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Samuel Coc Yal, 25

2009 Graduate — Studied Rural Wellbeing — Field Tech Guatemalan Nonprofit APROSARSTUN

Samuel Coc grew up in the village of Rosario de Sarstun, near Guatemala’s border with Belize, one of nine children of a subsistence farmer who sometimes works as a farm hand for landowners in his area. His father never went to school, and is illiterate, but he wanted Samuel to study, because he said there is no longer enough land for poor people to farm.

“When I started studying at Ak’ Tenamit., I felt a change happen. I was suddenly proud to be indigenous and I gained a vision of what I wanted to do with my life,” Samuel said.

As a student, he participated in the creation of APROSARSTUN, a nonprofit organization founded by Ak’ Tenamit students to promote reforestation and sustainable development in the watershed of the Sarstun River. In 2010, he was hired by the US nonprofit Ecologic to promote environmentally friendly projects in the area’s Mayan communities. Ecologic was one of the first organizations to fund APROSARSTUN. Samuel now works full time for APROSARSTUN promoting watershed management, reforestation, construction of energy efficient wood stoves, and other development projects in 12 Q’eqchi Maya villages.

“I’m very grateful to Ak’ Tenamit to have given me this opportunity. If it hadn’t been for Ak’ Tenamit, I would never have been able to study,” he said. “I would like to study agronomy at a university, but I want to continue working for the good of my people,” he said. Samuel explained that two of his brothers graduated from Ak’ Tenamit and are now leaders in their community. "Our father is proud of us. He shares our desire to help the communities.”