May 21, 2010
I heard about Mayan Families (MF) via word of mouth: people raved about them. I have a personal interest in Guatemala for family reasons, but anyone interested in creating a more stable society in a country just south of the U.S. should be interested. I particularly wanted to support women and children, because I feel empowered, educated women and children can make a huge difference in creating stronger, healthier communities.
Mayan Families appealed to me immediately because they have a hands-on, community-focused approach. They live in the community, they know the people they are working with, they are practical, and they ask what indigenous families need instead of prescribing solutions that won't work because there is no local buy-in. Through this approach, MF provides an impressive range of services, from supplying a type of stove (onil stoves) that require less fuel and aren't smokey, to providing access to education, healthcare for a life-threatening illness, clean water, sewing classes so women can gain new skills and bring in income, and starting a preschool (staffed by local women) so kids have a safe, enriching place to be while their parents work.
Perhaps of greatest significance: they have gained the respect and trust of the local indigenous community and surrounding towns.
I was fortunate enough to visit MF in December 2009 and see firsthand how they operate. I can't say enough about their commitment to the work, their hardworking (local) staff, and their ability to make every penny of a donation count. It's humbling to see that whether it's $10 or $100, my donation really can make a dramatic difference in the quality of life for another human being. With MF, I have the satisfaction of knowing that my modest contributions aren't being eaten up on lavish overhead or glitzy marketing (though I would like to see them get a grant to expand their offices!)
In short: they are an inspiration.
I've personally experienced the results of this organization in...
...visiting MF and seeing the results of their work. All I can say: WOW. It's life affirming. I get letters from the students I sponsor. They have a very active website and volunteer listserv so there is a real conversation between MF and its supporters
Ways to make it better...
If I had to make changes to this organization, I would...
Find a way to channel grants to the organization so they can accomplish more. They have built a strong organizational foundation, have a very capable staff, have projects waiting to be funded, and are eager to do more.
What I've enjoyed the most about my experience with this nonprofit is...
1)They listen to the communities they serve.
2)Their personal touch. The founder and staff post every day on the website and email the listserv of volunteers, I get updates from the students I sponsor, and they welcome visitors.
The kinds of staff and volunteers that I met were...
If this organization had 10 million bucks, it could...
Put the money to good use!
Ways to make it better...
I were able to do more. MF is the kind of non-profit that makes you want to quit your job, roll up your sleeves, and make a difference in the world.
In my opinion, the biggest challenges facing this organization are...
Ability to get a series of small-to-medium grants that can fund much needed projects.
One thing I'd also say is that...
My only concern is that the people who run the organization do so much they risk burnout. I would like to see a source of stable, consistent funding so they can bring on more staff and support projects without "stop-and-go" to raise money.
How frequently have you been involved with the organization?
About every month
When was your last experience with this nonprofit?
Volunteer & I sponsor three students so they can go to school; I collect donations such as shoes, books, and sewing machines to send to Mayan Families; I helped onsite during a one-week visit.