I spent a month volunteering with AIR after college and it changed my life. Nine years later, I took five of my own college students to spend a week with AIR, and--thoroughly exhausted from planting 600 trees on mountainsides, building 3 stoves, and playing a ferocious game of soccer with children at an AIR school--they didn't want to leave.When I asked one of my students why, they said: "The work we're doing, the place we're in, the people we're with... it's just incredible." And it is. Families invited us into their homes, and trusted us because AIR technicians had built deep relationships with them in their indigenous languages. They proudly showed us their nurseries and told of the tens of thousands of trees they had planted. Most moving to me, they talked about what this work--AIR and local villagers, side by side--is going to mean to the world they pass on to their grandchildren: a more productive, safer, and much more verdant and beautiful world.Time and money given to AIR are well spent. I've been twice now, give regularly, and can't wait to go back!
We recently engaged in a study tour of Guatemala with a group of eleven Middle School students. Working alongside AIR in the community was the most profound part of our trip. Through AIR we learned not only about Guatemala, Mayan culture, and issues of conservation and development, but we also witnessed how to embark on a wholistic and integrated approach to activism and change. AIR has created a program that not only plants trees (and many of them), but also works to stem demand, provide education, offer alternative income streams, and understand the delicate balance of sustainability. Beyond the impressive work of the organization, however, the team itself is amazing. We were welcomed into the AIR community for our brief stay with open arms and we left feeling part of a large family. Thank you AIR!
I spent a week in June 2018 with A.I.R. in Guatemala. The work that their team does is simply amazing! At the time we visited, they had already planted more than 500,000 trees for the year! Our mission team helped plant trees, and also built four brick stoves in the homes of some very appreciative families. The A.I.R. technicians were so wonderful to work with, and helped make the week so productive for our team and for the families we were supporting. I am looking forward to going back as often as possible! A.I.R. is definitely changing lives in Guatemala!
This organization goes deep into the communities of Guatemala and serves the people.
Not by just providing aid, but by educating and installing the tools necessary for the people to succeed independently.
The added benefit of this is actual sustainable farming and economies, something the country of Guatemala desperately needs.
My wife and I are incredibly impressed by how resourceful AIR has been, and continues to be. We look forward to the amount of restoration they'll be able to accomplish after the devastating volcano eruption 2 months ago.
Traveling to Guatemala with AIR and seeing first hand how communities build new hope, from the ground up, changed my perspective on what nonprofits can actually do. AIR is not charity, it is community built on hard work and love.
As a first-timer on a June 2018 veteran mission team with AIR, AIRES in Guatemala, I saw firsthand why this exceptional nonprofit was selected from over 800 nominations worldwide to receive a 2017 Equator Prize from the United Nations Development Programme for innovative indigenous solutions tackling poverty and environmental challenges. Their 25-year proven track record of ever-expanding successes is impressive. Helping local Mayan community partners start up over 300 tree nurseries and consulting with them over the next 5 years to sustain them are commendable commitments. Seeing some of those nurseries become thriving businesses is especially rewarding. The 800 trees our mission group planted over two days was hard work but pales in comparison to the over 5.2 million seedlings planted to date to reforest eroded mountainsides, preventing mudslides and improving the soil for life-giving farming. And as we drove through the countryside, mature “AIR forests” were pointed out to us repeatedly with great pride and personal satisfaction. The nearly 900 fuel-efficient vented brick stoves constructed by AIRES teams are highly valued. They are an economical and healthier alternative for families who have been cooking over an open fire on the mud floor of a smoke-filled shed. Our team built four stoves in two days. One family shed tears of joy when receiving this special gift which they helped construct. We also judged the student-constructed projects of an environmental education competition at one of the 300 AIRES-inspired middle schools. Plastic bottles and used tires, often pulled from the river by students, were transformed into colorful tables, seats, and shelters in the schoolyard. Such programs hold great promise for improved conservation and recycling efforts of the younger generations. Fuego’s nearby devastating volcanic eruption in June added a disaster-relief dimension to the mission of AIRES which continues to be performed admirably. From replacing the burned-up boots of volunteer first-responder firefighters to providing food and restorative tree nursery supplies to communities that lost almost everything under the hot ash from Fuego, AIRES displays yet again, love in action. Dr. Anne Hallum’s love and passion for AIR-Guatemala, as its unpaid Founding President, is unbounded and contagious. Her administrative and technician team headquartered in Chimaltenango is outstanding and works tirelessly. They are like family to each other and exhibit a deep spiritual calling to compassionate service for the benefit of impoverished Mayan communities and a deforested environment. As visitors, we were warmly welcomed, well cared for, and kept secure. Few charities accomplish as many good and sustainable works as this one on such a modest budget. Without question, AIR-Guatemala is deserving of our continuing support and investment!
Why AIR excels:
Guatemalans are both the givers and recipients of care; they are the leaders. This is NOT one of those agencies where North Americans make assumptions about need and/or pretend to know a better way of doing things.
They serve those who agree to be a part of the solution; we work side by side while building lasting and meaningful relationships. The recipients become educated and empowered.
It is a sustainable effort with partnerships that last a minimum of five years.
They get the job done. We were there mid-June and over 500,000 trees had already been planted since the beginning of the year.
And best yet: You will only help to make better what is already an incredibly beautiful country (volcanoes included!) that is filled with wonderful and kind people.
AIR is fully deserving of your time and resources but for those who are able, there is no better way to see and understand it than being there in person!
Another trip to Guatemala is over.
We arrived a week after Fuego erupted and there was still a great deal of pain for the people and damage to the country. But the people are resilient and there was a significant out pouring of gifts to help them recover. Fuego is still active, so each day brings new challenges. Anne Hallum, founder of A.I.R., discovered that one of the local volunteer fire departments were without boots. The ash was so hot from Fuego that their boots had melted the first day. Anne was able to use some of the donations to purchase boots for the firemen to continue the search and rescue missions. What a blessing from so many people. No matter the size of the gift, it will always be put to good use.
During the week we were in Guatemala, our team planted about 900 trees and built 4 stoves for families. I have long contended that there is no flat land in Guatemala but 1 day we did plant on level ground. Be careful of what you wish for because that was much tougher planting than on a hillside. Also, we were only 4 miles from Fuego and could see it continue belching ash. We all started out with masks to mitigate breathing in the ash. Some of us lasted longer than others. Maybe that is where I got a sinus infection that turned into a good “old fashioned cold” after I returned home.
The stove building is as rewarding as planting trees but in a different way. The interaction with the family members is so wonderful. I was in charge of “bubbling” the bricks for one of the stoves. “Bubbling” the bricks is soaking them in a tub filled with water until no more bubbles appear. Removing them from the tubs and stacking the near to the stove that is under construction. Does it sound easy to you? It is not. There is a lot of toting, lifting, bending, and refilling the water. So I look up and there is a precious 4 year old holding a brick for me. Behind her was her sister, about 6 or 7, holding a brick and behind her was their Mother holding two bricks. My eyes started leaking, must have been from the dust. They wanted to help in any way they could. The family we worked with had built an addition for the stove. The first thing to do is measure the woman that will be doing most of the cooking so the stove will be appropriate for her height.
Remember what I said about not having any flat land in Guatemala? All of the supplies had to be hauled up the path to where the family lives. This includes concrete blocks, fire bricks, sand, concrete, tin, lumber, stove pipes, many tools, and various other stuff. I am so thankful for the people that did this before we got there.
The lunch the women prepared for us that day (and every day) was wonderful and nutritious. I am not sure what it is, but the vegetables are so delicious. They have the biggest carrots I have ever experienced. And they are so sweet. The same with the potatoes and squash.
The first picture is in the A.I.R. office with the whole crew. The techno’s are the heart of this mission. They are in the communities daily helping, encouraging, and teaching. The second picture is the stove that I worked on. I know it will be a blessing for a long time. I know it blessed me just working on it.
Thanks for taking the time to read this missive. If you can’t go, give.
Love to all, Jo
I can't say enough good things about AIR. I find it remarkable the amount of change that can be brought about by a small organization. The clear mission and passionate leadership shown by the staff of AIR and by its founder Anne Hallum are surely a fine example to all organizations seeking to empower an impoverished population.
Air Guatemala knocks it out of the park yet again. What an amazing organization AIR is!!! The hard work and dedication of the staff in Guatemala are remarkable.
I am an environmental scientist and participated as a volunteer on a week-long project in Guatemala with this organization earlier this year (2017). This is hands down the most effective nonprofit I've seen. They have a program that supports so many interrelated needs - environmental preservation, sustainable agriculture, indoor air quality, rural poverty, women's rights, indigenous rights, education. They have a model that works - it is almost entirely bottom up. Local communities request the help; local technicians that are from the region and speak the local dialect provide the training, support, and guidance; the community performs most of the work themselves and AIR's support to them is long-term. This organization gets my highest recommendation as one worth supporting.
Alliance for International Reforestation is a truly remarkable nonprofit organization. It not only cares about the environment but most importantly the people who live in it.
AIR allowed me to launch my own non profit organization by giving me the opportunity to partner up with them on my first project, in which I will forever be grateful for their endless support. By achieving a sense of connection between nature and humanity throughout morally encompassed endeavors, AIR candidly exceeds every expectation that a hardworking non-profit organization should strive to be.
Seeds for Knowledge
AIR Guatemala remains one of the most impressive, committed, hopeful groups i have met in Central America.
Their ability to address food security, bio-diversity, watershed protection, carbon sinks / reforestation all with the planting of diverse flora amazes and inspires me.
Investing in their cause is an investment in a hope-filled future.
Rev. Alan Jenkins
Atlanta, Georgia, USA.
It's been a joy and an honor to serve as a volunteer with this wonderful organization.
They say "a picture is worth a thousand words", and these pictures are proof. They are all trees planted by AIR, and they are 4, 8, and 12 years old. It demonstrates how barren mountainsides, prone to mudslides during the rainy season, can be restored to lush, beautiful forests. AIR technicos work with Mayan farmers for 5 years teaching the principles behind reforestation, and enlisting them as partners in improving life for themselves and their community. Some farmers have started their own tree nurseries which becomes a small business for them as they sell seedlings to their neighbors. Another aspect of AIR is stove building. The cook stoves are wood burning as is the Mayan tradition. The AIR designed stove uses far less wood than their traditional way of cooking, and they are vented to prevent inhalation of smoke, thus improving health. The lady of the house is consulted about the height and location of the stove, and later it will be a gathering place for the family.
AIR has a curriculum in many schools that teaches agro forestry and sustainable farming. They offer scholarships to students to ensure that the principles can be carried on into the future.
I have been privileged to volunteer on three AIR mission trips, and will continue to support this wonderful organization.
I recently returned from my first volunteer trip with AIR and it was an incredible experience. The organization goes above and beyond to ensure you get to engage in meaningful hands on work that has a direct and long-lasting impact on the wonderful people of Guatemala as well as our planet Earth. The reforestation process is highly rewarding and each volunteer member benefits from the opportunity to become truly immersed in the Guatemalan culture. It is an absolutely beautiful thing. By working in tandem with numerous indigenous families you will develop a special connection and appreciation for their way of life and the surrounding environment. The week was structured in a very organized and professional manner that kept you equally motivated and inspired. The genuine kindness among the staff members was contagious and thoroughly uplifting. I look forward to the next trip! Gracias para todo! Hasta la proxima!
As a mission pastor, I have had opportunity to engage in many global mission experiences and I rate the engagement with AIR as one of the healthiest initiatives promoting long-term sustainability. Sharing a vision, a meal, and a time for planting with local community leaders focuses the involvement on an intimate level - something that is very challenging to do in global contexts. The opportunity to come alongside of people who care for creation on many levels has long lasting effects. I was grateful to see not only the development of more stable mountain sides, but also the development of more stable communities!
This is my third trip with AIR. This organization has really opened my eyes to the ability of a group of people committed to making a difference in Guatemala. Planting trees, building fuel efficient stoves, education in the schools, giving families a means of adding to their income and improving the lives of their children and future generations are some of their accomplishments.
As a volunteer I was able to share in this work as well as meet the families that form the co-ops. The time spent working with the families was a priceless experience, helping to create understanding and connections between very different worlds. Coming back years later and seeing how this organization has changed so many lives and seeing the trees growing tall is a thrill that keeps bringing me back.
What a fantastic organization. They have made such a difference to the people and county of Guatemala. Having planted millions of trees, built hundreds of stoves, educated so many children with classes, hands on conservation and many publications; they are turning around the reforestation and deadly mudslides that are so prevalent in this country. Volunteers are able to make a real difference in helping with tree planting and stove building while getting to know the families that are involved in the co-ops that grow the trees.
I expected to plant trees with AIR. What I didn't expect was for planting trees to be a link between the natural world and human experience. AIR is a program that is firstly about the families and communities enrolled; it is run, sustained, and expanded by these participants. For those lucky enough to be allowed into this well oiled program, even for a short time, you will learn something that will humble you and open you up to the beauty of the earth and the role of people in it. Thank you AIR!
Ha sido de mucha ayuda para mí ya que me apoya en mis estudios a través de una beca para que pueda seguir luchando en mi carrera, sé que es algo complicada pero con la ayuda de Dios y de la Asociación puedo seguir adelante. Que Dios los bendiga a todos y cada uno de los que hacen posible que muchos jóvenes como yo pueda seguir estudiando y luchar en la vida, así poco a poco poder graduarme. Y así como me apoyan a mi espero también poder ayudar a alguien más que tanto como yo lo necesitan, aparte me han ensañado muchos valores como el de la perseverancia, el respeto y a cuidar el medio ambiente, entre otros valores que me ayudan para lograr ser una persona íntegra. ¡Gracias por el apoyo!
I've been volunteering with AIR for almost a year doing social media and raising funds and what a reward it was to go to Guatemala this summer and actually see where all the hard work was going-IT DID NOT DISAPPOINT. I'm so proud of Anne and all her staff for being so organized, timely and most importantly PASSIONATE. There was nothing more majestic than sitting on a beautiful hillside planting trees, knowing that I was making a difference in the world. Selfishly, I think the trip meant more to me than what I did for the people of Guatemala. I walked away more restored and alive than I've felt in so many years.
For about 6 years now I've greatly admired AIR from afar. When I started volunteering as the marketing/ fundraising manager it did not disappoint. Anne Hallum's belief and passion in the work that AIR does in Guatemala is contagious. Her dedication to the people is incredible. Like any non-profit it takes a lot of perseverance to stay positive and strong to continue to raise funds. Not once have I seen her waver- always believing that their needs (Guatemalans) are so much greater. I think that AIR does a very good job in being transparent in what they do and where the donations go. 94% of the funds truly go to the field-I can honestly say that AIR's overhead budget is nonexistent. Every dollar is so carefully spent, making sure that it stretches a long way and for the most dire need/ situation. I've always believed people should be helped before the environment. However, AIR showed me that by planting trees, teaching sustainable farming and building stoves -we are helping the people directly. When you take care of the environment you directly have an impact on everything else. It doesn't have to be people or environment. I love that.
I recently accompanied a group to Guatemala where we worked with AIR Guatemala in planting trees and building stoves. I cannot believe how organized our schedule was and yet there was flexibility to adjust to unforeseen situations.
The highlight was seeing the eyes of the woman for whom we built a stove. Her tears brought tears to my eyes; she was so happy, proud, and appreciative. But the focus of our mission trip was to plant trees, and I relished doing this as a contribution to the environment of Guatemala and the world. We visited a tree nursery and saw how people were growing the trees we were planting. We saw the beautiful countryside as we drove into the mountains to plant trees, We hiked to the locations are proceeded to plant trees that would increase forest cover and provide a better environment.
Meanwhile, in the evenings, I was able to reflect on what I was accomplishing, and think about what it meant to my life. What a wonderful experience.