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2019 Top-Rated Nonprofit

Highland Support Project

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Nonprofit Overview

Causes: International

Mission: We work to create models of Transformational Development that foster agency with indigenous communities of the Americas to address critical environmental, social, and economic issues

Results: Each year we connect 300+ volunteers with indigenous communities, with about 14 partner Maya communities in Guatemala, a project with the Apache community in White Mountain, Arizona, and a new project growing in Peru that will work to support and empower women facing discrimination and domestic violence.

Programs: Symmetry Stoves & Trees, Holistic Health Program, Maya Arts Program, White Mountain High Adventure Youth Empowerment Program

Community Stories

82 Stories from Volunteers, Donors & Supporters

Molly14

Volunteer

Rating: 5

I am so grateful that I heard about Highland Support Project my freshman year in college; my college experience would not have been the same without it! I went on two volunteer trips to Guatemala with this organization. What I love most about Highland Support Project is the fact that everyone is able to help out in some way and that the organization is so open to members from all sorts of disciplines. There work that this organization does really focuses on humanitarian need and building strong relationships with countries like Guatemala that allow us to really give them the help they need. I love the personalization that Highland Support Project endorses because volunteers know exactly who they are helping and they actually get the chance to interact with the population that they are working with.

2

Volunteer

Rating: 5

HSP is truly a special organization that makes a huge impact on everyone involved. The trips provide an opportunity to address large issues while the people make the trip meaningful on a personal level. The trip this year to Guatemala was such a great balance of work, culture, learning, and fun, and you could really see the impact it had on both our students and the Guatemalan communities. We always felt like HSP always had everything covered: excellent meals and lodging, transportation and excursions, safety and health, and just being there to make sure we were having the best experience possible. I can't thank them enough for the work they do and I most highly recommend HSP!

Melissa T.5

Volunteer

Rating: 5

HSP is an incredible organization that works to empower and educate Mayan women in the Highlands of Guatemala. I’ve traveled with them 4 times with high school student groups and their sustainable approach to giving aid provides an awesome opportunity for students to learn about service and another culture. I highly recommend them!

Amanda D.3

Volunteer

Rating: 5

Last year I was very fortunate to travel to Guatemala with a group from my church to work with Highland Support Project. My experience was life changing to say the least. I learned more about the importance of educating indigenous women to have a voice in their community and skills to achieve their personal goals. We worked with community members in a rural town of Guatemala to start building a kitchen for a local school. Previously the women who cooked for the school daily had to use an open fire pit outside in the school courtyard where children were also playing. This project is just one of hundreds of community projects, initiated by women, that HSP has helped to make happen.

Volunteer

Rating: 5

I had a beautiful experience volunteering with Highland Support Project in Guatemala. It was an amazing opportunity for myself and everyone involved and I am so grateful! The Highland Support Project is making an amazing difference with all of their projects and they are impacting the lives of so many citizens in Guatemala as well the volunteers that come from all over the world to participate in their projects!

Volunteer

Rating: 5

I just wanted to say I was so lucky that I had the chance to work alongside the highland group! I got to meet a few people who have worked with them and I find all the work they have been doing is amazing! They are really making a difference and supporting the communities in Guatemalan and making voices heard. I only wish that soon enough I will get to work with them once again. So thank you all for such a great job and for helping out so many people in such a great way!! I have learnt so much from you all and envy being like you all any chance I get

Volunteer

Rating: 5

I can't say enough about the Highland Support Project and the wonderful people who made my trip to Guatemala a dream come true and a life changing experience. From being welcomed by the Mayan women into the community to building stoves, providing healthcare teaching, seeing the beautiful country and learning about the culture- it was all a truly wonderful experience that I was thankful to be a part of.

1 Andrea G.6

Volunteer

Rating: 5

I just went this spring on a school trip as a volunteer for Highland Support Project. It was an incredible experience! The community was super kind, our guide, translator and our bus driver became our family. Our group bonded incredibly due to the fact that it is a heartwarming experience! Helping out communities, being able to give happiness to children is an unforgettable experience. The team is extremely supportive and you never feel as if you're doing it alone.

Bobby C.2

Volunteer

Rating: 5

The Highland Support Project was an inspiration to all of us that went. It was one of the most beautiful, caring, and rewarding experiences I've ever had. We all opened our hearts to allow each other to benefit from such a moving experience. The Mayan women opened their homes to us and gave us a heartfelt welcome while teaching us about their history. We touched each others lives and cherished the moments we had together, it was a experience never to be forgotten.

Cody W.1

Volunteer

Rating: 5

The Highland Support Project was a great opportunity to expand my horizons. With my trip to Guatemala, I felt overwhelmed with emotions. To be able to touch other lives, to create more cultural awareness, and to feel enlightened are just a few benefits of this life-changing moment.

Luke_H

Volunteer

Rating: 5

An incredible organization. I participated in HSP's stove building project through Rutgers Camden's service learning program, and the experience was life-changing. The work of HSP truly empowers those that it supports and serves, and the gratitude of the women and children after our time in the highlands spoke volumes about the impact that the Project is having. I feel privileged to have worked with HSP and would highly recommend supporting and collaborating with them.

4 Elena W.1

Volunteer

Rating: 5

I had the privilege of joining forces with The Highland Support Project in spring of 2018. Through a service learning opportunity held by Rutgers Camden, I participated in HSP's clean-air stove building project and spent 10 days among the highlands of Guatemala educating and being educated. Through this experience I formed some of the most meaningful, genuine relationships with the kindest, most appreciative women, children and families living in Quetzaltenango, Guatemala. This was the most impactful and meaningful journey I have embarked on thus far in my life and I carry its impact with me daily as I continue to work, love and use my voice to speak for those who cannot. My experience with HSP served as an important stepping stone for me in my confirmation that I want to dedicate my life and my strengths towards service-oriented work. I was constantly inspired and encouraged by the loving, supportive humanitarians working for and with HSP and it was a privilege to share part in their mission. I spread the word about HSP whenever I can to whoever will listen and I can't wait to work with them again.

Vania M.

Board Member

Rating: 5

This 8 day experiences left me with memories and ignited a passion for me to help create more opportunities and empower women like myself for a lifetime! I couldn’t express how well organized, safe, thoughtful, and educational this trip was for me through HSP. HSP has set the standard for nonprofits and I have the privilege of serving as a board member.

1

Advisor

Rating: 5

I had an highly memorable and undoubtedly life changing trip with HSP when I went summer of 2018. Although originally the trip was work related, to help give the employees of HSP tools they could use for professional development, I think in the end I learned just as much if not more than they did.

The employees I worked with in HSP, both Americans and Guatemalans, were such interesting, unique, and friendly people, they helped make every day an enjoyable adventure.

1

Volunteer

Rating: 5

I interned with HSP a little while back and was amazed by how passionate and knowledgeable the organization was. This is 100% a hands on nonprofit run by individuals that really care about the work they do. HSP has great opportunities to get involved directly with communities you help in Guatemala and Arizona which gives you first hand exposure to transformative development and aid. I look forward to seeing more of their amazing work in the future!

Amy B.2

Volunteer

Rating: 5

Having worked with Highland Support Project for four years, I would say that they do a FANTASTIC job of providing transformative experiences for their customers coupled with lasting impact in the communities they serve. In terms of customers, they do a great job connecting the personal touch with the history, community, and individuals impacted. In terms of the service provided to the communities, I am deeply impressed with the level of emotion noticed within the community and the commitment to serving BEYOND the call of duty. Ten out of ten would recommend.

1 EMK11

Professional with expertise in this field

Rating: 5

I had the great pleasure of working with HSP through a pro bono initiative over the last few years. HSP does groundbreaking development work that is truly empowering to the women in this local community. They focus on providing sustainable, equitable resources, breaking from the dependency-focused approach that so many NGOs in this region unfortunately take. Keep up the good work!

2 Amanda R.7

Volunteer

Rating: 5

This was one of the best experiences I’ve had. It was so humbling and enlightening. HSP was organized and well ran and in coordination with the AMA house I never felt lost or without guidance or love. Everyone in Guatemala was so nice and welcoming. A+ to everyone involved and thank you for such an amazing opportunity!

2

Volunteer

Rating: 5

I partnered with Highland Support Project this year along with my classmates and professors to go to Guatemala and raise health and wellness to the indigenous people in Guatemala. This nonprofit organization was incredible, the staff is so friendly and welcoming and really cared about us, the trip, and the people. If you plan to partner with them and choose them, you won’t regret it and you will have a trip to remember for lifetime. Thank you to everyone there and I hope soon we meet again and do it all over!

General Member of the Public

Rating: 5

I donated to the Highland Support Project, of which I work, to support a midwifery program. I never expected to have my own life changed. Over the course of a year stories emerged about the struggles that traditional midwives had in being treated with dignity by hospital staff. It was powerful to witness the accompaniment of the Association of Highland Women to guide these women to identify their objectives and begin to analyze what to do when encountering an obstacle. That message of resilience has proven to be a good tool in my own life.

Too often we abandon a goal when we encounter an obstacle.

Review from #MyGivingStory

Volunteer

Rating: 5

I was incredibly impressed by the thoughtful way the Highland Support Project connects volunteers to indigenous communities. I have travelled to other countries in Central America with organizations that claim to be partnering with the community, but only Highland Support Partners truly made me feel I was part of a partnership. The Highland Support Project truly made our time with the community a learning experience for both our team and community members. For example, we went on a tour of a market with local weavers so they could learn about their competition and we could learn about indigenous crafts. While stove building, we worked with the homeowners and got a chance to talk to them as well as the mason working with us. These experiences truly put the indigenous women at the center of the project to build their agency, while allowing my team to learn as well. I cannot fully describe how collaborative all of the Highland Support Project's activities felt, so I would recommend anyone interested in learning about and working with the Indigenous people of Guatemala contact the Highland Support Project and see for yourself!

Volunteer

Rating: 5

On my most recent trip with Highland Support Project I traveled the the White Mountain Apache Reservation in Arizona. I engaged with with the Apache youth in group activities that focused on leadership skills and team building. The type of service I did on this trip was far from what I was expecting to do. As a large football player I was expecting to use my skills in the art of manual labor but instead HSP utilized the leadership skills I have gained through my time in competitive sports to help lead a day camp for the apache youth. I enjoyed the time I spent helping the youth to build leadership skills for themselves and seeing how they were able to use the skills the get through various team building activities.
This trip was truly eye opening for me because it showed me a different type of service that can be done on mission trips that are much more effective than traditional service. I found that rather than giving out things which can instill bad habits for the future, building relationships and teaching the youth useful skills while giving them the tools to better help themselves is actually a much better form of service and will help them gain a better and brighter future.

1

Advisor

Rating: 5

Amazing Organization, facilitates partnerships with the communities, helping the most isolated people in the highlands. How incredible are all the benefits for building a stove: Respiratory disease, children accidents can be avoided, also saves firewood, saves time in the food preparation, they receive talks about self-steam and leadership. behavioral health that contributes to the empowerment of the Mayan women.

Volunteer

Rating: 5

HSP is a fantastic association- could not be farther from the pitfalls of voluntourism. We have a long-lasting relationship with HSP and have had successful trips in the past- this last trip was no exception. Thank you!

1

Volunteer

Rating: 5

Had a great time on my first international mission trip. Would do it again in a heart beat. Great job HSP!

1

Volunteer

Rating: 5

This is the most well-organized and put together nonprofit I have worked with! They are great and took care of everything, we're very flexible and I had a great time working with Lupe and Ben.

2

Volunteer

Rating: 5

Amazing! This nonprofit's work with communities in Guatemala is intriguing and their emphasis on transformational development and helping communities be self-sufficient makes them even more admirable. I volunteer with the group and look forward to learning and helping each day!

4

Volunteer

Rating: 5

I have been blessed with the opportunity to work with Highland Support Project for all of my life. My parents are the directors. I was an infant when I was taken on my first trip to Guatemala. My earliest memories are images of the post civil war military state. Of driving through central Quetzaltenango, seeing Humvees drive by carrying men with automatic rifles. I also have vivid memories of my experiences in the indigenous communities. I remember feeling scared as I sat in the back seat of a little pick-up truck. On a narrow mountainside road, where any divergence would be fatal. In the middle of a thunderstorm. With my parents outside, pushing the truck from behind to keep the momentum moving forward. This effort was to reach even the most marginalized communities. From that same night, I remember the loud thuds of raindrops on their thin tin roofs and the black soot that covered their huts with flies stuck in it. I would later learn that the soot comes from cooking over open-pit fires.

Throughout my life, I learned about various aspects of development from my experiences with Highland Support Project (HSP). From stove-building I learned about grassroots development, from reforestation I learned about sustainability, from weaving circles I learned about behavioral health. All this time, I had a general feeling that genuine good was being done. Not just because the directors were my parents; but also due to the sincere gratitude that was expressed by families in the communities we worked in. However, it wasn’t until my junior year of college, when I had a class called Development Economics, that I truly appreciated the amazing work that HSP has pioneered. The class, for me, validated everything that HSP does. Although it is impossible to summarize sustainable development in three points, there are at least three critical topics that I learned, which HSP has been enacting for over 22 years. These key points include a focus on women’s empowerment, acknowledging multidimensional poverty, and a spotlight on human and social capital.

We learned about a focus on women’s empowerment as if it were a new concept. Something brand new that came along with the New Millennium Development Goals. This left me dumbfounded, considering that HSP has been focusing on women’s empowerment since 1993. HSP’s first women’s empowerment program was to provide indigenous mothers with ventilated cookstoves. It is seemingly simplistic; however, the ripple effect is amazingly intricate. For example, through community surveys, we found that the leading cause of death for Indigenous women was a upper-respiratory infection. This is easily prevented with ventilated stoves. Furthermore, the ventilated stoves are fuel efficient. It elevates the cooking from the floor to provide better sanitation. Regarding sustained development, it allows women to spend less time cooking because cooking a meal over an open-pit fire takes hours (Just think about that time you tried to cook anything while camping). This enables women to engage in their communities. To establish PTA’s. To help their children go to school. To make lunches for the children who are at school, so they children can learn and retain information better. To have time for women’s circles, so they can share their experiences and relate with other women in the community; and, ultimately, to endeavor in different income ventures and become successful businesswomen. From the chain of events, you can see how investing in women results in a greater social rate of return than investing in men. This is because investments in women more directly benefit their children and women are empirically more likely to spend increased incomes on their families.

From the beginning, HSP has invested their efforts in addressing multidimensional poverty. This simply means that poverty entails more than just having low income. To address multidimensional poverty, organizations must consider the health, educational and productive aspects of individuals. HSP’s acknowledgment of multidimensional poverty is exemplified by their growth of different, yet interrelated, projects. For example, the Mayan Arts Project was initiated to address the dissipation of Maya philosophy in rural schools-- the educational dimension. The Association of Maya Women was started to provide indigenous women with behavioral health programming-- the health and productivity dimensions. Very early on HSP recognized the negative impact self-esteem could have on a community. The “Qanil” project was started to address nutritional deficiencies in indigenous communities-- the health dimension. Over 22 years, HSP’s attention to the dimensions of poverty has led to drastic increases in capital available for the indigenous communities we support.

Remember that capital can take many forms. Capital can be financial, human, social, and the list goes on. HSP has enabled indigenous women to build their human capital through all the projects and programming provided to them. At every step of the way, the women and their families are involved in the process. For example, before even receiving a stove, women are trained in community engagement, and there is an understanding that the stove is not charity. The women are not dependent upon the stove. A stove is a tool for their economic independence. Furthermore, our volunteers understand they are not giving anything away. Our volunteers engage in partnership with the families. Where the families receive the support for their projects, and volunteers leave with a completely changed perspective on poverty and development. The partnerships formed is what builds the social capital. My favorite example of the social capital being built is with the reforestation project. Initially, HSP would buy samplings from a big company in the city. Now, however, a woman who once received a stove now started her tree nursery. Thus, HSP can source the saplings for reforestation from the women who once received a stove. This example illustrates social capital and HSP’s continuing relationships with the communities HSP engages in.

From my earliest memories of post-civil war Guatemala to what it has become now, much of the change can be attributed to non-governmental organizations such as Highland Support Project. I could never express enough how proud I am of HSP, after learning the academics behind development economics. I am so proud that before implementing projects, HSP went to the communities and asked them what they think their most pressing problems were. I am proud of the relationships that have been created. I am proud of the gratitude that has been expressed towards my family and every volunteer that has worked with us. Lastly, I am proud to assure that anyone who spends just a week with HSP in Guatemala will feel this pride too.

1

Volunteer

Rating: 5

I went on a trip with HSP to White Mountain Apache Reservation for a service learning trip with a group of students from Virginia Commonwealth University. The trip was one week planned to the hour with presentations, activities, and events. White Mountain is gorgeous, full of breath taking views and so much culture that America often misses. The time I spent in White Mountain truly opened my mind to a whole new perspective and I am so thankful to HSP for that gift. Their dedication to service is unparalleled. This is a non-profit that truly gives everything it can into their work.

1

Volunteer

Rating: 5

HSP ambitiously strives to tackle societal, political, economic and systemic problems that most non-profits shy from. The team's organization, passion, and unyielding commitment to empower and equip indigenous communities is inspiring. Volunteering as an intern has been a eye-opening experience thus far and I look forward to what lies ahead!

1

Client Served

Rating: 5

The experience that HSP facilitates is a cultural interchange in which each person has the opportunity to connect, respect and value cultures. HSP offers a life-changing trip that helps communities to change.

Client Served

Rating: 5

HSP service has a trustworthy plataform that truly makes sure of the security of all the people that uses it. HSP is an organization that is always noticing the impact of the work their proyects have in the lives of their clients.

Client Served

Rating: 5

Highland Support Project is a bridge that helps people around the world to be in contact with the real face of the communities, allowing people to truly make a difference. HSP work in communities in Guatemala have changed a lot of lives, being proof that transformational development is not just a dream but a way in which people work for change and regain control of their own lives.

1

Volunteer

Rating: 5

The Highland Support Project is one of few non-profit networks that doesn't focus on development from a Western perspective. Their methodology is one of "transformational development", meaning that communities lift themselves out of poverty by participating in their programming, and do so sustainably. I really think that HSP is doing that that almost no other organizations working in Guatemala are doing. Their methods may not be as flashy, but they help people from the ground up. Highly recommend participating in one of their amazing trips!

1

Volunteer

Rating: 4

What makes HSP is different is that they don't implement band-aid solutions. Their mission and work focuses on the long-term solutions and more importantly, solutions that are sustainable. I know I've personally always felt like the charity/volunteer work I've done in other areas (donations, hosting fundraisers, volunteering at events, etc.) have not been enough. I think that they do help, but I know I could contribute even more to the causes I care about.

I admire and advocate for HSP because it is an organization that puts the people they serve at the heart of their projects. I've volunteered with them for about 7 months and I can see that they are committed to working with the Mayans for the long-run. Everyone here is outwardly passionate and driven in what they do and love the people that they work with and I'm happy to be a part of the work that they do!

Volunteer

Rating: 4

I truly enjoyed my trip to Guatemala. I feel as if we have left an impact of who we are and what we stand for with the Myan Woman. The fact that they know others will struggle for their lively hood helps them know they are not alone. I felt like the support helped them more then the physical labor.