciate the present, appreciate what they receive, and develop a sense of self-worth and gratitude. In addition, these children will get a chance to explore the beauty and nature that their country offers, while simultaneously learning the importantance of the earth and its environment.
Children who demonstrate promise and stay in their home school program are invited to return year after year, giving them an additional incentive to advance in school and stay off the streets.
How can a camping experience positively influence a regular education?
Research provides evidence that camp – a unique educational institution – is a positive force in youth development. The overall results suggest that even a minimum of one week of camp per-year typically benefits children in the following ways:
1) Children become more confident and experience increased self-esteem
2) Children develop social skills that help them make friends and learn to develop relationships
3) Children grow more independent and show more leadership qualities
4) Children become more adventurous and willing to try new things
Source: “Youth Development of the Camp Experience” project conducted by Philliber Research Associates and the American Camp Association with support from Lilly Endowment Inc. (project administration: 2001-2004)
Why the focus on Guatemala?
Guatemala has the highest illiteracy rate in Latin America. Although the last five years show progress in increasing school enrollment and reducing school absenteeism, drop-out rates continue to be extremely high. As our video confirms, there are a large number of Guatemalan children who fail first grade, and are more likely to continue failing or drop-out. There are also very low numbers of children that stay in school past the 6th grade.
What happens when the child is no longer eligible to attend camp at Niños del Lago?
For qualified Niños del Lago children, after graduation from grade school, we will provide scholarships to attend junior and senior high school. After graduation from junior high school, we will provide scholarship -- for those who qualify -- to attend a trade school. For those who graduate from senior high school -- and qualify for university, --we will provide scholarships.
What need does Niños del Lago fill that is not being filled by existing organizations?
Niños del Lago is designed to extend the work of overburdened orphanages, rural schools for indigenous youth and other institutions that are often unable to provide the motivation, social skills and confidence these children need to further their education and to aspire to productive roles within Guatemalan society.
How many children will be served by Niños del Lago?
When fully operational, Niños del Lago will receive up to 108 children every week for seven months of the year, serving over 3,000 children a year.
How do you transform the lives of Guatemala’s children?
Most of our children have never experienced the natural beauty, rich culture or potential of their native land. Niños del Lago will give them a sense of pride in their country and cultural heritage – and instill a sense of connection to a supportive community. Niños del Lago will provide a safe haven where they can dream of a life beyond poverty -- a place where role models and new experiences provide the motivation they need to succeed.
Are all the children who attend Niños del Lago poor and at-risk?
Yes, the children we will serve will come to us via our La Cadena network of NGO partners – child-welfare organizations who provide education, housing, food and full or part-time care for these children in many areas of western Guatemala.
What is the program model for Niños del Lago? How will the program work?
The educational program uses the technique of Mindfulness that encourages living in the present and being aware of one’s surroundings.
The program provides one trained university mentor for every six children, encouraging an intensive mentor-child experience. The children (ages 7-11) come to us from established orphanages, rural schools for indigenous youth and other institutions that shelter and educate Guatemala’s vulnerable children.
Through mentorship and the camp experience, children will have a chance to live outside of poverty and take a break from their often-stressful lives. This will also give them an opportunity to realize what life and education can offer and inspire them to improve their own lives based on what they’ve learned and received at camp.
Who runs Niños del Lago?
Niños del Lago was founded by Arlaine Cervantes, a successful business owner and entrepreneur in the fields of hospitality and project and real estate development.
Through a network of business colleagues and clients, Arlaine assembled an experienced and dedicated team of professionals in Guatemala, the United States and Holland to support the planning, development and implementation of Niños del Lago. Arlaine and her team are also launching ancillary organizations to help build awareness of Niños del Lago, and to help build a self-sustaining base of support.
Staffed with a group of volunteers from Guatemala, Central America, Europe and North America, Niños del Lago employs limited professional services where needed. Nearly all donations and proceeds go to funding the camp.
Is Niños del Lago affiliated with any governmental or religious agencies?
Niños del Lago is a tax exempt, not-for-profit organization registered in the United States, Guatemala and the Netherlands. We are not affiliated with any religious, political nor government group or organization.
Other Ways You Can Help
We realize that not everyone is in the position to give a monetary gift, but you can help us out just by sharing our video online through Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, LinkedIn or whichever social media outlet you prefer to use. The more people that see our video, the more they can learn about our project and the bigger impact that we can have!
You can also follow our progress or subscribe to our newsletter at www.ninosdellago.org/newsletter
Please “Like” us on Facebook or follow us on Twitter to help us get our message out and increase interest. The more people that know about us, the more support we’ll receive.
If you are interested in volunteering for Niños del Lago, we'd love to hear from you! You can volunteer at home by organizing fundraisers or helping us with research or online work. You can also come to Guatemala and share your skills and experience with us in person! We love meeting new people and collaborating with others, so please contact us through our website www.ninosdellago.org or at firstname.lastname@example.org
We are counting on you to support us so we can open our doors in 2013 to the children of Guatemala. Please be the change that makes Ninos del Lago a reality.
Thank you all so much!
For More Information
We might have left out some information you would like to know. If so, send us an email to email@example.com and we'll get back to you as soon as possible.
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During this campaign we will make updates as often as possible, so this is the place to go to follow our progress. We will also inform of our progress on our Facebook and Twitter.
Team on This Campaign:
Daniel Lopez Perez
Community and Campaign Manager
Community and Campaign Manager
US Board Member
US Fundraising Manager