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Mayan Families

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Nonprofit Overview

Mission: Mayan Families works to advance education, nutrition & health and economic development, through community-led initiatives which build on existing resources and knowledge in the Lake Atitlán region of Guatemala.

Results: Mayan Families works in the Lake Atitlán region of Guatemala to implement community-led programs that address systemic barriers and build cultural strength and resilience. Our work is driven by the expertise of Mayan staff and community leaders towards long-term, meaningful change in the areas of education, nutrition & health, and economic development. Mayan Families, a registered US 501(c)3 organization in the US, works in partnership with our legally-registered Guatemalan partner association to implement our programs on the ground. Our work reaches over 15,000 individuals every year. We provide high-quality early childhood education to over 120 students, we provide scholarships to over 1000 Indigenous students, bring excellent tutoring to over 100 students, currently provide intensive malnutrition treatment to 88 infants and toddlers, work with 100 artisans to develop and market their traditional handmade art (increasing their income by over $800/year).

Target demographics: Rural, Indigenous communities in the region of Lake Atitlán

Direct beneficiaries per year: 1300 students; 15,000 individuals,

Geographic areas served: Guatemala

Programs: Initiatives focused on improving Education, Nutrition & Health, and Economic Development

Community Stories

451 Stories from Volunteers, Donors & Supporters

bmcfadyen

Donor

Rating: 5

I have been a supporter of Mayan Families for nearly 15 years, and I have also served on the Board of Directors. At this time, I am a donor and a member of the Leadership Circle, providing an annual gift of unrestricted funds to be used as the staff deems appropriate.

The trust and faith that I have in Mayan Families is genuine. I have watched the organization grow strong and transparent and insist upon integrity. The mission is now focused on three critical areas (education, nutrition and health, economic development), and the programming is based on a self-reliance model.

Through very thoughtful teaching moments, donors are learning how to support the community in a respectful manner that maintains the dignity of the program participants. There has been a beautiful shift from a "charity model" to a development model, and I look forward to continuing to be a part of the work.

Thank you, Mayan Families, for becoming a model nonprofit in Guatemala!

Previous Stories
1

Donor

Rating: 5

I became involved with Mayan Families several years ago after seeking ways that our family could "give back" to Guatemala. The youngest of our four children was adopted from GUA in 2005. A post on a GUA Adoptions message board led me to investigate Mayan Families further, and I'm sure glad I did. My initial connection was through a Yahoo Group called Mayan Families Connection, comprised of individuals (mostly from the US) who wished to band together to help MF. Soon after joining MFC, I offered to coordinate a shipment of donations to MF, and I have been coordinating 2-3 shipments each year for the past three years with the help of other MFC families who are local to the Boston area. In March, 2010, I was blessed with the opportunity to "follow the boxes" and visit Mayan Families in Panajachel, GUA. I get misty-eyed just thinking about my amazing week with Sharon, Patti, Dwight, and all of the wonderful staff members. While in Pana, I was able to visit with the students that I sponsor, I helped to assemble Easter baskets for Semana Santa, I assisted with a chicken distribution effort, and I visited many of the surrounding villages including Tierra Linda, San Jorge La Laguna, and El Barranco. The trip opened my eyes to the countless ways that MF helps the indigenous population. Not only do they provide organized programs like school sponsorship, micro-loans, onil stoves, and more, but they also tend to the urgent and specific needs of the people they serve... like the sad task of funding the purchase of a coffin. Their hearts open wide for the community and it is clear that they are beloved in return. I can hardly wait to return to Pana, and I will continue to support MF with shipments of donations and by spreading the word about this phenomenal organization.

1

Donor

Rating: 5

The Rotary Club of Upper Arlington (Ohio) has been collaborating with Mayan Families Foundation for over a decade, and it has been a wonderful partnership. During that period UA Rotary and MFF have developed and now Mayan Families helps run the following in the rural highlands of Guatemala: two preschools, a middle school, a trade school (carpentry, sewing, computer skills), and water projects in several villages, plus much, much more. Mayan Families is a trusted partner in our work in Guatemala - we wouldn't have been able to undertake any of these projects without the leadership of MFF.

Previous Stories
1

Donor

Rating: 5

Our Rotary Club has been partnering with Mayan Families for the past 3 years, and out experience has been beyond my expectations. The organization is so well run and is fully integrated into the community it serves, so Mayan Families knows so much about the needs and is able to get us plugged in with truly impactful projects that are changing the lives of such needy people. We will continue to partner with Mayan Families because we know that they are so accountable for the projects we've implemented together.

Donor

Rating: 5

Mayan families are making a difference in Panajachel region. They engage and hire indigenous Mayans to work with them and teach them to be self sufficient. We have partner with them for over 10 years.
Dave Dewey past president of Upper Arlington Rotary

Donor

Rating: 5

I can’t say enough about the great works that Mayan Families is doing. They are working in one of the most impoverished areas of the world and work so efficiently to help the indigenous people of the area. I have all of the confidence in Erin and her team to employ our donations for the greatest needs in the most efficient manner.

1

Donor

Rating: 5

Mayan Families has been instrumental in our work in remote Guatemala. Their partnership has allowed us to confidently and strategically make a difference for the indigenous groups in numerous small villages. The organization has pivoted well during the past few years in dealing with numerous challenges. The current leadership and staff are talented and committed to making the lives of so many in the region healthier and happier.

1

Donor

Rating: 5

This non profit serves a very important need in helping those of great need

Donor

Rating: 5

I've seen firsthand the impact Mayan Families makes in the lives of the people in the Mayan region of Guatemala. They are the real deal and literally are saving lives and improving lives for these people on a daily basis. I highly recommend supporting this organization if you have a heart for helping the people of Guatemala.

Volunteer

Rating: 5

We have led and organized volunteer dental groups in Guatemala for many years. Over the years only one organization has stood out as the one that we will continue to work with, Mayan Families. They are honest, reliable and professional.

Steven Hewett DDS

1 SRPhoto

Professional with expertise in this field

Rating: 5

I have a long history with the country of Guatemala, dating back to 1990 when I spent two weeks traveling the country on a photographic assignment during the Guatemalan civil war. Years later my wife and I would adopt an infant boy from Guatemala and our connection with the country strengthened. Many trips to Guatemala and many photo assignments later I came across the non profit Mayan Families. I was scheduled to travel to Guatemala on a photo assignment for another non profit and knew I'd have some free time after the assignment was finished so I thought I might contact Mayan Families to see if they had a need for a volunteer photographer for a few days. They did and I traveled to their offices in Panajachel to help out as I could. The staff was very caring and devoted to the villages and people they serve and I was impressed with their professionalism and their "can do" attitude. Over the years I've worked with many non profits and I consider Mayan Families a wonderful non profit that works hard for those in need. Attached is a short video my wife made of a Mayan Families volunteer trip we made with our two teenage sons back in 2019 and a photo of me with some of the preschool children Mayan Families serves..

1

Volunteer

Rating: 5

I have been involved with Maya Families for 6 years which included 4 visits to the organization and to my sponsored child and her family so I am familiar with the population and the needs in the area. I have seen incredible growth in Mayan Families as an organization, not only in the scope of the services from education, but now to include clean water, health, vocational training, employment, health, nutrition, and community building. The success of supporting education, an enormous need in Guatemala, is born out by their statistics and decreased drop out rates as well as having implemented tutoring by the students who have progressed to the university. The vision and goals have grown from providing a service to empowering and enabling the population by including them in the vision and decision making and providing resources and skills to help them move out of poverty to self-sufficiency as individuals, as families, and as communities. Staff are recruited from the population. They are very clear how all of these factors are interdependent for success. Mayan Families has also grown in its organization and management, efficiency, and reliability. Sixteen thousand residents of the area benefit from the presence and the work of Mayan Families. I would love to see their model replicated throughout Guatemala and Central America.

Donor

Rating: 5

I've supported Mayan Families for many years. In that time I've seen this organization grow and change to meet the needs of the indigenous community around Lake Atitlan, Guatemala. They have improved accountability of their staff, brought more indigenous persons on staff, and narrowed the focus to best serve the community.

Professional with expertise in this field

Rating: 5

I've supported Mayan Families for nearly 15 years. The organization's work is near and dear to my heart as the mom of a daughter who was adopted from Guatemala. Through Mayan Families, I've sponsored a students' education, provided food and nutrition support, advanced leadership development for Indigenous staff, and more. I've visited Guatemala more than 20 times and feel a deep and abiding connection to the country, the Western Highlands (where Mayan Families' work is predominantly located), and to the organization and its beneficiaries. The Staff team and Board are top notch professionals who consistently look for ways to improve and deepen relationships, partnerships, and efficiencies. Mayan Families works "with" communities rather than "in" communities, recognizing the community's strengths and expertise and the need to ensure their voice and representation lead any and all projects and initiatives. Long-term sustainability and community development are at the core of Mayan Families' mission and vision. I'm very proud to be affiliated with this great NGO.

1 Steve S.8

Donor

Rating: 5

We have worked/partnered with Mayan Families for over 10 years on constructing pre-schools, opening a trade schools and many other humanitarian projects. Having been an officer with Rotary International, and currently Rotary Zone coordinator the current Mayan Families leadership team meet Rotary's highest standards and ethical conduct. A team of Rotarains will returning November 2021 for another major project

Donor

Rating: 5

The staff at Mayan Families does an exceptional job of helping the families in their programs, whether it's educating young people, feeding families, or training people with marketable skills. Good organization with Erin and her staff in charge.

Board Member

Rating: 5

As a current board member and donor, and former on-site volunteer, I can strongly vouch for this organization. I have family history in Guatemala so have been visiting since I was three years old, and in 2014-2015 I made the leap to move there and work with Mayan Families as their Donor Relations Manager. I got to see first-hand the incredible difference that their programs make for local communities.

Under new leadership, Mayan Families has deepened its focus on the most sustainable programs -- education, nutrition and health, and economic development -- which I believe has made the organization even more impactful than before, with a strong emphasis on community-led initiatives and long-term change. I'm proud to serve as a board member and know that I will be involved in Mayan Families for years to come!

Board Member

Rating: 5

I volunteered with Mayan Families in 2019 to help them revamp a nutrition and health program, and now serve on their Board of Directors.

The work they do is: intentional - they make every decision carefully with Indigenous Mayan leaders, staff, children and families at the forefront of the conversation; transformational - they strive to prioritize the greatest needs of the community, even when these needs are harder to meet, to truly impact the communities they work with; and sustainable - every community-led program is designed around existing knowledge and resources so that the community leads the programs equally and become self-sufficient, offering long-term impact and generational transformation.

I couldn't recommend supporting a better nonprofit that does work in the areas of nutrition and health, education, and economic development. They are changing lives by empowering Mayan families.

Board Member

Rating: 5

My involvement with Mayan Families extends over a six year period. Most recently the organization has developed into a first rate non-profit focusing on several communities in the Lake Atitlan area. The approach has been on three pillars: education, health and nutrition and economic development. Working in conjunction with community leaders and parents in these communities. Mayan Families has been able to better understand the needs of each community enabling an appropriate response. It's a matter of assisting the community to become self-sufficient. Not easy, but possible over time. I remain impressed that the organization now has indigenous leadership in all programs and is led by a dynamic Executive Director who understands the importance of building capability within communities and the organization.

I see that I can only choose one role. I am a Board member and my husband and daughter's family are also donors.

1 Guillermo G.

Board Member

Rating: 5

I coincided with Mayan Families in 2017 through networking events for university student exchanges thanks to a university faculty team, but it was in 2019 when I led a cooperation agreement between the organization I worked for and Mayan Families, placing volunteers that supported the organization in different health, nutrition, and education activities. (That year one of the student cohorts developed important community consultation and research that later helped build the ongoing strategic plan of the organization).
In 2020 I accepted the invitation to serve as a board member because I strongly support their vision of strong, vibrant, and self-sufficient Mayan communities in the Lake Atitlán region of Guatemala, but especially because I have strong ties to the region, believe in locally-led initiatives to support community development, with strong political will, strong institutions, with prosper territories and opportunities for all.

4

Donor

Rating: 2

I was a sponsor of a university student for several years before changes were made with the leadership and board of directors at Mayan Families. I found out that my monthly donations hadn’t been applied to my student’s tuition. Furthermore, a large donation I had earmarked specially for a mandatory school project he had needed had also not reached him. Around the same time, my student was “let go” from his position with Mayan Families. He had been employed with them for quite some time and this was his primary source of income. It resulted in financial strain which naturally affected his schooling and his family. I was so disappointed I hadn’t even been notified of this change by Mayan Families or given the opportunity to provide support to him during this difficult time. I have tried to reach out to Mayan Families to get him back on track and to find out more details. I have not been successful and have given up. I understand that he went months later to try to reconnect with me and regain sponsorship and was turned away. It is a shame that my relationship with this organization has left such a sour taste in my mouth. As a former director of a non-profit, I can’t imagine NOT supporting my clients and my donors—two main pieces to a successful non-profit organization. I’ve also tried to reach out to the new director for clarification on what happened to my student and to brainstorm any possible solutions. I never received a response. My student was a lovely person from what I could tell. His life had not been easy but he made it all the way to the university level and wanted to be a productive member of his community. Changes are sometimes needed in non-profits but I never thought that this organization would sacrifice the lives of real people in the process.

Review from Guidestar

5

Donor

Rating: 1

I used to support students and families with Mayan Families until the U.S. board of directors took over the operations in Guatemala. In early 2018 under 'new management' they stopped paying the monthly tuition of two of my sponsored students (without my knowledge) and caused the oldest one to have to leave school and go to work as the family could not pay the tuition. I had already paid sponsorship fees for the entire year, so there was no reason for the org to not pay. When I finally found out in early 2019, I ended up having to pay the schools directly more than $300 of past due tuition for 2018 in order to get the students re-enrolled for school for 2019. The family was so embarrassed and upset about what had happened. Many other of our students also did not receive various donations sent in 2018 under the new board. NOW I sponsor all our students with FUNDAMAYA, which was the on-the-ground organization that provided all the support and assistance to the local people with love, care, and respect!

2

Donor

Rating: 4

Mayan Families are located in Panajachel, Guatemala, and work to support and improve education opportunities for the local Mayan indigenous population. Family health and well being are also major areas of importance to Mayan Families. We have been proud donors of the student sponsorship program for several years, and can see first hand the joy and success of the children that are now able to attend school. Mayan Families are continuously working to improve their organizational and delivery systems to better serve clientele. We support and highly recommend the good works of Mayan Families.
Ron & Mary Lyn

3 Dtrotter

Donor

Rating: 5

The Tri Village Rotary Club along with my wife Julie and I, have supported the Mayan Families organization for a number of years. The recent restructuring led by their new leader, Erin Mooney has propelled them forward to new and better things. I have personally traveled to Guatemala five times previously, and look forward to spending a week there in November 2019 to support their efforts further.

Previous Stories
3

Donor

Rating: 5

Mayan Families is an incredible organization led by their founders, Dwight Poage and Sharon Smart. Their work and dedication is awe inspiring.

2

Donor

Rating: 5

Value Added Experience
When I starting doing volunteer work with Mayan Families, I had no idea that 11 years later, my definition of extended family now includes a Mayan family whose children my husband and I sponsor for their education. We sponsor 3 children (2 girls and a boy) so that they will get an education beyond cultural expectations and hopefully the education will lead to increased employment opportunities. The Guatemalan Family has welcomed us with open arms, a reciprocal relationship where we both give and take. When my mother died, this family offered me their love hoping to reduce the love I was missing. While I visit the family every year, husband, granddaughter, son-in-law, and sister have all traveled to Guatemala to meet the family and learn about their culture. I have been so privileged to have this opportunity through Mayan Families as they provide the transportation as well as Spanish, English and Kakchiquel (local Mayan dialect) interpreters to ensure communication is clear for all of us. Such a rich and rewarding experience for me. Grateful to Mayan Families and their staff for all the work they do to provide support related to education, health and nutrition to the indigenous people in the highlands of Guatemala. I am attaching a photo of the family with my husband and me, plus a photo of the kids reading to me from books I brought them.

Previous Stories
3

Donor

Rating: 4

I have been involved with Mayan Families for 6 years now. This organisation ensures that donors and sponsors can see first hand where their money goes by visiting with the students or elders one sponsors or seeing a project come to fruition. This November I am so excited as I will be bringing my 11 year old granddaughter, son-in-law and sister to Guatemala as I want them to meet the sisters I sponsor in a rural mountain village called El Barranco. Mayan Families staff will drive us to the home of the sisters I sponsor so we can visit with them for an afternoon; they will provide the driver, a vehicle, a Spanish/English interpreter and a Kaqchiquel/Spanish interpreter so that everyone can communicate comfortably. My granddaughter will be giving the children a box of superblocks and showing them how to build with them. We have been discussing Mayan culture, what to expect, how to get over shyness and language barriers to embrace my Guatemalan family.

My granddaughter has also made 10 gift bags for the women in the advanced sewing class as she loves to sew. These bags contain fabric, thread, lace and trim, buttons, and zippers for the ladies to use for home projects. She is enjoying the preparation for this trip as she helped me sort clothing and shoes, and bundle them into suitcases. i can hardly wait for this visit to happen with the support of Mayan Families staff. They make these visits easy and comfortable, breaking down cultural and language barriers, allowing friendship and trust to occur. not many non-profit organizations give to their sponsors and donors in this way.

I attached a photo of the girls I sponsor and their brother reading a Spanish book I brought as a gift. I feel this photo represents the relationship I have built up with this family. I feel so privileged to have this opportunity through Mayan Families.

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5

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.

4

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.

6

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

4 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.

4

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.

6

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.

7

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.

3

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.

Read more

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!

2

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!

1

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!

1

Volunteer

Rating: 5

This was my third time in Guatemala and working with Mayan Families in one year. Once again I had a great experience. One of the many reasons I continue to come back so frequently. I already have another trip scheduled for August of 2017. The staff at Mayan Families is very friendly and easy to work with. This trip, like my first was with my college Waukesha County Technical College. We annually take a group of healthcare students to work with Mayan Families and learn about the challenges facing the indigenous people of Guatemala, healthcare providers, and healthcare facilities. In addition to learning about all of the tremendous programs Mayan Families has to improve the lives of Guatemalans, we installed ONIL high efficiency wood burning stoves and SAWYER high efficiency water filters in peoples homes. This type of work has an immediate impact on the families respiratory health by diverting smoke out of the house via a chimney and GI health as their water is now free of bacteria and microorganisms. At one of the villages we served; a group of village women made us a traditional Guatemalan meal for lunch. The food was really good and abundant. This was an amazing act by the local women and it really showed their gratitude for the work we were doing in their village. These kind of experiences couldn't be possible for the average person if Mayan Families wasn't doing what they are doing. This can change your life. Not to mention Guatemala is a beautiful country, both in geography and it's inhabitants.

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6

Donor

Rating: 5

I have had the great pleasure of working with Mayan Families twice now. The first time was last January with my college. That trip completely changed my life and opened my eyes to the many issues facing the beautiful people of Guatemala. While working with Mayan Families the first time, I sponsored a child to go to school. This August, I took my 15 year old son to Panajachel and we worked with Mayan Families again. We installed some stoves, water filters and delivered food to a couple of pre-schools and the elderly feeding center in San Jorge where we also served the elderly. This trip had a profound effect on my son and reinforced my passion for helping the people of Guatemala. If it is at all possible, I highly recommend going to Panajachel and working with Mayan Families. They are a very transparent organization. When you make a donation to them, they show you where your money goes via pictures of your sponsor student or other donation recipient receiving their donation item. I sent our sponsor student a birthday gift, cake and food basket. The day after his birthday, I received a treasure trove of pictures of him and his mother at the Mayan Families head quarters receiving his gifts. I could go on and on and probably never say enough about Mayan Families and the work that they are doing for the indigenous people of Guatemala. My entire family will be returning to Panajachel in the summer of 2017 to do more great work with Mayan Families.

1

Volunteer

Rating: 5

Last week was my first visit to Mayan Families in Pana. It was back to school week and the families were coming into pick up back to school supplies. The organization was amazing and the impact that sponsors make was clearly demonstrated.
The group I was with also had the opportunity to visit the pre-school in San Antonio, to deliver Pilas to 3 families and food baskets, toys and clothes to many more. The smiles, hugs and appreciation was overflowing from the recipients. Being able to not only sponsor a child but to have the opportunity to ask about a families needs and health and interact with the children provides so much joy.
We also had the opportunity to serve a meal and play bingo with the Elderly lunch program. The appreciation and hugs were overflowing.

1

Volunteer

Rating: 5

I have worked with Mayan Families for over 8 years. They are outstanding in ministry, in trasnparency, and integrity. I would recommend them without question and look forward to future opportunities to be in ministry with them.

1

General Member of the Public

Rating: 5

The Mayan Families organization is an amazing non profit that is helping to better the lives of the indigenous people who live in the Lake Atitlan area. I recently went on a mission trip with a group from the Community Church of Poway. We chose to install stoves, purchase and deliver beds and water filtration systems, work in the preschool at San Jorge, and feed lunch to seniors also in San Jorge. We always felt safe as we had guides, drivers, and interpreters who were with us. The accommodation and food were great. Many in our group were so touched that we are supporting students and the elderly through the Mayan Families scholarship program. We are starting to plan our 2017 mission trip. The humble, kind, Mayan people are so deserving of this help.

Volunteer

Rating: 5

Our group of 12 participated in July 2016 with Mayan Families and ready to go back again. The projects kept us involved with the Mayan people and educated us on their needs. I believe that Mayan Families offers sustainable change with programs that they are not only involved in but help run the programs. A transformational change came about within us. It was a maiden voyage that bears repeating and can only encourage others to get involved. If you can't go see for yourself, please take our experience as proof that 1) they need your help, 2) all funds go for a multiple of needs that would not be met unless we were helping and 3) the programs Mayan Families implement are making a difference. Also....you can support with your pocket book - sponsor a child's education, an elder's support for food (there is no govt. programs), towards emergency medical care, toward trade schools, and a multitude of other programs. You won't regret getting involved with Mayan Families.

Jeanine5

Volunteer

Rating: 5

I traveled to Guatemala for the first time with a company called Serengetee. They are in a close partnership with Mayan Families, and I cannot begin to describe how amazing my experience was. It was so much more inspiring than I could have ever imagined and every life touched will forever have a place in my heart. Mayan Families is constantly looking to improve the lives of everyone in contact with them. With that, the volunteers gain a new sense of looking at the world.

Brian155

Volunteer

Rating: 5

I only worked with the Mayan Families for a brief amount of time, but in that time I was able to see the good that they did for the community. The amount of support they give with such little funding and the passionate employees they have allow for them to change lives. The experience itself was very enlightening and allowed to change the lives of some fellow humans in need.

2 Maura O.

Volunteer

Rating: 5

I've worked with Mayan Families for 10 years. They are an incredible program! I recently got to visit the headquarters for two days. We toured two of the preschools. We also spend a day at the nutrition center in San Jorge, serving lunch to those in their Elder care program. It is truly incredible work they are doing in the area in and around Panajachel. I especially love that 90% of their staff are local indigenous members of the community they serve. They are truly living their mission!

1

Volunteer

Rating: 5

I just returned from my second trip to Guatemala to volunteer with Mayan Families. I continue to be amazed at the great work they are all so committed to in a very impoverished area of the world. Education is a big part of what they do while helping to feed, shelter and heal the people of Guatemala. Everyone I have met is so committed to the people. I have met the student I sponsor through Mayan Families and I can truly see the difference MF has made in so many lives. I will continue to sponsor and volunteer for MF as they are making a difference in the world!

1

Volunteer

Rating: 5

I visited Mayan Families in April 2016. I met many of the clients they serve at several of MF's facilities as well as in their homes. The staff was very accessible, very dedicated and very eager to get us involved in the program activities. I was impressed how much they rely on the locals at all levels of their work. As much as possible they provide local solutions to local needs. Their emphasis on and efforts toward transparency were impressive. The people they serve are beautiful and seem genuinely and extremely grateful for the needs that they meet.

1

Donor

Rating: 5

I've had the pleasure of working with this excellent organization since it's inception. Often donors wonder about the true impact of their contribution. Not so with Miracles in Action where 100 percent of your donation goes directly to the cause. Overhead expenses are covered through special donations and handicraft sales. This is a rare, but highly effective business model. This charity creates substantive change in the communities it serves and I've been fortunate to see that firsthand. In an area faced with crushing poverty and limited opportunities, Miracles in Action is truly a blessing.

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Volunteer

Rating: 5

Mayan Families is amazing! I just returned from Guatemala and am very inspired by their work. We visited a preschool in an impoverished community called Chukmuk where malnutrition is rampant. Mayan Families provides these kids, many of whom suffer from stunted growth, with a nutritious meal and snack each day - likely the only food they will eat. The children also learn to speak Spanish so they will be ready when they start school. This early intervention in both their physical and mental development offers these children a much better future.

I've had the good fortune to volunteer with Mayan Families for many years. They are transparent and open to all with a heart to help. Thank you, Mayan Families, for allowing me to be a part of your great work!

2

Volunteer

Rating: 5

Mayan Families is an incredible organization led by three hard working, dedicated individuals - Dwight, Sharon and Patti. We have been volunteering with them for over 10 years and continue to be impressed with how committed the staff are to the Mayan people. We trust the money we donate is used in the most effective manner and do not hesitate in the least to promote them. Bob & Pam

1

Volunteer

Rating: 5

I went to Guatemala with my college on a Transcultural Healthcare Trip1/1/16-1/10/16. We worked with Mayan Families. I had no idea of what to expect as I have never done anything like this before in my life. Mayan Families were great! They explained everything that the organization is about and why they do what they do. They also were very clear in what we would do as a group of volunteers. We installed 12 Onil stoves in 3 different communities. We also had the opportunity to serve lunch to some of the elderly women of San Jorge. I was deeply touched by the entire experience working with Mayan Families. I felt a deep need to do more than what we as a group had just done; so I sponsored a child for the school year. I am planning a trip in late July to take my 15 year old son down to meet the child we sponsored who is 9 days older than my son. We will volunteer our time with Mayan Families again while there. I am also planning on going on the trip with school again next year during the winter break. I will tell anyone who will listen how great of an experience I had and would highly recommend people going and doing something for someone else and experience the wonderful feeling you get when you make a difference in someone's life.

Mari12

Volunteer

Rating: 5

Amazing charity. I spend 4 days with them and it was a spiritually uplifting experience. you can see immediately how your donations big and small are helping them accomplish their goals. I am looking forward to spending more time with them in Panajachel.

Volunteer

Rating: 5

I went to go volunteer and saw the amazing differences they make in the community. It was truly an amazing experience to work with them and will continue to.

Daniela9

Volunteer

Rating: 5

My Daughter (13) and I spent 2 days at Mayan Families distributing used shoes to those in need. These 2 days have changed our lives. During this time, we saw first hand the difference that Mayan Families have made in the lives of the indigenous people of the Lake Atitlan area. The passion and dedication of the entire staff was also apparent at all time. My daughter & I can't wait to go back :-))

krm296

Former staff

Rating: 5

This is an amazing nonprofit organization with hardworking, dedicated staff. As a trusted, reputable organization in Guatemala, Mayan Families makes visible, long-term impacts on impoverished communities. They work hard to curb extreme poverty through education primarily, but also nutritional and medical assistance, as well as community development and shelter programs.They have changed hundreds - if not thousands - of lives over the last few years and will likely continue to have an incredible impact in Guatemala.

Volunteer

Rating: 5

My family and friends went down mid January to deliver shoes to those in Mayan families critical care group. The support we received from Mayan Families was heartwarming. Also, the staff was incredible helpful and we had an amazing time!




Katelyn Z.

Volunteer

Rating: 4

I really enjoyed working with this organization. Everyone was very passionate about what they were talking about and doing. They were all very friendly. The only unfortunate part was that my school was only there for 5 days working with them and the days were very busy which made it hard to process what I was seeing and experiencing. Besides that I am excited to continue working with them (now sponsoring a child) and hope to go back with my school next year.

3 Linda60

Volunteer

Rating: 5

I've been working with Mayan Families since 2008. Their consistent service and attention of goal setting, of educating, and of helping families succeed is remarkable. Since I go there and see first hand what is being accomplished through excellent management, targeted goals, and extremely hard working employees, I can say without reservation, Mayan Families is one of the best places to make a difference in this world.

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5

Volunteer

Rating: 5

My Children and I started working with Mayan Families in 2009 and have been back twice including this last summer for a month. One of the things that sets this organization apart from other good ones in the Lake Atitlan area is that they truly make use of the resources that are offered. They don't charge you to work for them and they operate on a shoestring (even for Guatemala) and work very hard. I have seen their growth from a relatively small NGO to being a Major Provider of services to those who have no safety net. They are forward thinking an their focus is on education. They start with the youngest, most at risk children and help them to be successful in school. Their primary purpose is to educate. To do this effectively the people they service need help with food, shelter, and health. They do their best to "teach a man to fish and feed them for a lifetime" but sometimes during the process help is needed to continue the process.

Another significant part of this organization is that two of the directors and most of the employees are indigenous and understand the culture and needs of the served population. This allows them to better monitor who really needs help, how they need help, and who is trying to play the system. Sharon, Dwight, and Patti have worked very hard to make their corner of the world a better place and to allow other who want to help and participate the means of doing so.

I couldn't possibly give enough stars to Mayan Families because "far exceeds expectations" does not even begin to explain how I feel about their ethos and efforts. I will continue to work with them for years to come and recommend to anyone I know who is willing to make a difference that they consider doing the same!

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2

General Member of the Public

Rating: 5

This is a simply wonderful organisation. We have visited many times and remain deeply impressed at the professionalism and compassion we see each trip. The programs save and change lives for the better in a sustainable way. No praise properly captures our opinion of Mayan Families, the staff and the volunteers.