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June 27, 2014

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June 27, 2014

I guarantee you will be changed forever working with Xela AID to give a "hand-up" and not the proverbial "hand-out". The results are evidenced by the houses and schools being built. The leaders being trained to take care of those in their community. The education for better health and nutrition is helping the children become more confident and simply do better in school. It was so satisfying to work with these happy children. They are so interested in learning and trying new things.

The women are becoming even more literate and better able to take care of their families. They are being shown how to create micro businesses and either help support, or become the bread winner for their family. It is so empowering.

I was fortunate enough to have my sixteen year old daughter volunteer with me. Every once in awhile I would stop for a moment to watch the wonder, and see the sparkle in her eyes as she connected, played and shared with the children. She worked with all the other "grown-ups" on different projects like slinging concrete blocks helping to build a house for four orphans, assisting with testing and giving out eyewear for those that could not see well, and helping in the art class for the children.

The most wonderful outcome was on our last day, she wanted to sponsor a little girl so she would be able to complete her schooling. I was overjoyed.....I had already decided we would do that but it was even more meaningful to have her bring it up and we could share it with her "new sister" as she called her. She never left our side the rest of the day! My daughter is going to babysit, rake lawns or other things to make money to help sponsor her. She wants to be partially responsible for her personally. Talk about a life changing experience for my daughter and how proud I am of the choices she is now making. Her eyes have been opened and her heart has been touched because of Xela AID.

We will be going on more trips to visit (our new sponsoree) and help in many more ways. Maybe next time I'll get to help put in water filters in more of the homes like some of the others on our team did this trip. That is why I think Xela AID is so special...they are there in the community for the looooooong haul. Twenty two years and counting, not a once and done.

Thank you Xela AID for adding to our family through the awesome group members we worked with and all the new friends we made!

Till we see you all again, (soon)

Ways to make it better...

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

Make so many more aware of this amazing organization!!! Somehow get them on more peoples radar so there could be more funds coming in....so we could effect more change.

More feedback...

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?

2014

June 26, 2014

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June 26, 2014

Now is the time for confession--I am still seeking balance after this life-changing experience. I've experienced life-changing experiences before; nothing before like this. My husband Glen and I work at living a life which is aware of the plenty which those of us living in the US have by consuming less, 'living simply so that others may simply live.' Now again I am keenly aware of the accidents of birth.

Just living in that climate, up high in the 'cloud forest,' as our Costa Rican colleague called it, is challenging. Nothing ever really dries! In the centuries old traditions of the Mayan people, the weaving, is of cotton. The women (in the village of San Martin) make a length of beautiful fabric, then wear it as a skirt, wrapped around their bodies more than 1-1/2 times, tied tightly at the waistline with a doubled around sash woven of more heavy cotton. Very beautiful textiles. Always damp.

These people are so grateful for the assistance provided by Xela Aid that they do not question our motives at all. There is no bitterness or resentment, or begging for more. And they see Xela Aid volunteers 3 to 4 times per year, for the past 22 years. They see our willingness and respond and we see their willingness and respond. Reina seemed to want to find a place in my heart, or perhaps I wanted to find a place for her there. Both, and both have succeeded! It is a marvel I will reflect on for the rest of my life.

Now a few words about such a well-thought out and organized trip. It seems to be designed so that working people can take 6 days of their vacation time only, or 5 days and a sick day, easy to work into your schedule. The trip starts in beautiful Antigua, moves on to 4 days of organized yet flexible work with the people of San Martin, then ends in gorgeous Lake Atitlan.

The 4 days of work is divided into mornings and afternoons. The San Martin people cooked us hot delicious lunches each day--some with Asian influences, others more traditional corn tortillas (black and yellow corn), chicken, and beans. Always the beans! Each lunch was punctuated by a different salsa, from mild to hot, with very different ingredients. The work ranged from hard physical work of building a house, to distributing eco-water filters for improved hygiene, to teaching new sweets to cook and hopefully create a micro-business, to providing 'reading' glasses so the women can continue to sew, to art projects with the kids. That's what I organized, two art projects where we taught 22 10 year olds to tap holes into fresh eggs, blow out and preserve the egg, and paint the egg with colorful designs. Not one egg got broken during the tapping of the holes! Amazing. They have such skilled hand-eye coordination at very young ages. The second project, star weaving, which you may be more familiar with as Eyes of God (but we did not impose that name on them) or even sometimes as Dream Catchers, was a huge hit! Altogether over 40 kids aged 5 to 12 caught on to the weaving and started making their own designs the very first time! Both of these projects are sustainable, do not require resources they do not have, and can become artisan objects which could be sold. They did not wait to be taught—sometimes not long enough for the next step! They were eager to learn.

One of our young male colleagues worked on the construction project every day, morning and afternoon. Hard, dirty work. In what I learned to be his characteristically understated way, he said the work could be done much more effectively by machine, but this way of work gave him much to think about. Another, a woman gifted in many ways, taught the women to knit, an art they were not familiar with and which they learned eagerly. She was surrounded by up to 25 women daily, carrying their babies on their backs, with all the sounds and smells that many people and babies crowded into a damp room bring.

There is no religious talk. (Perhaps that is why the San Martin’s do not question our motives; we are there at their disposal.) There is sharing of thoughts and feelings in twice-daily 'check-ins.' From the very first time I realized that 'check-in' meant more than just seeing if you still had a pulse, I looked forward to learning what the others had felt and to lightening my burden while they listened. The founder and leader, Leslie Baer Dinkel, has a unique gift. She can speak of the pain and misery in an objective manner, and balance it out with humor, education, and sensitivity. I hope we had a fraction of the impact on these peoples' lives as they had on ours. Actually, I can be sure of that because Xela Aid has been around so long and yet approaches the work with fresh eyes and optimism each trip.

Not only Leslie, but everyone on this particular trip, had a sense of self and of wonder and of purpose which melded us into a very effective and congenial group. I have new old friends for life. Good leadership, Leslie!

Ways to make it better...

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

Absolutely nothing! I will, however, learn a bit more about the Mayan people, whom my education had taught me were extinct as both a people as well as a civilization.

More feedback...

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?

2014

June 26, 2014

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June 26, 2014

Xela AID and the Guatemalan trip we just took is one of the BEST trips which my wife Myra and I could have ever imagined. Leslie who leads the experience of a lifetime is one finest human beings and shows this at every turn. Her energy and spirit is one of the most amazing ones that I have seen in my 70 years. From the outset, she was responsive to all our concerns. Her staff and her husband Mel make for one of the finest teams for this type of immersion experience. The hotel accommodations were outstanding, as well. A private bus took us everywhere, and the driver was most careful along the many highways and byways.
Antigua, Quetzaltenango, and Lake Atitlan were all so very impressive. Leslie threw in several wonderful surprise excursions which kept us smiling and delighted. I have told my two children (ages 27 & 29) that I will pay for them to join a Xela Aid trip, believing that such a memorable time will be with them for many years and give them insights that young folks can benefit by. I HIGHLY recommend Xela Aid for all. Enjoy!

Ways to make it better...

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

I cannot think of changes that I would suggest. This is a Class Act and best remain as is.

More feedback...

When was your last experience with this nonprofit?

2014

June 25, 2014
1 person found this review helpful

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1 previous review
August 9, 2013

Back in the very early 1990's the second year that Xela Aid went to Guatemala my friend and I joined the team to help with the optometry clinic. We were the only Canadians on the team. Back then we wo... more

June 25, 2014
1 person found this review helpful

I have just returned from an amazing trip working in Guatemala with Xela Aid. I have been before, in fact many times, but every trip brings new satisfaction in seeing how this group has expanded their horizons and included extra projects that have literally changed the lives of the people living in San Martine Chiquito. This trip I taught some of the women to make candy and cookies that they might be able to sell to earn some money. It was so much fun to share their kitchen, their experiences, and their great sense of humour and friendship. I was also able to dispense reading glasses to about 50 people who needed single vision readers to enable them to continue to sew, weave, or read. It's a privilege to be a part of Xela Aid and to make a difference in the lives of those we work with. It has definitely changed my life.

Ways to make it better...

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

Try to have trips that last a bit longer. It always seems to be too short.

More feedback...

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?

2014

August 9, 2013

Back in the very early 1990's the second year that Xela Aid went to Guatemala my friend and I joined the team to help with the optometry clinic. We were the only Canadians on the team. Back then we worked in tents and moved from place to place. Over the years following we returned well over a dozen times and watched this amazing charity grow into a very effective NGO that settled in the town of San Martine, built a clinic, and really made a difference in the lives of the people of that village and beyond. We sponsored a brother and sister who are now both teachers and he is the Director of Education for the district he lives in. They were the first children in their village who ever went to high school. Being a part of Xela Aid changed our lives too. We made lifelong friends in Guatemala. Our outlook on life broadened to include another culture, another way of sharing what we could give, and receiving the wisdom, friendship, and experience of being a part of an extraordinary group of people who truly put others before themselves.

Ways to make it better...

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

try to have trips at various times of the year .

More feedback...

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?

2011

June 25, 2014

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June 25, 2014

In the seven years we've been part of Xela AID, first as volunteers and now as part of the Board, I've been struck by the amazing changes that the various programs have on the people of these communities. The balanced approach of working on the four pillars of development, health, education, environment and work opportunities, provides the best template I've seen for true sustainability. As a model for integral community development this should be enough. However, there is also the personal, deep and emotional involvement with people that become your friends and family for life. Sponsored children given an opportunity of education and health become young adults with high dreams and unending energy; humble women become community leaders and master teachers, empowered business women and public speakers; shy young students become group leaders and movers of humanitarian projects. Xela AID saves lives, builds capacity, deals with emergencies, gathers resources and empowers people. There is so much potential, so many opportunities, and already so many accomplishments. I look forward to many more years of partnering with these communities working together for their future.

Ways to make it better...

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

Xela AID is growing and becoming more professional. The only thing I would suggest is to continue to think big and search for larger grants that would allow the consolidation of the programs and the spread of the successful model. Efforts towards an endowment would help achieve this goal.

More feedback...

Will you volunteer or donate to this organization beyond what is required of board members?

Definitely

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

Life-changing

Will you tell others about this organization?

Definitely

When was your last experience with this nonprofit?

2014

June 25, 2014

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June 25, 2014

The First time I came on a Xela AID volunteer trip was 7 years ago and I have been coming ever since! This project is not just another pilot project like you see in so many places. It has been going strong for over 20 years and it gets stronger and bigger every day! The Maya's we work with are amazing people and they make the decisions about what they need help with and many times I have seen them put the need of others before their own. The projects include health, education, clean water, micro loans and emergency help for those who are in dire need. The volunteer trips are amazingly beautiful, efficient and somehow everybody seems got get along wonderfully and we have made great friends not only with the locals but also other volunteers. There is no drama and no personality clashes, it's amazing to see!

Ways to make it better...

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

Do more and get even more people involved!

More feedback...

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?

2014

August 16, 2013

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August 16, 2013

We first heard about this project 8 years ago from our former pastor's wife. She made a presentation at our church and we signed right up to sponsor a student's education. Our $1/day would make the difference between him staying in school or not. Over the years, we mailed, emailed and Facebooked with that student and watched him grow up. When our beloved pastor died a few years ago, we sponsored an additional student in his honor, since this was one of his favorite projects.

Most students never meet their sponsors face to face. At the encouragement of our new Xela family, my husband and I volunteered for a summer work team, partly to meet these two "godchildren" and partly because we thought so highly of Leslie and Mel and all of Xela's well-thought-out, sustainable projects. Over the past 20 years, this project has grown from sponsoring the education of a few children to planning a comprehensive and sustainable program to keep these educated students in their villages and truly become the future leaders of the area.

Ways to make it better...

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

Actually, we very much respect the values of the organization and the way it has slowly and methodically selected new projects. Can't think of a thing we'd change.

More feedback...

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

August 15, 2013

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August 15, 2013

The most impressive thing about Xela Aid to me was the degree of community development that is visible through their work. Because they have invested their energy through so many years and projects, the progress they have made is evident. Also, while there is some direct charity for short-term need, the main work focuses on long term development: education, health, better housing.

It was a great experience for me to be a part of their work through volunteering on one of the trips. We worked, but we had a LOT of fun doing it. The people of the town are so welcoming and generous, patient with my still-developing Spanish abilities, and really seemed to enjoy the fact that our group was there to help. Guatemala is a beautiful country and I fully intend to go back, both on a service trip and as a tourist.

Ways to make it better...

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

Give them lots and lots of money so they could do even more.

More feedback...

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?

2013

August 12, 2013

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August 12, 2013

I took my first trip with Xela Aid just a few months ago in June not really knowing quite what to expect. I have to say now that this was hands down one of the most impactful experiences of my life. Never really experiencing poverty like there is in the small village of San Martin Chiquito, I was in shock at how much joy we brought the locals with just our presence. My project was to help construct a basketball court at a local middle school for the kids, that also opens up to the entire community on Sundays which not only allows for the kids to play but also offers them another way staying in shape and staying out of trouble. Other projects such as the making of a computer lab and constructing homes for those in need are slowly turning this village into a better place, and you can see that simply by looking at the smiles on the faces of the locals. I hope to return in the future to see how past projects have turned out and to help out with future projects.

More feedback...

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

August 12, 2013

more

August 12, 2013

Having done a great deal of volunteer work both in the US and outside I'm always skeptical of organizations that operate in other countries; handing out charity so that we can feel better instead of actually helping the communities lift themselves out of their situations. I can assure you that all of my reservations were blown apart with the first 24 hours spend with the amazing people of Xela AID!

To start, how often do you go to an orientation for a trip like this at the home of the organization's founder? Within the first day or so in Guatemala it was clear that Xela AID has had an amazing impact on the community they've been working in for the last 15 years or so and I really respected that they are openly NOT a charity. Their goal is to develop self reliance and leadership WITHIN the community and build real, permanent, and lasting change. The greatest accomplishment, in my opinion, is the development of their Leaders of The Future program; a group of 15-20 teenagers who started with the program when they were toddlers and now virtually run the whole thing with the help of the locally based Director and others.

I could go on and on but if you're reading I would highly encourage you to do everything you can to support this amazing organization and everyone involved.

Ways to make it better...

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

My only suggestion, and the organizers are looking into this, would be to find a way to stay in the community when leading volunteer groups down there.

More feedback...

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?

2013

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