When Michelle was visiting her mother in Guatemala on one of her trips home, a katydid, known in Guatemala as an Esperanza,  landed on her shoulder. Katydids are small, green insects believed to be symbolic of hope. It was at that moment that Michelle decided to name her organization Esperanza.

International Esperanza Project CEO and Founder, Michelle Hollaender, first came to the United States from her homeland of Guatemala when her sons were quite young. Disturbed by the poverty and lack of progress she’d seen growing up, Michelle pledged that one day she’d return and make a difference – to use the privilege she had found in the U.S. to help children like her own live a better future. 

In 2017, Michelle founded the International Esperanza Project with the mission of inspiring hope in people in the developing world through healthcare, community infrastructure and education projects. Since then, IEP has accomplished the following milestones in the most remote and poverty-stricken regions of Guatemala:

  • Provided medical and dental care with 8,693 patient encounters
  • Prescribed 661 pairs of glasses
  • Performed 569 surgeries
  • Installed more than 1800 smokeless stoves and water filters. 

Much of this work is done through the work of teams of volunteers from countries around the world, including the US, Mexico, Canada, France, Brazil, and Portugal.

By connecting donors in the United States with those most in need in Central America, IEP is realizing Michelle’s pledge and forging a path to greater change.

International Esperanza Project Services

Installation of wood burning, smoke-free stoves

Most Guatemalan families cook on open fires — essentially campfires in their one to two room home.  Installing vented stoves have many positive effects:

  • Decreases risk of burns
  • Improves respiratory and eye health with reduced exposure to smoke
  • Reduces the amount wood needed
  • Women of the house can spend more time with their children or earning an income for the home.
  • Less smoke in the home improves lung health

Surgical and Clinical Services

Many people in rural Guatemala have little or no access to healthcare.  

  • IEP clinic teams provide care from general practitioners, pediatricians, pulmonologists, and many other specialists as well as dental and eye care.  Surgical teams are composed of   basic and specialized care medical and dental care.  
  • Surgical teams can include any number of specialists such as general surgeons, eye surgeons, maxillofacial specialists , plastic and gynecological surgeons. 
  • In the case of one very complicated cleft palate repair, the patient was transported to Dallas for life-changing procedures. 
  • In addition to administering medical support, IEP has found ways to provide speech therapy via Zoom with a speech pathologist in the US. 

Educational Support

Many children in rural Guatemala do not continue education after the 6th grade, impacting the county’s ability to grow and become self-sufficient. Just by chance, IEP “adopted” a school just down the road from the property where the stove and medical trip participants stay.  

There was extra food at the end of one of the trips and the staff in Guatemala decided to give it to the school. From this first action, IEP has transformed the school into a thriving center for education — from preschool to its first high school graduation class — by utilizing online courses and tablets.  

The school has grown from 200 students to about 500. Michelle and staff convinced the cell phone carrier in Guatemala to fund additional buildings, increasing the number of classrooms from 5 to 10 (including a fully equipped computer lab), and to provide internet service to the school.  

The owner of the land adjacent to the school property has “donated” a parcel to IEP to build a trade training center for adults and older children.  Classes will include sewing, cooking, restaurant services and English. 

Although this is only one community and one school, its success is a proven model of how education can transform rural communities. The belief holds that educating Guatemala is the only viable solution to their challenges.  IEP is also committed to educating the wealthy of Guatemala about charity and sharing with their own people through philanthropy in order to establish a more lasting impact.

If you’re interested in becoming an IEP Partner, join the MedSys Group team and other corporate groups which have an ongoing commitment to contributing time and resources to the continued success of the International Esperanza Project.