Derr Foundation

Giving Guatemala's Mayan Youth

Hope Through Education


We believe that

Education Empowers Generations.

The Sister Celeste Derr Foundation provides an alternative school and a scholarship program to poor young people in San Andres Sajcabaja in the Department of Quiche in Guatemala.

Established in 2006 to to support education for Guatemala's Mayan youth and to provide strategic direction and oversight to young Mayan teachers administering the program in San Andres. The program benefits more than 160 students.


By the  


How your support helps:

Teachers' Salaries

Student and Teacher Enrichment

Community Service and Support


Our Mission

Five hundred years of exploitation has made life for the Mayan population in Guatemala's rural highlands very difficult. Education holds the promise of advancement for Mayan families and the entire country; but quality education in poor rural areas is hard to find. The Derr Foundation provides carefully designed, quality instruction and scholarships to Sandres, Sajcabaja, a small, largely indigenous community in el Quche, one of the country's poorest regions.

  • It supports a flexible alternative school program customized to meet the local needs identified by teachers, parents, and students:
    – 5th-12th grade
    – Classes 2-4 days per week
    – Teachers who speak both Spanish and the local indigenous language
    – A lunch program
    – Semi-monthly support classes for families
    – Extracurricular and character building activities for families and students.
  • It funds a teacher development program customized for San Andres by Guatemalan educator volunteers.
  • It provides scholarships to students whose goals are better served by studying elsewhere and for those families who cannot afford the cost of our alternative school.
  • It funds boarding school scholarships in one of Guatemala's Mayan cultural centers for young women prepared to leave home.
  • It provides college loans at no interest, with flexible repayment terms for young people fromSan Andres with the ambition and ability to pursue higher education.



Like all of Quiche and much of the rest of Guatemala, San Andres suffered horribly during the ugly thirty-six year civil war. The army and the guerrillas terrorized the local population and the US-supported army occupied San Andres and used the local church as a jail and interrogation center and to torture and kill those they believed sympathized with the guerrillas. Peace Accords were signed in 1996, and today, Guatemala aspires to overcome pervasive poverty, corruption and crime and to secure a functioning democracy and a healthy economy. Education is key to that effort. When the violence subsided in the 1990s, Sister Celeste Derr and others began rebuilding. 

  • She restarted and expanded a primary and middle school geared to students who could not attend classes more than two days per week and who spoke little Spanish. In 2006 nine classrooms, an office and kitchen were opened.
  • She also inaugurated a scholarship program for middle school graduates who wanted to attend high school and college.
  • She secured scholarships for young women who were prepared to leave home and attend boarding school in Chichicastenango, a Mayan cultural center 2 hours away.

When Sister Celeste left San Andres in 2006, some of her supporters formed the Derr Foundation to continue her work by supporting quality teachers with good salaries and other resources and by helping them plan and provide well designed programing.

The Derr Foundation offers a program shaped by professionals and the community that the program serves and supported by those who want to encourage hopefulness and initiative among exploited and marginalized people.