Prior to founding Ak’ Tenamit in 1992, Steve Dudenhoefer owned a successful interiorscaping business in South Florida. In 1990, he decided to visit Guatemala to discover why many of his employees, Mayans from Guatemala, had immigrated to the US to work and sent every penny they earned back home. He met people who lived on $1 a day, children without schools, mothers without vital medicine for their babies. Deeply affected by this experience, he returned home, sold his businesses and started Asociación Ak’ Tenamit in 1992 with the help of local village leaders. Today Ak’ Tenamit is run entirely by the Q’eqchi people, and Steve remains involved as Chief Technical Adviser, assisting managers and the Board but concentrating on fundraising and networking.
In the same year that Ak’ Tenamit was founded, Steve’s friends and family founded The Guatemalan Tomorrow Fund to create a mechanism for raising funds for the project.
1992: Three foreign volunteers and Q’eqchi’ community leaders founded Ak’ Tenamit to improve education in the Rio Dulce region. At the time there were only a handful of elementary schools in the region, few students completed 6th grade, teachers were poorly trained, and school buildings were dilapidated at best. Local volunteer brigades began to improve village elementary schools through teacher training and donating school supplies. They also began to build the project’s clinic.
1994: Ak’ Tenamit launches the UN program “We Must Educate the Girls” to encourage girls to stay in school. It now works to improve education at 30 village schools.
1997: We opened the region’s first secondary school with 17 students, all boys, in response to the rising demand for post-elementary education.
1999: 6 families send their daughters to our secondary school. These girls are the first females to join our vocational school.
2001: The region’s first high school, the Father Tomas Moran Education Center, is inaugurated with 134 students, including 34 girls.
2002: Ak’ Tenamit develops a handicraft cooperative in the villages and opens a restaurant and fair-trade gift shop on its site to provide internship opportunities for students and income for the school.
2003: A student-operated restaurant, Bugamama, is opened in the town of Livingston to generate funds for the school.
2004: Ak’ Tenamit celebrates its first graduation at the Father Tomas Moran Education Center (14 graduates).
2006: Ak’ Tenamit expands its health programs to reach 35 villages and 10,000 people.
2007: Enrollment rises to 350 students. Of the 25 graduates, half are girls.
2009: Enrollment rises to nearly 500 students. 219 are girls. Ak’ Tenamit begins plans to build a second secondary school in Cancuen, Guatemala to meet the demands for secondary education in other parts of the country.
2010: Ak’ Tenamit opens new student-run restaurants in Río Dulce’s Castillo de San Felipe , a second restaurant-school and a tourist information center in Livingston. 104 students graduate with highschool degrees in sustainable tourism and well being.