I travelled to Guatemala with 21 strangers to work with Xela Aid. We completed 4 bathrooms and hand wash stations at a nearby school. We distributed water filters to area homes and we worked with Xela Aid leaders to identify parasites in their drinking water.
Every aspect of our trip was phenomenal: the work was meaningful & greatly appreciated by the local community as well as by Xela Aid. The country was beautiful. The food was amazing. Every bit heartwarming.
I went to Guatemala with 21 strangers to work with Xela Aid and returned with 21 friends & countless memories.
This was my first time volunteering with XelaAid, and I must admit that the experience was a life changing one. I cannot even begin to share how inspired I became after participating with XelaAid in October of 2018. There were a group of 22 people that had never met and we bonded immediately. It was almost as if we all knew each other from the past. From experiencing the culture, to tasting their food, helping and playing with children, to change peoples' lives by providing them with Water Filtration systems, to painting a newly dedicated bathroom to a new school....every experience got better than the last. For anyone that EVER wants to give back and have fun while doing it with an incredible organization, you DEFINITELY should consider XelaAid. The founders, Leslie and Mel are "Saints" to say the least. They give their heart and soul and truly help women and men lead, develop and the locals of San Martin in Xela. Unlike many organizations, XelaAid EMPOWERS their local kids and families to become self sufficient and to help train, educate and motivate others in the area to lead better lives.
Xela AID provides educational and humanitarian support to a village in the mountains of Guatemala (near Quetzaltenango). I just returned from a 10-day service trip with them (October 11-21, 2018). Xela AID's focus is multi-dimensional, centered around the concept that teaching people to help themselves is the most powerful way to effect change.
The organization has been working in Guatemala for about 26 years. In my opinion, they have thought of everything:
Their focus on education includes securing higher-education sponsorships for students. They also require that those students give back to the community by tutoring a certain number of hours per week. (Many former-students have become teachers at the schools in the village.)
The clinic at Xela AID feels like a community center. It is where the people of the village go for medical attention. Each day, there was a full waiting room (lobby of building). The patients are also given food as needed.
In addition to education and medical assistance, Xela AID knows the importance of clean, safe drinking water. Their simple and effective water filtration system is comprised of two buckets and a filter (previously used for kidney dialysis). As part of the Xela AID philosophy of self-sustainability, each family is required to save money to replace the filter in 10 years.
The non-profit group has also built bathrooms for many of the local schools. Our group of volunteers helped paint one of these and got to participate in the ribbon-cutting ceremony. The students will be trained on how to wash their hands as well as how to keep the bathrooms clean.
The bottom line is that Xela AID has created an outstanding non-profit organization that provides support while helping the community become self-sufficient. (Several bed and breakfast rooms are currently being built to help toward this goal.) The Xela AID model is both compassionate and intelligent. It is run by some of the most generous, kindhearted, astute and farsighted people I’ve ever met.
Had the great fortune to join a fantastic service & travel trip with volunteers from various Rotary Clubs from S California & Hilo, Hawaii working with Xela Aid in San Martin, Guatemala from October 11-21, 2018. We completed service projects and our group put the finishing touches on a clean water & restroom project at a local emementary school in San Martin. We also visited local residents and installed clean water filters for their drinking water supply. Volunteers also brought many art projects that we worked on with the kids over the four days. We also learned how to weave & shop the local market before learning how to prepare regional dishes that we served to the kids. Rotarians conducted a shoe drive in their home towns and gave away new shoes to kids at Xela Aid. We met with the weavers to brainstorm new ideas for weaving products and discussed products/styles that could be easily created and brought to market. We also met many of the kids & families that use various services provided by Xela Aid. We attended a dinner meeting of the Rotary Club in Quetzaltenango-they were the International Rotary Sponsor Club. Our service group was well represented from a number of volunteers from Rotary Clubs in Southern CA as well as Hilo, Hawaii.
Our travel included some amazing destinations before and after the service project in Mexcio City, Antigua, Quetzaltenango & Lake Atitilan. Our schedule was jam packed with many activities which included tour guide experts who lead tours on the subjects of Mexican & Guatemalan history, anthropology, weaving & archeology.
This was most definitely a 5 STAR experience! What an amazing group of volunteers- we all had the good fortune to meet, work together for Xela Aid and create lifelong memories while travelling. We all made a difference impacting kids & their family’s lives through service at Xela Aid in San Martin, Guatemala - SABOR!
Pat Bland - October 2018
Xela AID is an organization that promotes self-reliance, and does not believe in handouts, but “hands up”. I spent 4 days at their facility in San Martin, Guatemala, and it was obvious from the moment the bus pulled up that Xela AID makes a differnece in that community. Their education programs to help break the cycle of poverty are so necessary, and the children that have graduated from their programs are helping others in their community break that cycle. I can’t wait until my next trip to Guatemala to help improve the lives of those living in the mountainous community and provide hope to the families in the area.
The Xela Aid trip to Guatemala was definitely one of the best vacations of a lifetime! If you are looking for an opportunity to learn, experience, serve, and give and receive love, a Xela Aid trip is the perfect answer. The schedule is extremely well organized, yet flexible when needed. The trip leaders build the group into a team very quickly, while carefully attending to everyone’s individual needs. Our lodgings and transportation were all top notch, with local guides at each sightseeing stop so that we could get the most from each experience. We visited art and anthropology museums in Mexico City, then the colonial capital of Guatemala, Antigua, followed by the ruins of the Mayan capital. Next came our service days, which seemed more like fun than work. The Guatemalan people are so warm and friendly that our time there felt like a cultural immersion. The opportunities to interact through interpreters are many of my most treasured memories, and the chance to meet the young girl who I have the privilege to sponsor was an absolutely amazing experience. I only wished that the trip could be longer so that we could spend more time getting to know the many people whose lives are being changed for the better by Xela Aid! Our time in beautiful Guatemala concluded with a relaxing visit to Lake Atitlan, where the recreational choices were sure to appeal to all tastes, and our final group dinner was the occasion for many happy tears. Although it was called a service trip, I know that I received far more than I gave, and I would be ready and willing to do it again, hopefully soon!
I am very impressed with Xela Aid. Traveling to Guatemala to work as a volunteer was a complete unknown for me and, in every way, the experience far, far exceeded my expectations. The trip was extremely well-planned from start to finish, and the leaders, Andrew and Ohana, were excellent guides. They were personable and approachable, but they were also highly organized and professional, which made the entire experience unfold smoothly. Leslie and Mel provided further support with their calm, knowledgeable, and warm presence. I loved traveling with other like-minded volunteers, and I had a terrific time getting to know such a great group of diverse people. Most of all, it was an honor and a pleasure to meet the wonderful people of San Martin Chiquito and have the opportunity to be of some assistance to them. I could see that the work we did in the village and the projects we completed would truly make a long-term difference to the community. I can recommend this nonprofit without a single reservation.
Xela Aid is an amazing organization! Wow! Words cannot describe the impact and lives that are being changed because of Xela Aid.
I recently had the privilege of volunteering in the June Guatemala 2018 trip. I believe we all have a longing to make a difference Xela Aid definitely provides the opportunity. The people are so welcoming. They have so little but yet they are so great full. The children smiles are priceless. They greeted us so warmly with hugs, a performance and a dance.
During our trip we were able to deliver water filters that provide clean water to families. They have to boil the water and fire wood is expensive and time consuming . I cannot expressive how great full the families were to receive them. Yet it broke my heart many people would stop us as we were delivering the filters and ask, “when will I get one? “ Sadly, the waiting list is long. However, for under a hundred dollars a water filter can change a families life.
Our leaders Andrew and Ohana were amazing . They spent hours and hours carefully planning every detail. Our safety was a top priority.
Mel and Leslie have such a heart for making a difference and a vision that has impacted so many lives. We met so many students that have graduated and are now making a difference because they received scholarships. This is truly an organization that is bringing hope and help for generations to come. I really enjoyed this trip. Our group of 25 volunteers were talented, kind and compassionate people.
The people and kids at San Martin Chiquito opened my eyes and taught me how important it is to be greatful and appreciative. I am so blessed to live in America. I feel like a piece of my heart stayed in Guatemala the need is so great many children cannot go to school unless they get spronsered because they have to work at young ages. We had the privilege of hearing many children’s dreams and aspirations they shared their desires to be doctors, lawyers, teachers, and veterinarians in hopes of finding a person to sponsor them through a scholarship. My heart also aches Their are so many kids on the waiting list.
It truly a life changing trip Katie
My daughter and I joined Xela AID on their last service trip. It was an amazing experience and it was impressive to see how much Xela AID does to support the local community to meet their critical needs. The trip educated us on the local Mayan culture and how we could provide support without changing their rich culture. I would highly recommend Xela AID.
My experience with Xela AID was extraordinary in all the right ways. It was amazing to see first hand what a difference they are making in the lives of the villagers at San Martin. From delivering water filters to spending the day with my sponsored child, all the projects and activities opened my heart to new levels of gratitude and humility. I cannot say enough about the integrity, knowledge, and heart of this organization. It was a personal blessing to be one small piece of this organization.
I always wondered what it would be like to participate in an experience that gave back to a community in a way that would have an immediate impact. I eagerly signed up to participate in the Xela AID trip to Guatemala this summer with my daughter, thinking what a great time we would have to bond together in such an experience. I had heard many wonderful things about Xela from others and admit, I was curious to see and experience it firsthand. I can share that the experience far-exceeded my expectations.
Xela AID was exceptional from the trip planning and logistics, day-to-day activities, and overall experience one could only imagine. I feel so fortunate that I walk away with the experience of not only making an immediate impact on the lives of others, but that my eyes were opened to another way that we, as humans, connect with one another. From a trip to the local market and cooking for volunteers, teaching yoga to young teens, facilitating an entire morning of pre-school art activities, participating in soccer with local children, and delivering water filters to families, I proudly walk away with a heart filled of love for a community and country I just met.
The leaders and those involved in Xela AID are exceptional individuals and I will forever cherish my involvement with Xela AID.
A week ago we completed our second trip to Guatemala with Xela Aid. The combination of leadership, vision, and the company of those who self-selected themselves to be our traveling companions made this trip even more meaningful and satisfying than the first. We expect to be back again.
I recently traveled to Guatemala with Xela Aid. The trip was amazing in so many ways. First of all it was extremely organized and professional and our health and well-being was number one throughout the trip! The activities and projects were planned in advance to accommodate peoples passions and interests. Traveling with a group of 25 strangers is usually uncomfortable, but from the very beginning of the trip we did activities that allowed us to learn names and learn about each other quickly. My travel companions are no longer strangers...they are now my friends. I highly recommend a trip with Xela Aid...you will be fulfilled beyond your expectations.
Our first hand experience visiting Xela Aid does showed how much their contributions matter to the community of San Martin Chiquita. Women, children, artists, everyone we encountered is learning enabling skills for self reliance and leadership that are compatible with retaining their beautiful ancient culture.
We travelled to the highlands of Guatemala with Xela Aid. Though this trip we had a terrific window into the incredible natural beauty, the traditional artisans and the struggles of this unique part of the world. Travel was safe and yet authentic, a difficult balance to achieve for people coming in for a short stay! Made many wonderful friends in the process. If you are interested in modern Mayan culture, and are flexible and interested in service, consider Xela Aid!
I went on my first volunteer trip with Xela Aid 10 years ago and I was hooked! So, since then my husband and I have gone back to Xela every chance we had!
I love the people - both the people working in the project and my fellow travelers and volunteers! The project is run extremely well and almost all the money and resources go straight to where they are needed in Guatemala.
We have sponsored some lovely girls through school and trade school and it is always amazing to see them grow up and become amazing adults!
I can only recommend a trip with Xela Aid to anybody who is interested in this project! By giving your support and time to the people of San Martin, you will come away from this journey far richer than you could ever have imagined.
The First time I came on a Xela AID volunteer trip was 7 years ago and I have been coming ever since! This project is not just another pilot project like you see in so many places. It has been going strong for over 20 years and it gets stronger and bigger every day! The Maya's we work with are amazing people and they make the decisions about what they need help with and many times I have seen them put the need of others before their own. The projects include health, education, clean water, micro loans and emergency help for those who are in dire need. The volunteer trips are amazingly beautiful, efficient and somehow everybody seems got get along wonderfully and we have made great friends not only with the locals but also other volunteers. There is no drama and no personality clashes, it's amazing to see!
I had the pleasure of volunteering for Xela Aid in 2016, and the work they do for the community of San Martin Chiquito is amazing! They have many areas that you can volunteer in; I loved each area that I volunteered in like the preschool, art therapy and the afterschool program. You can't go wrong with whichever area you choose, and the people of San Martin Chiquito would be so grateful for your help. I had the best experience; it was truly life changing. It was by far one of the best trips I have been on, and I hope to volunteer with Xela Aid again in the future.
I recently returned from my second trip with Xela AID Partnerships for Self Reliance. Of all the trips one could take or experiences one could have, Xela AID surpasses all expectations. The leaders and organization create profound impact both in the work they do and the friendships built between volunteers and with the community. This year I brought my young adult children and we all benefitted from contributing to the community through teaching art in the preschool and holding a sports day for elementary school students. I don't know who had more fun - the kids or the grownups! My son gained construction skills working on the Rotary Club sponsored clean water project building bathrooms in the local schools and he also learned how small acts of kindness - smiles, high fives, and hugs - have lasting impact on the giver and the receiver. The care and feeding (always eating!) of the volunteer group that Leslie (founder) and Mel (partner and CFO) provide create lasting relationships and meaningful group dynamics. I highly recommend going on a trip. It will change you for the better and make life immensely better for the people of San Martin Chile Verde.
The Most Important Work I Have Ever Done
Eleven years ago, my wife Claudia and I joined a group of volunteers going to Guatemala with Xela AID, one of the yearly trips they’ve been making for over a decade. Our goal was to bring medicines and doctors to the village of San Martín Chiquito and to support several projects that were under way. We were also to look at their scholarship program and help wherever it was necessary. Finally, we were going to have some time to relax and decompress after the hard work in the village.
Well, little did I know that this 10-day trip was going to change my life and transform the lives of many others around me. We met three girls that stole our hearts and became part of our family for the next decade. One of them is now married and has a beautiful 3-year-old daughter; the second one just got married and is expecting a baby, and the third one is still in school and is preparing to study to be a nurse. By partnering with their families, we provided them an opportunity to break a cycle of poverty, illiteracy, and frankly, despair, and helped them become productive, educated indigenous women in a society dominated by men.
But that was just the tip of the iceberg for us. We became more and more involved in the project, with the weavers, their dreams, and their ideals; with the village youth, exploring with them ways to become leaders of their communities and their destinies. We helped save lives; we saw people rise from the mud of their collapsing adobe ruins to become productive families, working, learning to read and write, their children getting educated and healthier, with dignity.
And the tears flowed freely on that first trip and every trip afterward as the impact of what we had seen and as the impact of what we were doing finally sunk in. Tears of joy at seeing old friends thriving, children turned into men and women, a new generation of children healthier, energetic, and eager to learn. Mayan women becoming masters of pedagogy, artists proud of their work and remunerated fairly for it; adult women aspiring to become professionals, using computers, showing their leadership skills, humble and friendly, in charge of their own futures.
Xela AID is more than a project. These trips are more than just volunteer trips. Xela AID is a model for self-reliance, for honorable and effective collaborations between equals, of sharing resources and succeeding together in saving lives and helping people succeed and achieve their dreams. These trips are journeys of the heart, soul wrenching and life giving, purpose driven and filled with strong commitments to bring prosperity and dignity to the poorest of the poor.
These trips, this organization changes people’s lives, the Guatemalans lives and ours as well. This work is the most significant work that I have ever done.
Carlos de la Rosa
There are many projects and organizations that compete for our attention and our money. Many are definitely worthwhile investing on, and they do a good job in their fields. However, I have never belonged to an organization whose work has positively changed so many lives, permanently, in transformational ways, and I include my own life in this change. Organizations that focus on the balance between Education, Health, Environmental Sustainability, and Work Opportunities are seldom found in the developing world. Xela AID believes that there can’t be real development in any community if one or more of these elements are missing. It is like a four-legged stool. If you want the stool to go higher and higher, you have to elevate all four legs simultaneously, or risk upsetting the balance and even fall. This is what Xela AID does, quietly, consistently, year after year, with the help of a small and dedicated staff and hundreds of volunteers. Xela AID has changed the lives of hundreds of children, many of them now productive adults, through education scholarships, giving them the opportunity to learn and aspire to a better life. Xela AID has accompanied their scholarships with holistic health programs for the children and their families, improving their lives so they can learn better and become productive citizens. Xela AID has provided, through micro-loans and other programs, opportunities for women and youth to develop their own businesses and support themselves and their families through their own efforts and creativity. And Xela AID has invested in developing strategies for environmental health in their communities, from clean water, to waste management, improvements to homes and much more. Xela AID is a model for how development aid should be. Your support for this organization will help expand and replicate this successful model to other communities in Guatemala and beyond. And your life will be changed by your involvement. Irreversibly and for the better. Whether you go on a volunteer trip once, become a long-term supporter and a donor, or become part of the leadership of the organization, your life will never be the same again. Your heart will expand in your chest and it will hurt, and you will do things you never thought you could do. And you will make friends for life, expand your horizons beyond belief; and you will become a better person too.
I found Xela Aid 10 years ago on Charity Navigator. I was looking for an aid organization to support that was helping in the vicinity of where my adopted daughter was born. I also wanted to know that my donations were going to people and not just to operating expenses.
My daughter and I just got back from our first trip with Xela Aid. I was very impressed by the work I saw being done by Xela Aid and with the future plans to expand their services while training up a new generation of leaders. I left feeling confident that my donations were being well used.
It was a wonderful trip to reintroduce my daughter to her birth culture as well.
MMS September 2017