From Coffee Farmers to College Grads: Five Young Scholars to Emerge from the Indigenous Communities of Rural Guatemala

Roots & Wings International Focused on Using Recent Donation to Provide Five Full University Scholarships to Children From Guatemala

Online PR News – 25-March-2010 – – Spokane, WA, March 24, 2010 – Could a child born in a family of coffee farmers earning as little as $2 a day become a doctor, a scientist or maybe a CEO? The poverty in Guatemala is one of the highest in Latin America, but Roots & Wings International (RWI) ( is on a mission to provide educational opportunities to children in its remote indigenous communities that comprise 71% of the country’s poor population. The key to promoting economic development and education in Guatemala is empowering the local youth, says RWI. A recent donation of $5,000 from the University of Lethbridge Rotaract University Club raised through the Club’s Fifth Annual Dinner and Silent Auction has made it possible for Roots & Wings to provide scholarships to five additional students.

“We believe that economic development begins with the community. We aim to empower local individuals to identify and design programs that meet the unique needs of their indigenous communities,” notes Erik Swanson, President and Founder of RWI. “Each year we receive 50-100 applications for our scholarship program, but are only able to commit to a handful of students because of limited funding. This $5,000 will guarantee five full university scholarships and help provide education in the remote regions of Guatemala. Our goal is to provide scholarships for degrees in engineering, medicine, computer science, accounting, law and the sciences to grow the skill sets key to local development. Thanks to University of Lethbridge Rotaract University Club, we will be creating five new doctors, engineers or other highly skilled professionals from the impoverished areas of rural Guatemala. Bilingual in Spanish and K'iche, these students will in turn provide services to the communities they live in.”

The University of Lethbridge (the U of L) is based in Alberta, Canada with campuses in Calgary, Edmonton and Lethbridge. Rotaract Club is a student-run club sponsored by Rotary International. Marie Robertson, Vice President of Finance for the University of Lethbridge Rotaract University Club, learned about RWI through a friend she met while in Guatemala.

“When we were brainstorming ideas for our club’s Fifth Annual Dinner and Silent Auction held this February, RWI immediately came to mind. Since we are all very passionate about learning and two of our executive members are education majors, education is a very important focus of our efforts,” says Robertson. “What I find most exciting about working with RWI is that it highlights just how much can be achieved by young people.”

To date, RWI has provided more than 30 university scholarships. Each of the scholarship recipients produces one traditional Mayan weaving per semester to donate to the organization. These weavings are sold and the funds applied directly to the scholarship program. To practice applying their education to development issues in their communities, the students are also required to attend monthly development meetings to discuss their struggles and aspirations.

About Roots & Wings International (RWI)

RWI was created in 2004 by Erik Swanson, a lawyer and humanitarian, in an effort to improve the lives of Guatemala’s indigenous population through education, training and technology. RWI has several donation programs including sponsoring a student for as little as $5 per month, making a one-time donation, naming a scholarship, corporate gift matching, buying coffee, shopping at Amazon for the cause, volunteering with skills and time and starting a fundraiser. For additional information about RWI, visit

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If you’d like to learn more about RWI, or to schedule an interview with Erik Swanson, please call 503-564-8831 or email him at