Roots & Wings International creates educational opportunities to promote development as defined by local communities. Their work is rooted in recognizing the importance of culturally responsive education that empowers students to connect their cultural identity with sustainable social and economic development.
How It Started
Roots & Wings Int’l began its work in 2004 when its founder, Erik Swanson, secured funding to donate computers and books to a school run by an international non-profit. When Erik moved to Guatemala, he was motivated in promoting education but soon realized that he did not agree with the approach that many other non-profits implemented; many international organizations were staffed and run by people not representative of the communities where they worked. Erik was convinced that sustainable development required local individuals to identify and design programs that meet the needs of their own communities.
After working for two years as the director of a junior and senior high school in rural Guatemala, Erik saw the amazing potential of the indigenous youth first hand. He became convinced that all people are incredibly capable and that education was the best tool to empower indigenous communities to break the cycle of poverty. He felt that by equipping indigenous youth with a quality education, the community could better participate in both the national and international economies. He also believed that educated individuals from the local community are better suited than foreigners to determine development needs and to promote sustainable economic growth in a manner that is sensitive to the local culture.
Impassioned by what he witnessed in Guatemala, Erik offered his students full-tuition scholarships if they went on to study at a university in their area. From this promise, the Roots & Wings Int’l scholarship program was born.