Photo by Elissa Gershon

Las Rosas Centro Formativo Comunitario
(Youth Development Center)

The Las Rosas Center provides supportive services to children and families, offering advice to adults on parenting skills, health, nutrition, sex education and life skills. Staff provide nearly 60 at risk children with full-time formal and informal education free of charge. The teaching approach is student-centered, carefully designed to build self-esteem and give the children the skills, confidence and opportunities to become healthy and productive adults.

The Center also offers short term emergency shelter for children who flee their homes in family crises, while our social workers attempt to resolve the family conflict. If this is not possible, alternative longer term homes are found to prevent the children from beginning a life on the street.

What We Do


To create opportunities for education, job training and recreation for high risk children of the community of Las Rosas, Quetzaltenango, Guatemala to help build confidence, develop basic educational and life skills, and to prevent children from fleeing their homes and becoming "street children."

Types of Services:

  1. We offer temporary shelter to street children and children in crisis who have an urgent need for safe housing.

  2. We offer recreational and educational activities to high risk girls and boys from Las Rosas to support their formal and informal education.

  3. We offer job training activities to youth to prepare them for work so they can develop into productive adults.

  4. We provide emotional support to children in crisis and to foster the familial and social relationships of children to assist in their overall development.

Where We Work

Our preventative work is focussed in the community of Las Rosas, located on the outskirts of Quetzaltenango. It is from this neighborhood that many children fled, ending up on the streets in the center of the city. Our studies have shown that 80 percent of the children who live or work on the streets of Quetzaltenango come from Las Rosas. This community contains approximately 100 families, with about 1000 children. Families in Las Rosas are from many different parts of Guatemala, emigrating to the city in the hope of escaping rural poverty or violence. They live in poverty, without running water, sewage, education, health, or recreational services. The municipality does not have the capacity to provide even basic services such as schools or health centers.

Some children live only with their mothers and others with grandparents or other relatives -- the community exhibits extremely high rates of parental desertion, death and alcoholism. In many cases, the children do not attend school; some work in nearby cement factories, in the streets, in the fields, in bakeries or in other families caring for other children. Many others simply wander the streets, lacking productive activities to occupy themselves.

Some of their fathers work in cement factories, as taxi drivers, in the fields, on buses, or in mechanic shops, while most mothers work at home without salaries, caring for children and animals, washing and preparing food. In many single parent families and in families conflicted by alcoholism, the remaining parent often works outside the home, leaving the children without care or supervision.

Due to the lack of attention to youth and children, this community manifests much home desertion, school absenteeism and illiteracy. The free time of children who both work and do not work is not structured, and thus, much of their recreation time is unproductive if not self-destructive. Juvenile drug abuse is high among these children.

Structure of the Center

The staff team consists of a social worker, a teacher, and a facilitator. We enlist the cooperation of parents for their participation in various activities. One staff person is responsible for coordinating each of the activities in each area of concentration. We work with approximately 30 high risk boys and girls between the ages of seven and 15 in two separate groups (7-11 and 12-15).

We divide our work in three areas of concentration:

Training/Education: The aim of the training and education component is to provide students with sufficient basic literacy and numeracy skills to enable them to compete in the job market and, where possible, to eventually enter a mainstream public school. The curriculum also teaches children's rights, health, social studies, and sports recreation.

Small Business Training: In this component, we teach the children basic cooking skills and hygiene. We train them to bake cakes and cookies, which we then sell for a small profit to local businesses to offset our costs. It is a future aim that we will set up a small business making and selling cakes to provide funds for the community.

Temporary Shelter/Family Support: When a street child or a child in a family crisis demonstrates a true need, the Center provides a safe place where the child can avoid the dangers of the street as we seek to resolve their family problem or pursue other, more permanent options. When necessary, children can sleep in the center from 8 at night until 7 in the morning. In the morning, the child will be able to take a shower, wash his or her clothing, and make breakfast before leaving. If the child wishes to participate in education or training program he or she may.

Some of the children who are trustworthy will not need supervision at night. When we do not have confidence in the child(ren) or when the children are not old enough to remain alone, the workers will alternate shifts sleeping in the center and supervising the child(ren).

Donations: Economic support is urgently needed

While the Street School believes that ultimately it must be a self-supporting institution, currently it still relies, in part, on outside funding. Expenses include: rent for the space used to house educational and occupational activities; staff salaries; equipment and furniture; educational materials (such as notebooks, books, blackboards, pens, etc.), clothing (warm coats and shoes for children and adults). It's worth noting that in many ways, monetary donations are better than materials because of high customs duties and the low cost of most supplies in Guatemala. If you'd like to donate materials, please contact Michael Shorr so he can arrange for a volunteer to carry your materials to the school by hand. How do you donate money? Contact us!

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