Ann, Gary, and Gustavo are dedicated to the people of Guatemala. They create a relationship with the entire community - students, teachers, and families. They empower the community to determine the needs, set the priorities, and then assist where those needs are. Awesome organization dedicated to education and justice for all!
Creating happiness, empowering children, families, teachers. No one could ask or expect more from an NGO. I know the village where Ann and Gary live, and have seen first hand the results of their efforts and the true love and esteem in which they are held by their friends and neighbours.
Avivara is doing hard and much needed work in Guatemala. I am connected to Avivara as a friend, volunteer, donor, and person similarly interested in social and economic justice in Guatemala. Helping young people, particularly in rural areas, access meaningful education is critical for improvement of the humans rights situation in Guatemala and all of Latin America. It is not complicated--knowledge is power, as it always will be. Education for young Guatemalans means better understanding the history and political context of their country and current injustices. It probably means being able to analyze and criticize and communicate dissent more effectively. Avivara works hard, uses resources efficiently, deeply loves the teachers and students they help, and is one of the most dedicated and passionate non-profits I have ever seen. Avivara changes kids lives, helps teachers, and ultimately is improving social justice in Guatemala.
We chose Avivara as the recipient of an annual fundraising event we hold called Ride for Literacy. The organizations we choose are always from Guatemala as our dear son Luis was born there.
2 years ago, while researching all of the many literacy groups in GT, Avivara stood out. Their approach to literacy is quite unique in its scope. We appreciate how their focus is directed on the youth both while still in school through teacher education, after school programs, and school renovation projects...as well as to support older students in continuing their education through scholarships and having personal relationships with each of the recipients.
We had the opportunity to visit Gary and Ann Austin last year while in Guatemala. They are truly living their values and prioritize their work at every turn.
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.
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.
If you have any questions, you can contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
I met Gary and Ann of Avivara through a friend and ended up visiting their headquarters while traveling in Guatemala in 2011. While visiting their home I was struck by their dedication: rooms filled with supplies being packaged for distribution to schools, photos of the children they serve, and a clear passion for their work. Furthermore, I was very impressed by the amount they accomplish with limited funding. Avivara is a great example of the difference that two dedicated people can make in improving our world. I highly recommend this non-profit and hope that they are able to expand their work in the future.