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48 Reviews
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October 6, 2013

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October 6, 2013

I am a retired educator and current photographer. I was the guest of Avivara in Feb. 2013 and was able to visit 4 of the 11 schools that they are assisting while I was in Guatemala. These schools were in very poor remote mountain villages where access to quality education has not been a priority. Because of the sustained effort to empower the teaching staffs at these schools, not by dictating what they should do, but rather by listening to the needs of the individual schools expressed by the teachers and administrators, Avivara has made a lasting, highly positive impact on the lives of the students and the school community in these villages. Contributions such as providing desks and chairs to a school where the students were sitting on the floor, securing white boards where there were none in any class room, donating computer labs and software so that the students can learn computer skills and connect to the greater world and no longer be isolated in their villages, to bringing visiting teachers from the US to give science demonstrations lessons, and providing current textbooks and supplies to classes where the teachers had nothing provided by the country's Department of Education. Avivara is also providing scholarships to students that have a desire to pursue a college education and bring that knowledge back to improve their communities.

Ways to make it better...

If I had to make changes to this organization, I would...

I would change nothing. Their mission and the policies that they have established for how the organization functions has been well thought out and implemented. This organization has sought out local Guatemalans to serve on their board of directors and act as consultants and liaisons with the schools that they work with.

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Will you volunteer or donate to this organization?

Definitely

How much of an impact do you think this organization has?

Life-changing

When was your last experience with this nonprofit?

2013

October 6, 2013

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October 6, 2013

I spent about a week volunteering with Avivara in one of their many schools. The more time I spent talking to the children and teachers, the more I realized what an amazing job they really do. From providing school supplies and books to building libraries and bathrooms, Avivara is an extremely important non-profit in the highlands of Guatemala. Apart from funding schools, they also provide scholarships for high school and university students. Avivara manages to give all of tees services while working on a pretty tight budget. Very little money goes to the administration. However, the positive changes that they have made are unmeasurable.

Ways to make it better...

If I had to make changes to this organization, I would...

I only wish that they had a larger budget to work with.

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Would you volunteer for this group again?

Definitely

For the time you spent, how much of an impact did you feel your work or activity had?

A lot

Did the organization use your time wisely?

Very Well

Would you recommend this group to a friend?

Definitely

When was your last experience with this nonprofit?

2013

October 5, 2013

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October 5, 2013

I am an adult who co-led a group of teenagers to Guatemala this last summer and we spent a few days volunteering with Avivara. I was incredibly impressed with this organization. Gary, Ann and Gustavo have a deep passion for promoting education among the youth of Guatemala which is evident in every action they do. Their priority of working with individual schools and youth to promote each ones' goals, instead of imposing their own ideas demonstrates clearly the love and respect that they have for those they serve. Additionally, their emphasis on not just volunteering but on educating the visiting youth on the systemic causes of injustice, especially as they pertain to the education system in Guatemala, gives context to the service they are providing. Trips and volunteer opportunities were well-organized and run and very safe and efficient. Working with them was an incredible experience.

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Would you volunteer for this group again?

Definitely

For the time you spent, how much of an impact did you feel your work or activity had?

Life-changing

Did the organization use your time wisely?

Very Well

Would you recommend this group to a friend?

Definitely

When was your last experience with this nonprofit?

2013

May 23, 2013

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May 23, 2013

I was in Guatemala in May of this year - the latest in many trips there over the past 9 years. During that time, I have been involved in 2 humanitarian projects and been exposed to several others. As a result, I have become convinced that one of the keys to helping the people of the rural areas (and in particular, the people from an indigenous background) is education. Anyone who has spent any amount of time in these areas knows that far too often, families cannot afford to have their children attend school past the sixth grade and sometimes not even that long. A friend (with similar experiences) had discovered Avivara through their website, told me about it and we were both quite interested. Based on information from the website, we felt that Avivara was a good project with the right intentions, very transparent in respect to their financial affairs, and with sustainable goals.

I contacted Gary (Avivara’s Executive Director) some time prior to my trip and he indicated he would be pleased to meet with me when I was in the Antigua area. I was travelling with my grand-daughter (a university student studying to become an art therapist) and called Gary from Antigua expecting to meet with him for a brief discussion. Much to our delight, he offered to pick us up and take us to some of the locations where Avivara is active. He and his wife Ann arrived early in the morning at the house where we were staying and off we went. After a stop to pick up Gustavo (who is the Guatemalan Project Director for Avivara) we were off to three of the rural villages to visit the schools there.

At the schools, we met the Directors (Principals) and several teachers, and saw some of the direct results of Avivara's impact. One initiative that struck me as unique was seeing a large banner on several of the school walls with that individual school's mission statement. I think it's very unlikely that the most of the schools would have thought of doing this without the urging and guidance of Avivara. What a great way to get the school staff focused on what they hope to accomplish with their students. Gary also spoke of sponsoring a forum at the end of each year where all the directors get together and compare notes. At this meeting, they are encouraged to examine their accomplishments over the past year and to set goals for the future. I can imagine how thankful the directors must be for this opportunity.

We spent most of the day with Gary, Ann and Gustavo and talked a lot about their experiences, successes, stumbles, lessons learned, etc. We were also able to witness first-hand how they were welcomed with genuine warmth and respect at the schools we visited and the obvious physical results of Avivara’s involvement with those schools (improved facilities, computer classrooms, etc.)

My impression after a day with the project is that Gary, Ann and Gustavo have taken the time and done the research (often at great personal sacrifice and hardship) to learn what the communities need and (more importantly) want. Then they have worked with the community to provide it. Bottom line - a great project, very well done! I have no hesitation recommending Avivara to anyone looking for a way to help those less fortunate.

Bob Goodwin

If you have any questions, you can contact me at senorskipper@hotmail.com.

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Will you volunteer or donate to this organization?

Definitely

How much of an impact do you think this organization has?

A lot

When was your last experience with this nonprofit?

2013

March 17, 2013

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March 17, 2013

I learned of Avivara through my sister and brother-in-law, who have been working with and supporting this group fo more than 7 years. My wife and I met Gary, Ann and Gustavo in 2013 when we visited Guatemala and had the opportunity to visit a couple of schools that Avivara works with. Avivara is committed to partnering with and supporting local rural schools, as opposed to coming in and telling them what they need to do. This truly is a committed group.

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Would you volunteer for this group again?

Likely

For the time you spent, how much of an impact did you feel your work or activity had?

A little

Did the organization use your time wisely?

Very Well

Would you recommend this group to a friend?

Definitely

When was your last experience with this nonprofit?

2013

February 11, 2013

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February 11, 2013

I found Avivara while searching for an internship in which to conduct field research for my masters' research/thesis. My research is on teacher perceptions of bilingual intercultural education in Guatemala, cultural identity of indigenous children and language as influential to cultural and academic development. When I read through Avivara's website and saw their mission, I knew instantly that I wanted to work with the organization. Their mission to improve access to and quality of education for rural communities in Guatemala couldn't have aligned more perfectly to my passion and future career as an international development practitioner in the field of education. After initial contact with Gary and Ann, the rest was history and I worked with them for two months last summer (2012).

I worked as a teacher's assistant in San Jose El Yalu, and although challenging, the experience was fulfilling, fun and life-altering. I worked extensively with one first grade teacher, learned every student by name and where they were academically, and spent more time with the children who needed extra attention. Although I was only in the school for a little over a month, the progress made by one little girl in particular was so rewarding. She was an introvert and did not speak, read or write much, but after working with her a little each day, she eventually could pronounce and write a few letters!

What I love the most about Avivara, is Gary, Ann, and Gustavo's true dedication and commitment to improving the quality of education for every school, teacher and child with whom they work. Their love for what they do is infectious and evident in how well they know every family and teacher. The schools aren't just numbers or projects, they are individuals, families, communities. Quality is more important than quantity. Additionally, Gary and Ann were extremely supportive in helping me become acclimated to Antigua and the surrounding communities, and were always available for any questions or concerns. I would without a doubt recommend working with Avivara, and hope for the opportunity to work with the organization in the near future!

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Would you volunteer for this group again?

Definitely

For the time you spent, how much of an impact did you feel your work or activity had?

A lot

Did the organization use your time wisely?

Quite well

Would you recommend this group to a friend?

Definitely

When was your last experience with this nonprofit?

2012

August 21, 2012
1 person found this review helpful

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August 21, 2012
1 person found this review helpful


I first came into contact with Avivará two years ago while studying Spanish in La Antigua, Guatemala. Before arriving, I had searched the internet for a non-profit organization with education as its main focus and was directed to Avivará. When I responded to the "Communicate with Us" with my
email address, I was pleasantly surprised to hear back the next day from Ann Austin, one of the founders of the organization. We quickly worked out the arrangements so that we could meet when I got to Antigua. Being an ELL/ESL teacher, I was delighted to learn that I could volunteer in the after-school program that Ann and Gustavo Valle, both teachers, were running in a nearby village. I loved my time with the children in La Escuelita, but Ann and Gustavo also brought me to several rural schools supported by Avivará. This experience touched my heart in a very powerful way because I saw the harsh realities of life- and school- in the Guatemalan countryside.

I also learned about Avivará’s scholarship program, and how they provide supplies to schools based on what the teachers themselves rate as their most urgent needs. While Ann and Gustavo do most of the teacher and school interaction, Gary Teale, Ann’s husband, is in charge of financial oversight and accountability for Avivará. Together, the three have created a highly effective organization for achieving their mission to support the needs of rural schools. This was a short but very powerful introduction to the mission of Avivará, and I knew that this was just the kind of organization I wanted to support financially, as well as with more volunteer work in the future.

This summer I was privileged to return to Guatemala for five weeks and again work with Avivará. During my first week, I helped in the after-school program and attended scholarship meetings with Gustavo and Ann, the students, and their parents. These meetings were emotionally very moving as both students and parents shared their hopes and dreams for the future as well as the hard work, the challenges, and the sacrifices required to pursue an education that we in the United States often take for granted. I saw clearly how valuable the scholarship program is, and also the student accountability mechanism that Avivará has built into its program through these meetings.

The highlight of my stay was volunteering in the school in El Yalú. I spent one week in a first grade classroom assisting the classroom teacher and familiarizing myself in general with the teachers and students and the school day. After my orientation week, I began teaching English classes in the third through sixth grades. Students and teachers were very friendly and eager to participate and made me feel very welcome. The teachers also showed me the areas in the English curriculum in which they wanted me to focus, which made lesson planning much easier. I felt that the school community, including the director, the teachers, and the students, had enthusiastically embraced me and made me feel welcome. I can honestly say that my experiences in the classroom were joyful, and I felt a real sense of sadness when it was time to say good bye.

For me, the heart of successful volunteer work is knowing that we receive much more than we give as we meet new people, different cultures and languages, and enter into new situations. I experienced a dedicated teaching staff working in a remote location, enduring a lengthy daily commute by bus, working with meager resources and students who have huge learning obstacles to be overcome, and doing all of this with a cheerful, loving, and positive spirit. They taught me, not only strategies for keeping students engaged and the power of handmade teaching materials, but the power of the human spirit to transcend difficult circumstances. For all that I received this summer, I say a heart-felt thank you to the El Yalú community and to Avivará for bringing us together. I know that I have grown so much, not only as a teacher, but as a person, and I hope very much to return next summer and continue what I have begun. ¡Muchísimas gracias!





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Would you volunteer for this group again?

Definitely

For the time you spent, how much of an impact did you feel your work or activity had?

Life-changing

Did the organization use your time wisely?

Very Well

Would you recommend this group to a friend?

Definitely

When was your last experience with this nonprofit?

2012

June 9, 2012

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June 9, 2012

While on an educational research trip to the Antigua area I had the chance to meet Gary, Ann, and Gustavo, Avivara's co-founders.  I was Immediately impressed with their inspired dedication to their mission of serving the indigenous rural areas with much needed educational supplies and infrastructure support. After observing Ann's multi-level homework-helper after-school program in San Pedro, I joined Ann, Gary, and Gustavo on a field trip to three of the rural schools Avivara supports. This experience left an indelible impression of the way beauty and poverty coexist in rural Guatemala.  The children and teachers were kind and generous and gladly extended open arms to our somewhat disruptive visits. It became obvious that Avivara's help in these impoverished places was lovingly appreciated and is making a significant difference in these student's lives and in their teacher's ability to more effectively promote learning in the classroom. With Guatemalan public school system drastically underfunded, particularly in the indigenous impoverished areas, Avivara has stepped up and provided crucial supplies, support and hope for a better future for the most needy. Education can be a way out of impoverishment and Avivara is in place and in a place to make that happen. There's much more work to be done. 

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How does this organization compare with others in the same sector?

Very Well

How much of an impact do you think this organization has?

Life-changing

Will you recommend this organization to others?

Definitely

When was your last experience with this nonprofit?

2012

June 8, 2012

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June 8, 2012

I found Avivara while conducting field research for my master's dissertation. My dissertation is on education for impoverished children within Guatemala.

In the United States, we are told that if we work hard in school we can become anything. We also believe that education opens doors to
a fantastic life. In guatemala however, many children, especially from impoverished rural areas can only hope for a few years of basic schooling before embarking on a lifetime of manual labor in the farmlands of guatemala. Projects like Avivara are now in place to help these children dream beyond their present means. 

Avivara is an excellent nonprofit that tries its best to help children in complete poverty have better schools where there is a lack of funding. It was through Avivara that I was able to really understand the bigger picture. They connected me to several people for interviews and tours of three of the schools that they work with -- El Yalu, El Rosario, San Jose Pacul.

I am truly thankful for their help and the opportunities they provided me for my research. I hope in return my research can help the organization and the children which I have met while being here in Guatemala. 


More feedback...

How does this organization compare with others in the same sector?

Very Well

How much of an impact do you think this organization has?

Life-changing

Will you recommend this organization to others?

Definitely

When was your last experience with this nonprofit?

2012

April 12, 2012

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April 12, 2012

My daughter and son-in-law (Kristin and Danny) visited AVIVARA a couple of years ago. They have wonderful reports about the dedicated staff and the impact they are making on the disadvantaged children in the area. Donations made to this organization are utilized efficiently and effectively.

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Was your donation impactful?

Definitely

How likely is it that you would recommend that a friend donate to this group?

Definitely

How likely are you to donate to this group again?

Definitely

When was your last experience with this nonprofit?

2012

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