Together we make a difference

Frequently Asked Questions

Why the name Roots & Wings Int'l?
Where does Roots & Wings Int'l work?
Where does my donation go?
Why Guatemala?
Do the students study in Guatemala or in the U.S.?
Why Coffee?
How do students work and go to school at the same time?
Is Roots & Wings Int'l part of a larger organization?
Does Roots & Wings Int'l promote education among young women?
What are the requirements of students?
Is Roots & Wings Int'l affiliated with a church?
How does Roots & Wings Int'l select students?
How do students transition from subsistence farming to a profession?
Do you need volunteers outside the U.S.?

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Why the name Roots & Wings Int'l?
The word “roots” reflects our commitment to valuing the culture of our students.  The word “wings” reflects the opportunities that become available with quality education.  “Roots & Wings Int'l” communicates our mission of using education based in our students’ culture to create opportunities for their future. [top]

Where does Roots & Wings Int'l work? We work in Southwest Guatemala in the mountains of the Boca Costa.  Our office is located in the village of Pasac in Nahuala, Solola, approximately 3.5 hours southwest of Guatemala City.  We serve over a dozen communities but we focus our efforts in the region surrounding our office to ensure students have access to our counseling services in their native language, K'iche', and are able to participate in our monthly development meetings. [top]

Where does my donation go?
Over 90% of your contribution goes directly to funding projects. The remaining goes to administration. To date, our administrative operation has been run entirely by volunteers in the United States.

In Guatemala, we have three employees who are indigenous Guatemalans living in the same community and coming from the same socio-economic background as our students.  They are a college counselor, a tutor, and a general office administrator.  They provide counseling to our scholars and other youth in the region, plan monthly development meetings attended by hundreds of people from the communities, and provide the groundwork for everything we do locally. We consider their positions to be part of the programming and not overhead. [top]

Why Guatemala?
Guatemala is a unique Latin American country in that it has a majority indigenous population.  Indigenous groups make up 60% of the country, yet suffer disproportionately from the extremely low human development indicators found there.  Guatemala has the highest rate of malnutrition in Latin America and the 6th highest rate of malnutrition in the world.  There is a huge deficit of education because the government fails to provide public junior and senior high school.  Sixty percent of the country does not graduate from the 6th grade and rural communities suffer from up to 70% illiteracy.  Roots & Wings Int'l believes that investing in education has the potential to make a significant impact in the lives of those living in rural indigenous communities. [top]

Do the students study in Guatemala or in the U.S.?
Our program is designed to promote social and economic development as defined by the very communities where we work.  We believe that individuals within the community are best situated to identify needs and promote solutions for sustainable development for their own communities.  Accordingly, all of our students study in cities near their village and remain vested in their communities in Guatemala. [top]

Why Coffee?
The region in Guatemala where we work is made up of dozens of coffee-producing communities.  Although there is high international demand for the shade-grown organic coffee produced there, the average coffee farmer earns less than $2 per day.  Because we believe that it is important for communities to have ownership over their own development, we believe it is appropriate to reinvest coffee proceeds back into the communities that grow it.  By using coffee proceeds the communities are truly investing in their own future. [top]

How do students work and go to school at the same time?
The vast majority of university programs in Guatemala are weekend programs.  Students work throughout the week and study on the weekends.  Although most of our students study in these weekend programs, those who are studying medicine and law work in the mornings and attend classes in the evenings throughout the week. [top]

Is Roots & Wings Int'l part of a larger organization?
Roots & Wings Int'l is a 501(c)(3) tax-exempt organization founded in the United States.  Although Roots & Wings Int'l is an independent organization, it works alongside Raíces y Alas Guatemala, a sister non-profit organization founded in Guatemala.  The founder, Erik Swanson, serves as the president of both boards, but the board of Roots & Wings Int'l is made up of Americans while the board of Raices y Alas is made up of Guatemalans.  Working together, the two organizations are able to benefit from the access to capital and financial accountability of the United States, while remaining rooted in and guided by the local culture of rural Guatemala. [top]

Does Roots & Wings Int'l promote education among young women?
Roots & Wings Int'l strives to have equal representation of young men and young women in our university scholarship program.  Unfortunately, families in these rural regions still fail to offer their daughters the same access to education as they do their sons at the elementary, junior high and high school levels.  Accordingly, there are fewer female students that qualify to enter into university.  However, Roots & Wings Int'l stresses the importance of higher education for girls as essential for community development.  The young women currently in our program are strong community leaders and we believe that their educational achievements will encourage other girls in the area to pursue an education. [top]

What are the requirements of students?
Students are expected to maintain an 80% grade point average.  Understanding that our students come from extreme poverty and are the first in their families to study beyond elementary school, we do not enforce the minimum strictly.  If a student drops below 80% they will be placed on academic probation, receive academic tutoring and will be encouraged to bring their grades back up the following semester or face a reduction in the scholarship amount.

All students are required to attend Roots & Wings Int'l monthly development meetings.  These meetings provide our students space to discuss their struggles and their aspirations while also providing an opportunity to apply their education to development issues in their communities.

Finally, all students are required to produce one traditional Mayan weaving per semester to donate to Roots & Wings Int'l.  These weavings are sold and the funds are applied directly to the scholarship program. [top]

Is Roots & Wings Int'l affiliated with a church?
Roots & Wings Int'l is not affiliated with any church or political organization, and we do not promote any religious or ideological perspective.  Our goal is to encourage students to develop their own world view based in their own culture and life experience. [top]

How does Roots & Wings Int'l select students?
Roots & Wings Int'l publicizes its scholarship program through word of mouth, radio announcements, and flyers posted in over a dozen villages.  Those who are interested must submit a completed application form, two letters of recommendation, and answers to four essay questions. 

Our scholarship selection committee is made up of two community leaders and our counselor.  The selection committee selects recipients based on their financial need, academic promise, and commitment to promote development in their own community.  No family members of the selection committee are eligible to participate in our scholarship program. [top]

How do students transition from subsistence farming to a profession?
All of our scholars are expected to find employment to cover the cost of books, supplies, transportation and registration fees.  This is a very intentional aspect of the scholarship program.  The skills gained by working in a business setting - keeping track of money, serving customers, learning about business finance and operations, etc. - help our students learn how to set goals and prepare for their own future. [top]

Do you need volunteers outside the U.S.?
We have volunteer opportunities in Guatemala. Volunteers working there would have to be incredibly independent, self-motivated, and finance all of their own activities.

These volunteers would have to speak Spanish and have some skill set that would make their presence meaningful. This would be a valuable opportunity for someone working on a mini-documentary; a person with experience in PR who could work as a local correspondent and reach out to local and online audiences; or a person with experience in blogging who could document their experience and attract donors. [top]

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