Hoops Sagrado is a Washington, D.C.-based youth leadership and development nonprofit organization that gives at-risk youth from D.C. a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to spend a month during the summer in the highlands of Guatemala learning another language and culture, teaching their Mayan indigenous peers basketball skills, developing their sense of self, and gaining a new perspective on life.
Using the game of basketball as the common thread, the D.C. youth volunteers and their Guatemalan counterparts are able to not only share their love of the game, but the D.C youth learn how to communicate with, understand, and appreciate another way of life, which while different, shares many of the same challenges they face at home — racism, poverty, broken homes, lack of opportunities and social marginalization.
Over the summer, Hoops Sagrado, Spanish for sacred hoops, takes 20 to 25 low-income young adults (ranging in age from 14 to 19) from their hard-scrabble lives in Washington for a completely different experience in a rural mountainous region of Guatemala populated by indigenous people of Mayan descent.
Hoops Sagrado works directly with teachers and counselors at Washington, D.C. schools, to identify D.C. youth who can most benefit from the educational and social opportunities provided by the cultural exchange program. The students are chosen based on essays, interviews and recommendations from teachers/counselors.
On average, the program costs about $2,500 per student each year. The costs include roundtrip airfare, room and board with a Guatemalan family for one month, four weeks of Spanish immersion classes, team uniforms and shirts, supplies for coursework, intra-country travel, entrance to special events and attractions (the Mayan ruins, a professional soccer game, etc.) and other incidentals. The entire cost is covered by Hoops Sagrado. The youth volunteers are expected to provide their own spending money for gifts for family and friends.
Hoops Sagrado also raises funds to provide each Guatemalan child participating on the program with a basketball uniform, a basketball and a backpack filled with school supplies.