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2017 Top-Rated Nonprofit

Mayan Families

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Nonprofit Overview

Causes: Community Improvement & Capacity Building, Emergency Assistance, Human Services, International, International Development, Personal Social Services

Mission: As an accredited 501(c)(3) non-governmental organization, Mayan Families' mission is to facilitate sustainable development programs in impoverished communities throughout the Lake Atitlán region of rural Guatemala. Our objective is to stimulate long-term progress through school sponsorships, health initiatives, vocational training and microfinance, while providing emergency aid to those in critical need. Our organization operates on the principle that all people should have access to the basic necessities of life. We strive to accomplish our goals through working democratically with the communities we serve. Sign up for Our Newsletter and see how you can support us further: http://bit.ly/1beeo1p

Results: Mayan Families has supported 3,620 students in the past 10 years through our Student Sponsorship Program from the Preschool to University levels. We operate 7 Preschools year round that feed and educate malnourished children. Currently, our Education Program has 2,554 active students.Our Trade School has trained 364 people in different disciplines: 92 sewing students, 46 carpentry students, 221 computer students and 5 welding students. We have provided 344 Microloans to help impoverished Indigenous Mayan Women. 1,364 clients and families benefited from financial and nutritional support throughout 2014-15. This year we donated 425 Stoves, which reduce air pollution and help create a safer home environment. In 2015 alone, Mayan Families gave out 455 Water Filters, giving 3,315 indigenous families gained access to clean water. We have also held over 6 years of Clinics in the poorest communities in rural Guatemala. Our medical team has seen over 2,000 patients via mobile clinics in over 10 different communities, as well as over 1,000 patients in the Charlie Gomez Medical Clinic. We have served a daily meal to 85 elderly, reducing the rate of disease and cutting down malnutrition. Mayan Families have had three sets of 25 women and their children pass through Well Mother Well Baby and see statistically significant improvement in their lives We have had 65 kids in critical need receive food aid and education. Please go to our website for more information on our programs and impact: www.mayanfamilies.org

Target demographics: Indigenous Mayan Guatemalans living in extreme poverty

Direct beneficiaries per year: Thousands of Guatemalan families living in extreme poverty

Geographic areas served: Guatemala

Programs: Mayan Families programs: Student Sponsorship, Preschool Nutrition Centers, Tutoring Program, Reproductive Health & Family Planning, Family Assistance, Community Development, Natural Building Workshops, Medical Program, Elderly Care, Income Generating Programs, Microloans Programs, Animal Welfare, Women Health and Children Aid.

Community Stories

429 Stories from Volunteers, Donors & Supporters

Donor

Rating: 2

This organization is based on a legacy of good work that should give it the foundation to move forward in a good way. That does not appear to be happening. I made numerous donations to this organization under the new leadership in 2018 after the MF board took control of all accounts. I discovered they had not been used as directed. The intended recipients had not received anything. I was there early 2019 and approached this org for an explanation That response was only to try and trash their previous partner. I've seen this disgusting video and report - both ignore significant facts that speak to their allegations (which they must know and still ignore seeming to prefer to try and make their previous partner look as bad as possible) and highlight their absolute lack of understanding of the community and culture. This organization talks about all the good they are going to do but spends an inordinate amount of time and money on questionable activities to fault their previous partner instead of getting on with it. They are destroying their own potential and harming the communities they claim to want to help.

Donor

Rating: 5

I couldn't agree more with the post from GO_MAYANFAMILIES on 8/12/19. I've been involved with Mayan Families since 2010. Since then I've made 8 trips, including one last month when I had the opportunity to meet with Erin Mooney and the wonderful staff who have shepherded Mayan Families through the transition.
The transition itself did take some time, including time to catch up on past obligations, but I've never thought for a moment of walking away because there is no other organization better suited to continue the mission.
I'd like to encourage everyone to watch the attached video that was published a few days ago. In that video Erin provides her contact information for anyone who would like to request a copy of the report that outlines what happened, and most importantly explains what has been done and how the governance of Mayan Families today will ensure that nothing like what transpired will ever happen again.
For anyone still not sure what to believe, you don't need to take my word for it. Instead, get in touch with Erin and ask her about all of the other partner organizations who became affiliated with Mayan Families under the "old guard". You will find that virtually all of them chose to continue with the new Mayan Families, with new organizations approaching regularly saying they are so glad to see the new leadership and can't wait to partner.
For any donors who chose to wait this process out, I'd implore you to invest the time to get in touch with Erin and learn how Mayan Families is now in the best position ever to grow and continue to help the indigenous families around Lake Atitlan.

1

Donor

Rating: 5

This organization went through a serious transformation after discovering years of poor financial dealings and unethical practices. The new organization(2019) is on the right path and is filing all updated US tax forms. I suggest that a potential donor read the report from four separate external parties into the previous leadership prior to believing some of the other comments. Sadly, as a long time donor, the deceit from the founders is heart breaking. Nevertheless, the next steps outlined in the improvement action report are on target.

Review from Guidestar

1 mireio

Donor

Rating: 1

Please note that all positive reviews and awards date to prior to 2018.
Negative reports only after that date.
There is a reason for this: It is basically no longer the same charity. Let me explain all I found out as it is quite important.

Mayan Families USA was founded by an Australian woman living in Panajachel
It was created to allow USA donors to get a tax receipt when supporting the other foundation she registered in Guatemala: FundaMaya. All work in Guatemala was performed by FundaMaya and its indigenous staff. Donors to Mayan Families who visited the Guatemala charity and the children they sponsored were in fact visiting FundaMaya. The latter received funds from Mayan Families only for approved projects and upon presentation of receipts and documentation. Its administrative costs retained were 20%. I do not know what percentage Mayan Families USA was retaining on the money they received nor what was the salaries they paid their staff because no financial statements are on their page and the last tax return available to donors is 2015

At the end of 2017 Sharon was diagnosed with Cancer and had to return for treatment to Australia. A new board of directors at Mayan Famiies sent from the USA a director to take her place. Basically, Mayan Families, took over the running and finances of FundaMaya as of that date. This led to changes that created much discord and hurt feelings among the indigenous staff who saw its role diminished as MF wanted to run things in an entirely different manner than that established by Sharon Smart and had resulted in turning a project she started out of her own home, with her own funds, into one with a 3 million dollars a year in donations.

As an expatriate in Guatemala and the founder of another charity working in that country, I have nothing but admiration for the work done by FundaMaya. I have seen the significant positive difference it has made to the lives of indigenous communities around the lake of Atitlan. Sharon’s projects grew from school sponsorship for children, to the creation of several pre-schools, feeding programs for the elderly, building and repairing homes, vented stoves to prevent repiratory diseases, sewing and carpentry courses, a medical clinic and even animal protection. Her fundraising success was based on an intensive effort creating an ongoing relationship between donors and recipient via photos, letters and invitation to visit that always turned into a memorable experience. All donations were documented with photos of food baskets and school supplies delivered to smiling recipients.

In September of 2018, the Guatemala board of directors of FundaMaya decided that the changes imposed by Mayan Families were incompatible with their philiosophy and the fundamental role it gave its indigenous staff as well as the very respectful way it related to the indigenous communities and its leaders. Sharon Smart announced that FundaMaya would part from Mayan Families but would continue its work and receive its donations through a different partner: ACTION ALLIANCE INTERNATIONAL . She wished Mayan Families good luck on public media.

Mayan Families was not as civilised about the parting. FundaMaya was falsely accused of many things. There was a lot of misinformation and unsubstantiated accusations thrown around and sent to donors and when those accusations were proven to have been erroneous, there was not the integrity to publicly admit this to the donors and clear the names of the accused. Entirely false accusations based on superficial misinformation was made against the indigenous staff claiming it had accumulated unusual wealth resulted in their safety being at risk, but even when that was explained to the Mayan Family director in Panajachel and their accusasions proven invalid, no apology resulted.

Basically, Mayan Families would like the donors to think that they are running the same charity their donations have been supporting in the past but with new and better management. That is not true. FundaMaya has moved on and is no longer their partner. Mayan Families has established on the former home of FundaMaya its own still unregistered charity called Mayan Families. As a result of the parting, Mayan Families kept some of FundaMaya’s project to justify retaining all reserve funds destined to FundaMaya they would not part with. That is why some sponsors still fall under their umbrella and are complaining on this site. MF has been banned from the 2 community pre-schools they adopted as the community leaders to not like the way they want to run things. They do not want foreigners reigning over them. They are angry for having to be associated with MF instead of FundaMaya .

FundaMaya and its Guatemalan staff and directors opened their new headquarters in December and continue to operate its same projects with a philosophy that is different from that of its former partner. They believe that the indigenous should shape the policies and practices of the organization. they believe in focusing on the individual and the families. they know the sponsored students and their families personally, Sharon and her family attend every wedding, funeral and special events of the communities they support. The indigenous community considers FundaMaya as its own indigenous project. They like dealing with the indigenous staff rather overpaid expatriate staff at Mayan Families.

The unheard excessiveness of the salary ($60,000) paid by Mayan Families to its director resulted in my complaining about it on the facebook page and comparing it to the $22,000 paid Sharon. All who complained and found, like me, such posting removed and received a message advising them they were banned from the site. Mayan Families is presently staffed by a lot of expatriates paid high salaries and working illegally in Guatemala as none has work permits, including the director.

Like the many who now know that FundaMaya was the real worker behind Mayan Families, I have chosen to continue to support them.

3

Donor

Rating: 2

I still haven't received the donation tax letter I requested from Mayan Families in December. It didn't use to be a problem. I used to get them every year. However, under the new leadership getting answers to emails is a challenge.

4

Donor

Rating: 1

I have been donating, sponsoring several students, and volunteering with this organization since 2008. They have been wonderful to work with up until late 2017. There was a dramatic change of the board and a major shift how things were run. I paid for one student to study in 2018 that ended up dropping out of school because the school fees were never paid. I had been sponsoring this student for 8+ years. Donations paid for were never delivered to the families they were purchased to assist. There are so many questions and concerns about how this organization is being run. I have been told that the organization has lost their partner organization that is legally authorized to operate in Guatemala, so I am not sure how they are able to operate now. Maybe that is why there are problems.

6

Donor

Rating: 3

This organization has been stellar in the past but under the new board in 2017 has started to ignore cultural issues and has become somewhat condescending towards the local population.

1

Donor

Rating: 5

As a long time donor, the Mayan Families volunteer staff provides exceptional support and plans every detail of my community visits, making a memorable experience every summer I visit.
Thank you!!!!

1 Catherine18

Volunteer

Rating: 5

Small, grass roots organization with a big heart. Such a beautiful group of people with the right mission - helping others help themselves. Our group has served with them for five years now and will definitely go back again.

Previous Stories

Volunteer

Rating: 5

This is most sincere group of people to work with who are truly building bridges between people who are in need and those who can help fulfill those needs. They give the full experience of not just writing a check, but also allowing you the experience to meet the people whom you are helping. And it is an honor to be part of the work. I trust Mayan Families and the work they do. I have fundraised thousands of dollars on their behalf and will continue to work with them to give even more. I have brought numerous people to work there and all have had positive experiences. From building a home for a family to fitting a child with a pair of shoes, it amazes me how they are able to find the needs and fulfill them. I recommend this nonprofit to any and everyone.

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Donor

Rating: 5

The staff at Mayan families were incredibly committed, kind and hardworking! I was continually blown away by how readily willing to help out in any way. MaryAnn families is top notch!

Volunteer

Rating: 5

I have worked with Mayan Families since 2010...and it has been a great organization to work with. I have organized 15 family oriented service trips and Mayan Families is our host organization. The staff cares about those they serve and are always very helpful with our volunteers. I love returning to Guatemala and Mayan Families and sharing it with our team members! Thank you!

Volunteer

Rating: 5

On my trip this year, I enjoyed every day with Mayan Families. They have great staff members that go out into the field with us and help with whatever we may need help with. They are great with our group and also with the Mayans that live at the houses we go visit. they have everything very well organized and if something isn't what it is supposed to be then they figure a way out to fix the problem. Throughout this week, the Mayan Families organization has been so beneficial and so nice that it makes me want to come down and work with them in the future!!

Volunteer

Rating: 5

Mayan Families is a great organization that truly meets the needs of all the indigenous people of the area around Lake Atilan. I got to experience working with preschoolers, sponsored students, elderly feeding programs, installation of ONIL stove, handing out chickens and food baskets, and water filters to all age groups. The staff of Mayan Families welcomes you into their organization with open arms and smiles. Everyone should experience this great organization.

Professional with expertise in this field

Rating: 5

This charity Mayan Families is so unique. They have a very diverse staff and all of the people that I came into contact with were excited and motivated to help! The excitement there is contagious! Very upbeat! I know how hard and difficult this work can be. Always dealing with people from all over the place, showing them the foundation and the work they do. These people really do it, they are so lovely! I also appreciate their communications with me and their monitoring of their programs. They do an admirable job is evaluating what works and what does not. I am so impressed with Mayan Families!

Donor

Rating: 5

Wow! All I can is I was a traveler before hand. I had done a few trips to work with Charities and I just want to say that this trip with Mayan Families was amazing and it changed my life forever! I know that sounds silly, but it is true! I am so happy that I did this trip with Mayan Families! Very well organized! The Volunteer Coordinators were great! We had very little down time which is what I like! We got to deal with so many families and visit different Mayan Families projects! Fantastic! I am so impressed! Very well run organization! Truly impressive!
Mayan Families is now my focus! I want to do more and this is the NGO that has earned my time and talents!

Volunteer

Rating: 5

I have watched this charity grow and grow! It is truly amazing! They have a dedicated team that really perseveres with a challenging clientele. I am always impressed by the efforts of everyone at Mayan Families to do their best! Excellent attitude! Very welcoming!

Volunteer

Rating: 5

We have been bringing groups to volunteer with Mayan Families since 2011 so we love working with them. I have visited several NGO's in Guatemala which all do wonderful work but I have found Mayan Families to be one of the best!

1

General Member of the Public

Rating: 5

I visited Mayan Families (MF) not because I wanted to volunteer with a non-profit but because I’ve known its President/Founder, Dwight Poage, since we were in 8th grade. We quickly bonded, did all the stupid things kids do, and ended up being roommates until I got married and he went off traveling in the mid 80’s. I know this guy. When he’s with friends, he doesn’t talk much about the work he does. It took a trip to find out. First day there, Dwight throws us into the back of a truck to help deliver food to two MF facilities in neighboring villages. MF brings food to approximately 3,400 people daily. These are people who are in nutritional crisis (not knowing where the next meal is coming from.) 70% of the children they work with are chronically malnourished and their families live on less than $1.90 a day. We spent the week with Dwight as he toured us around while keeping all the plates spinning at MF. Dwight pointed out the heartbreaking signs of malnutrition in kids we’d see. Guatemala has some of the shortest people on earth because of chronic undernourishment. Being a friend for so long, I got to ask Dwight detailed questions about MF operations and finance.

​​If you wonder where your donation dollars go, MF put 80% of every donation dollar into its programs. The other 20% is what keeps the lights on, pays salaries and puts gas into the trucks that carry the food. MF employs about 150 people full time, paying a living wage and providing health care benefits. I’ve been to Dwight and Sharron’s home. It’s nice, but no one is living large on the MF staff, including the founders. All the other reviews will tell you how well organized volunteer trips are and how much fun they had. This review is to tell you how effective Mayan Families is and to assure you that your donations and time are well spent if making a difference is what you want to do.

Donor

Rating: 5

I was blown away by the number of important programs this NGO is involved in. Preschools, clean water, meals for kids, meals for the elderly, medicines and wellness programs, occupational training, microloans, etc., etc. They impact so many people in their area, it is truly amazing and inspiring.

1 Katie178

Volunteer

Rating: 5

Absolutely amazing experience!!! Mayan Families was amazing to us and very good to the Mayan people! They do great work and really care about improving the lives of others! While we were there, we installed energy efficient stoves to improve the lives and health of the indigenous people in the community. I am honored that I got the chance to work with them and they are some of the most amazing and hard working people I have met! I would love to come back again and work with Mayan Families in the future and continue to help the great price of Guatemala!