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!
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.
This year was the second trip with AIR that our church group had taken. As with the first trip everything had been arranged for our stay and our work. The staff of AIR in Guatemala is tops. They work with the locals and we volunteers to make the trip worthwhile. Their plan of 5 years working with villages makes it certain we do more than plant and run. We found that attitudes of locals has changed from trees being a problem to being an asset. In fact some have even set up businesses to sell trees to others. We were able to see some of the trees we had planted on our previous trip and it really gave meaning to our current work. The stoves we built for the families were received happily and we enjoyed their smiles and the knowledge that we had helped improve their health. On this trip we also visited a school and found that AIR is making an impact on education by teaching about the benefits of trees on the environment and health. AIR's influence has touched the lives of many in Gutemala and in the US.
I have been on volunteer trip with AIR three times and am always impressed by Anne and her staff. Their enthusiasm for the work they do is contagious. They help the environment by planting trees to prevent erosion, start tree nurseries so communities feel a connection to the environment, they build stoves that are more fuel efficient and help families have less lung problems, and promote environmental education at community schools. AIR takes care of the whole communities throughout Guatemala. Not only is AIR doing great work, it has been doing it for an impressive 20 years!
I have volunteered with AIR four times over the past several years. AIR does amazing work that benefits the communities directly in both short and long term. AIR has strong relationships with over 100 communities in Guatemala. The organization is extremely well run.
This was my second trip with AIR to Guatemala and it is an amazing organization. It's more than just planting trees and building stoves. AIR takes a holistic approach to conservation. Their technicians work with farmers to develop a sustainable blueprint for maximizing their crops and conserving soil. The wood stoves cut firewood use in half, while creating a healthier indoor environment for families free from smoke and fumes. Their school curriculum teaches the next generation about the importance of trees and the environment. I wholeheartedly recommend volunteering with AIR to help others create a better life for themselves and their families.
It was a fun, productive, and heart-warming volunteer trip with AIR Guatemala. I was amazed by the beauty of the country, the culture, and the people we met. It's so hard to totally explain the depth and success of this non-profit. The founder, Anne, is very humble and passionate about her work, and involved the entire time we were there. Thanks to Anne, her staff and all the experienced volunteers that welcomed me on my first trip!
I have participated with the AIR non-profit planting trees and building stoves in Guatemala for the past three years and have SEEN the results. Being an educator myself, I am impressed with AIR's education component, because as we know our youth are our future. The Mayan families I have worked with have moved me with their humble gratitude for our efforts. I feel privileged to have planted trees under whose shade I will never sit. Go sustainable living!
Sincerely, Jan Somers