In 2001 the charity began as a scholarship system for the children of underprivileged families in Guatemala City. The idea for the project arose as a result of discussions between Eduardo Estrada Espel, a teacher in the Guatemalan public school system who for over 20 years has devoted himself to helping young people, and Phil Melling who became aware of the educational problems as a result visiting Guatemala City and contact with Jane Aitman, who had previously worked with Sr Espel in Guatemala City. In the subsequent conversations Sr. Espel identified the lack of secondary education as an area of primary need. He also suggested that the principle cause of illiteracy could only be addressed once the financial burden of attending school was completely removed.
The scholarship programme attempted to rectify these problems by subsidizing the cost of secondary education for the most disadvantaged. It allowed 15 children to remain at school after the age of eleven when, ordinarily, they would look to support their families by working on the streets. The students Sr Espel selected did remarkably well. In order to develop the scholarship initiative further into a sustainable programme with a much bigger impact, it was decided to apply for charitable trust status in the United Kingdom. Phil Melling and Jane Aitman completed this application.
In 2003 The charity Study Guatemala became Registered. Work began towards the setting up of an educational centre in the city. In order to achieve this, the charity provided financial support for the rental of a building in Zone 5 of the City. Over the summer of 2003 the building was transformed into a fully equipped school. Teachers were appointed together with a secretary and an on-site director, Senor Espel. Swansea City Council in Wales donated a substantial number of computers and printers to equip the school and supporters donated funding for computer tables and chairs. These were shipped to Guatemala City and were installed.
In 2004 the school was registered with the Ministry of Education in Guatemala City as Liceo Britanico Guatemalteco- an independent educational centre, free at the point of entry to those in need. The school opened for classes on January 12th, 2004 and is currently assisting pupils from age 11-16.
In March 2010 after incredible fundraising efforts from all the trustees and supporters of the charity, which included 2 treks in Guatemala organised by the late Chairman of the charity Phil Melling Study Guatemala achieved the great success of building its own school, which opened in March 2010. Now without the financial demands of rent, the long term sustainability of el Liceo Britanico Guatemalteco began to become a reality.
From offering education to 31 students in 2003, the Liceo Britanico Guatemalteco now has a school population of 181 pupils. They are boys and girls from the local community, and the most marginal groups. Year after year, the pupils achieve outstanding educational achievements, alongside taking part in many extra curricular activities. When they leave, students often take up professional careers or progress to University, which dramatically affects their wellbeing and that of their families.