For the past four years, Selkirk College’s Nursing students have visited the Village Cooperative of New Horizon (Cooporativa Nuevo Horizonte) in Guatemala as part of their efforts to gain an understanding of the social and economic determinants of health in a global context. This cooperative offers a unique opportunity for foreign students to learn about how this small group of Guatemalans has overcome tremendous odds, to collectively work for a better economic and political future.
This year, a member of the Guatemalan Cooperative had an opportunity to study at Selkirk’s Castlegar Campus to learn English and reciprocate the understanding between the two cultures.
Arnulfo Figueroa was chosen by his Guatemalan community to come to Selkirk to study English in order to assist the eco-tourism projects that they have started. The development of the ecotourism projects have been sponsored by the Canadian aid organization CUSO and highlight not only the geographical splendors of the Guatemalan jungle, but also the social and political history of Guatemala’s civil war, which ended in 1996.
Until Arnulfo took the English Language program (ESL) at Selkirk College, no one in the community spoke English or any other foreign language. Arnulfo has now gone back to his village to be an ambassador for tourists and teach English to elementary and high school children.
“I am very pleased with my experience here,” explained Arnulfo. “It was very helpful to learn English with the local people and students from other countries. I now feel as though I can speak English better and will be able to help my community move forward with their tourism projects.”
Because of the strong partnership between Selkirk College and the Cooperative, the college reduced Arnulfo’s tuition. In addition, Arnulfo’s airfare, books and living expenses were raised through local donations.
Nursing instructors Randy Janzen and Mary Ann Morris have been visiting the Village Cooperative of New Horizon with Selkirk’s students for the past four years. They were largely responsible for making the arrangements to bring Arnulfo to Canada .
“Arnulfo’s village in Guatemala is a cooperative made up of ex-combatants from the civil war,” explained Randy. “Its 450 members are trying to re-enter into a civil and peaceful society after 36 years of war. After living and working in the village we felt it would be beneficial if we could help individuals take steps towards new ways of living and being sustainable.”
Now that Arnulfo’s English has improved, Carthage University College in Wisconsin, which also visits the community annually with their students, has offered to sponsor Arnulfo while he obtains his Masters in Business. Arnulfo is currently working towards his Bachelor’s in Business from the University of Mariano in Guatemala. His ultimate goal is to be the Manager of the Guatemalan Cooperative and to help his community evolve and improve economically.
For more information on Selkirk College’s Nursing and ESL programs, please visit selkirk.ca/programs or call 1.888.953.1133.
First published on June 25, 2009