Na’atik Mexico is a non-profit language school in Zona Maya, Mexico who are offering travellers the chance learn Spanish or Maya in one of the most culturally immersive ways – living with a local host family in a Mexican-Maya town.
The Study Abroad Yucatán (SAY) program brings travellers from around the world who are interested in learning Spanish or Maya. 10% of the price of each program goes directly towards funding Na’atik’s education programs, which includes English language classes for over 200 students from the local Maya community.
With over 70% of the region living in poverty, Na’atik saw English classes as an imperative opportunity to provide skills and confidence to a new generation of change-makers. English skills are increasingly a prerequisite for the best professional schools, universities, and even high schools in Mexico. These skills are also invaluable for jobs in the tourist industry, which is the economic driver for much of the Quintana Roo region.
In addition to regular English classes, the organisation is also able to offer 26 needs-based scholarships for students. Scholarship students have a 90 percent retention rate and excellent academic and emotional growth. Na’atik also holds a small emergency scholarship fund so that the student does not have to leave the program if their families face temporary economic hardship.
“Abraham recently started studying at a competitive, prestigious high school in Merida – on the other side of the peninsula. He told us: “I’m very grateful for my time at Na’atik. Studying English helped me get into school here and I even tested out of the first 2½ years of English!”
That head start will help him towards his goal of studying genetic engineering. He hopes to someday study abroad and work in a laboratory to help find new treatments for diseases. Knowing Abraham and his supportive family, the sky’s the limit and we’re so happy to be a part of his journey.” – John Pope, Communications Manager Na’atik
Na’atik funds much of their skills development initiatives through the SAY program, where travellers from around the world come to learn a new language and live life like a local. The 7 day program includes 18 hours of Spanish or Maya instruction, accommodation in a local homestay with a host family, three daily meals, local sightseeing tours and the chance to interact with the community of the Yucatán Peninsula.
If you can’t commit to a 7 day program, Visit.org also offers a 3 day immersion package so you can experience the best of the region while supporting the organisation.
Host families open their homes to cultural exchange and frequently say they learn as much from students as the students do from them.
“My family took me in and showed me their community and invited me to be a part of their life while I was in Carrillo and that’s an experience I’ll forever treasure. To this day I still talk to my family often. I can’t stress enough how wonderful they are and how wonderful the homestay experience is! – SAY program participant.
The name Na’atik comes from the Maya expression “To’on Na’atik” meaning “we’re understanding each other.” Seems like the perfect fit for the cross-cultural experience that Na’atik provides to travellers and their hosts.
If you would like to participate in the SAY program and support Na’atik’s education projects you can make an inquiry through this link. Alternatively if you can’t make it to Mexico but want to donate to the Maya Youth Project you can do so here.