Magda's Story

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"Working in AMA, I don’t suffer discrimination for being indigenous and speaking Mam like in other places I have worked. Here, it’s an advantage I have and I’m not rejected for being who I am. I have the opportunity to learn many new things and currently getting to practice all aspects related to by career of Business Administration is why I like my position."

Magda is a 21-year-old girl who was born and grew up in Aldea Espumpuja, a small village near San Juan Ostuncalco, with her parents, brothers, and sisters in a house made of adobe bricks and slide, built by her grandfather. Since she was young she was balancing school and work in the field, helping her father to harvest and sell different kinds of vegetables. When she finished elementary school, she had more free time to learn to knit with her mother but also to stay in the field with her father. In fact a few days a week she went with him to Xela to dig up the potatoes and clean them before their sale in the market. This task required her to leave her house at 4 am, being cold and spending most of the day in the field, suffering because of the unpredictable weather - sometimes hot and sunny and other times suddenly rainy and humid. Because of this reason, coupled with the persistent tiredness and the feeling of being dirty, Magda decided not to go on with this job but rather take advantage of this time to work in the field with her cousin as her first paid job. With the money she earned, she started to buy sweaters and shoes but she also continued to study, an opportunity that her family couldn’t give her. 

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When she was 15 years old, Magda registered for IGER, the Instituto Guatemalteco de Educacion Radiofonica, that provided her books, brought her homework every Sunday at the Institute and listened to the lessons on the radio during the week, tasks that she often didn’t fulfill coming back home late from the work. Between all the lessons, the hardest one was the Spanish class because she had never studied it but there she met a girl who could understand her Mayan language Mam and translate for her some words in the simplest way she could. Three years passed and Magda started to be so happy that, a week before her final exam, she decided to ask her father if it was possible to continue studying nursing career: his negative answer was a great blow for the girl. He thought that women weren’t supposed to study; he became convinced of this idea after he had given the opportunity of studying to her sister who didn’t finish her career to get married. This episode hurt her so much that she lost her desire of completing the final exam at IGER and her hope of having a future as a student. Luckily, her friend convinced and motivated her a lot and in the end, she did it and passed it with honors. 

The following two years Magda continued to work in the field, along with the rhythm of nature and loving it, but also realizing that she was growing up and she wanted to change her lifestyle. Therefore she thought to try her luck in the United States but when she told the idea to her father, surprisingly he said that it would have been better if she had continued to study and, even if she was disillusioned and afraid of having forgotten how to study, he registered her in a business management course in Xela, where he was willing to bring her by car only the first day. Time passed and Magda went alone to the city every Saturday, getting lost but at the same time knowing it more: she learned where to take the bus to San Juan and how to go from that point to her village by walking up and down the hills. In this way, she started to get to know Xela, a city that seemed to be really beautiful but also more dangerous and noisier than the place where she grew up. Furthermore she rapidly realized that she had two barriers: the linguistic one, because she had forgotten most of the Spanish she had learnt before, and a cultural one, reflected by the strange way in which people used to look her Mayan clothes but also because of the different rejections (without a clear explanation) she got trying to search for an internship in the city. 

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In this moment of her life, AMA appeared and everything changed: Magda had already heard of the organization because her mother was participating in the women’s circle, after having made contact with it because of stoves’ construction in her village. Her mother usually snuck out on her husband but one day lots of volunteers arrived in the village to buy textiles handmade by the women and at the end of that day, her mother had sold everything and, with the gained money, she had enough money to buy a wash basin. She also told the truth to her husband and in that moment he understood the importance of her participation in AMA. Magda had also started to realize how the organization had changed her mother’s thinking pattern, empowering her and teaching her to sell and do things that before she didn’t do; in addition she saw her so busy that sometimes Magda participated in a women’s circle in her place, where she felt comfortable thanks to a mediator who spoke her Mayan language Mam and could help her to understand all the conversations. Over time in AMA they asked Magda to make textiles and in the end, they really appreciated her work, contributing to boosting her self-confidence and trusting in herself and her skills. In addition, she was accepted to do her internship in the organization (the one that she had been searching for a long time) and her mother registered her in a midwife’s course, proposed by AMA. She continued to study both at the same time and when she finished her internship, they offered her a job as a mediator in a Mayan village and, at a later stage, minding the AMA’s textiles shop. Magda started to be really satisfied with her job and this year she has finished her studies, both the business management one and the midwife course. 

Due to her experience in AMA, she was able to change her lifestyle, leave work in the field and continue to study, that was always her biggest dream. Sometimes she stops and thinks about how her personality has also changed. When she arrived in AMA, she was afraid because she didn’t use to go out and speak Spanish all the time but she quickly realized that everyone was there to help her and take care of her and let her freely express her state of mind and her problems. Nowadays, she sees it as making new friends and this is so important for her because for years she had felt alone in her village, where nobody understood her and everybody made fun of her, simply for not understanding her decision to work in the field without buying clothes and using her money to pay for her studies. Today, thanks to this big opportunity given to her by the organization, she thinks that years of sacrifices are now rewarded and she wants to continue to work with AMA. In the future, she also would like to travel, get to know new places, learn to speak English and realize her dream: start her own textile business and also have an area in which she could continue to work as a midwife.

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