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Guatemala Kids Smiling

Guatemala Fotokids Program

Brief Description:

Fotokids teaches photography, technology, art and design to inspire youth leadership and creativity in some of the poorest areas of Latin America. The after school program offers them vocational training creating opportunities for future employment in a global context.

In addition the students are awarded traditional academic scholarships enabling them to obtain a high school diploma or university degree. Fotokidsis organized exclusively for charitable and educational purposes under section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code, or corresponding section of any future federal tax code.

Mission Statement

For more than twenty years, FotokidsGuatemala/Honduras has used photography, graphic design and media technology as a tool for self-expression, creativity, leadership and vocational training experience to hundreds of youths from poor rural and urban areas. The majority of our students, in addition to learning employable skills with Fotokids, receive scholarships to study in traditional schools from primary education through university.


Seventy per cent of Guatemala’s population is under the age of 30 and according to UNICEF, 64% of all Guatemalan children drop out of the first grade. Half the population lives in poverty, making $2 a day, and only 3% from poor barrios finish secondary school. There are 200,000 new students graduating nation wide in Guatemala every year and only 20,000 new jobs created annually. The poor education statistics makes the education opportunities the worst in Latin America after Haiti.

children dancing

Where we work and What We Do

Founded in 1991 by ex-Reuters photographer (Nancy McGirr, Fotokids began with children living and working in Guatemala City’s vast garbage dump. Gradually expanding into other needy areas, many of them cursed by violent crime as a result of gang proliferation, the project now works with 100 plus students in 3 locations in Guatemala and with another 88 children from 2 rural poor communities in Honduras. We begin with students as young a five years old believing that the earlier you begin the process of getting a child excited about learning the better the chance that they will continue both their formal education, and the Fotokidsprogram .

Fotokids uses cameras as a tool for teaching children trapped in poverty a skill that empowers them, gives them a voice, expands their horizons, and eventually provides future employment opportunities. An integrated program, Fotokids gives scholarships to all participants covering tuition fees, medical expenses, school supplies, uniforms, etc. as a way of ensuring that they have the means to continue their traditional schooling, from primary through to university.

The photographic courses are the focus of the project. Children document the issues that surround them: living conditions, environment, work situations, family and random violence, drug abuse as well as their dreams for the future.

As the students advance in the program there is a curriculum designed not only to teach them self expression, confidence and critical thinking but also the use of current technology such as digital imaging, computer generated graphic design, video, advertising and English. The digital arts media program is more comprehensive and technical than that taught at Guatemala’s university level, thus leading to an important employment niche in a country struggling to stay afloat in the global economy.

Fotokids program runs all year round with children attending classes twice a week or more, for 3-hour sessions after their traditional schooling. Advanced students, 18 to 30 years old who have studied in Fotokids for more than 10 years, are the teachers for the younger students. Talented volunteers from around the world, as well as professionals in video and design, teach 6 month to 1-year courses in their specializations.

Fotokids Accomplishments

Since the program’s inception hundreds of children have studied with Fotokids. We have published an award-winning book, Out of the Dump, Photographs and Writings by Children of Guatemala published in the United States by Lothrop, Lee and Shepard in 1996.

Fotokids work has been exhibited in 14 different countries and advanced students have given concurrent workshops. The students have been invited to exhibit in Paris, London, Amsterdam, New York, Medellin, by leading galleries and Museums. A condition of the exhibitions is that two or more students are hosted for the exhibition openings thus giving them the opportunity to see and experience another culture. 

“I just want to earn a living this year and hope nothing bad happens to me. God bless my parents, brothers and sisters. All I wish is nothing bad happens to my family!” Marta.

“Using photography inspires the children: exposing them to dreams and the idea that there are options in life - contradicting the prevailing philosophy that one lives, works and ultimately gets tossed in the dump when you die.”
Nancy McGirr