Prospects for Development in Guatemala with US AID Officer Bart Pogue

Bart Pogue (Photo Credit: Joe Couri)
For Father's Day Weekend, Mac Pogue of PAWAC was able to show off how much of a "proud papa" he was: and for good reason! Bart Pogue, Mac & Connie's son, is a Peoria native gone international and featured as our expert speaker on Thursday, June 14, 2018, at the Lariat Steakhouse in Peoria.

Bart received his Bachelor of Science in Secondary Education prior to starting his journey as a Peace Corp volunteer in Morocco, where he became proficient in Arabic. On returning to the United States, Bart moved to Washington, D.C. to work for American Councils for International Education.  Bart received his Master of Arts in International Development Studies from The George Washington University.  After passing USAID's Foreign Service Exam, he began language classes in preparation for his first posting in Guatemala.  Bart joined USAID as an Education Development Officer. He, his spouse Sarah, and their son Teddy have lived in Guatemala since July 2017. Bart possesses unique insight into U.S. assistance in Guatemala, and with the help of Sarah, Bart shared with PAWAC his understanding of USAID and Guatemala’s current development challenges.
Armed with data provided by USAID and the Department of State, Bart outlined the dire need for assistance in Guatemala. Guatemala’s median population age is an astounding 22 years old, and many of these young people lack both job and educational opportunities. Bart emphasized that around 60% of jobs in Guatemala exist in the informal economy, leading to widespread job insecurity.
Access to education is a challenge for many Guatemalans. Because so many jobs exist in the informal economy, the Guatemalan government struggles to bring in enough tax revenue to adequately support its public school system. Families seeking a good education for their children turn to private schools. However, the cost barrier to send a child to a private school exacerbates the long-standing issue of income inequality in Guatemala.
In Latin America, income inequality tends to favor Latinos over indigenous people due to a historical “caste” system once implemented by Spanish conquistadors and settlers hundreds of years earlier. USAID is dedicated to assisting the Guatemalan government in increasing access to quality education for indigenous Guatemalans. Bart works in this specific field, and one of his many assignments includes development in the Western Highlands where most indigenous Guatemalans live.

Around 65 people attended dinner, while an additional 25 joined us for Bart's presentation after dinner. (PC: Joe Couri)
One USAID program has been a success in this regard. USAID helped the Guatemalan government develop a method to teach young indigenous children to read in their mother tongue before transitioning to read in Spanish in second grade. While USAID currently supports two of the 21different Mayan languages in Guatemala, the program’s promising results will hopefully become adopted in more languages.
Bart addressed the issue of girls in school, and emphasized that the lens focuses on boys as well.  Since 70% of the migrants who head north are male, finding ways to educate the boys as well as the girls and to provide opportunities to use that education in Guatemala is of particular interest to USAID.
A couple of the interesting questions asked by PAWAC members and friends concerned the role of the U.S. military and remnants of the influence of the CIA.  While the  U.S.   military is still present in Guatemala, Bart was clear to point out that their mission now is helping improve the role and status of the Guatemalan military and the separation of the military from domestic policing.  He also noted that there seems to be little to no residual fears of CIA influence, a positive step in the continuing improvement U.S.-Guatemalan relations.

We loved learning more about Guatemala from part of our extended PAWAC family. Thank you to Bart Pogue and the Pogue family for sharing a wonderful evening with us!
Map of Guatemala and the Western Highlands (PC: Al Jazeera)
From left to right: Sarah Pogue, Mac Pogue, Bart Pogue, and Connie Pogue. (PC: Joe Couri)
Summarized and adapted for web by Olivia Lu.