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