Why AIR excels: Guatemalans are both the givers and recipients of care; they are the leaders. This is NOT one of those agencies where North Americans make assumptions about need and/or pretend to know a better way of doing things. They serve those who agree to be a part of the solution; we work side by side while building lasting and meaningful relationships. The recipients become educated and empowered. It is a sustainable effort with partnerships that last a minimum of five years. They get the job done. We were there mid-June and over 500,000 trees had already been planted since the beginning of the year. And best yet: You will only help to make better what is already an incredibly beautiful country (volcanoes included!) that is filled with wonderful and kind people. AIR is fully deserving of your time and resources but for those who are able, there is no better way to see and understand it than being there in person!
As a former scence and biolby teacher, this is my most meaningful volunteer mission trip to Guatemala. AIR offers a wonderful win-win concept of helping both the Mayan people and the world enviornment, by participating in reforestation projects. This is a win for the local highlands inhabitants who benefit by prevention of their hillsides from washing away, as well as give them a sustainable fuel source for their cooking fires. AIR's constuction of more fuel efficient stoves which use less than half the amount of wood needed to prepare their family's meals is good for the environment as well as health benefits to the women and children by safely directing the harmful smoke out of their dwellings. Yes, there is some down right hard and dirty work to be done...but eveyone leaves knowing this is indeed a long lasting work for good.
My experience with AIR started with my desire to provide forestry college students from Montana with firsthand experience in the operation and challenge of community-based reforestation in a developing country. A week of volunteering with AIR fit this goal perfectly and proved hugely instructive for our group of 8. Anne Hallum provided skillful leadership, insight, and dialogue; the AIR reforestation staff were friendly, knowledgable and engaging; and all details were meticulously, professionally managed. Working together with AIR and numerous community members to restore Guatemala's was a tremendous learning experience, and one that I intend to repeat with more students for years to come.
I spent a week this past summer working with AIR this past June. I was so impressed with the dedication they showed to engaging communities in the conservation process. I have always been a big proponent of the idea that for conservation to be sustainable, it must have the support of those local communities that live on the land. This seemed to be the primary principle observed by AIR. AIR is staffed by local, indigenous folks to work closely with each community in which they plant trees. It seems to be working as every community we visited seemed grateful for the work that AIR had put into their community and had a real interest in re-planting the forests around their community. I have nothing but praise for every member of this non-profit and the work they are doing. Keep it up!!!
I heard of AIR in January and volunteered in June. The staff in country were professional, personable and very interested in their work and helping their fellow countrymen and the environment. The technical staff develop real bonds with the people they help and we were made a part of the group, even with a language difference. We were made to feel welcome, useful and part of the team. The office staff kept every part of the time we were there organized and useful. They even planned adventures for fun with the same efficiency as the work we did. The technical staff goes into mountain villages and develops real relationships with the people. When we came in to do the volunteer work, we worked with some of the villagers and were fed very well by them. They seemed to be very pleased we were their. It was such a good experience that we are planning to return next year. We were very impressed with the entire AIR operation and look forward to a long relationship with them.
The week I spent with the technicos in Guatemala was personally rewarding. We planted tress and built stoves. Each step of the way the families and communities worked with us. The technicos helped explain the concepts we implemented and also helped with the communication. Knowing that the accomplishments of the past week directly and immediately improved the families' lives was worth the aches and pains.
I had the pleasure of working with AIR in June, 2011. Simply put, the work done by this relatively small group of dedicated individuals is just amazing. AIR reaches out to the community, teaching farmers the benefits of agroforestry, forming co-ops to grow tree nurseries, building fuel efficient stoves, and digging post hole after post hole to plant thousands upon thousands of tree seedlings. During my time there I dug post holes, planted seedlings, helped to paint an office, and one day helped to install chimnies on two stoves. This involved cutting a flue into the concrete, sealing the two pieces of the chimney together, then to the stove itself, and cutting a hole in the roof (with tin snips) to allow the chimney to pass through. I speak precious little Spanish, but one does not need a translator to understand the smile on the face of a happy and proud stove owner. The staff of AIR is hard working, and dedicated to improving the lives of the people of Guatemala one family, one community at a time, and I am very glad I had the opportunity to meet and work with them on this, their life-long mission.
I went with AIR to Guatemala in the summer of 2011. We planted trees, built stoves, repainted the AIR office. The trees both prevent mudslides and the loss of family and village agricultural soil as well as reintroduce nutrients to the soil. The stoves save 50% of the wood used where no stove is available, provide more efficient heat and funnel smoke outside the house which helps reduce lung diseases which are a major health crisis in this country. We worked with the local indigenous people on their land, and ate in their homes. What I like best about this mission is who is being helped and what how their lives are improved through their participation. I also appreciate that all the employees are Guatemalan who are trained in agronomy and can speak both Spanish and the indigenous language. It is the best mission I have ever volunteered in and does remarkable work with the very small amount of operating funds. Dr. Radford Rader.
I volunteered my first week with AIR in 2007 and a second week with AIR in the summer of 2012. Great experiences each time! Anne and her team are well organized, pay attention to the details and worked diligently to ensure that our group had a productive and fun week. The camaraderie is great. Working side by side with local villagers we built efficient wood burning stoves and planted saplings on deforested mountainsides. But the best part is eating lunch together with the villagers in their homes. Additionally on each trip Anne arranged for us to spend a night or two in one of Guatemala's historical colonial towns. It was very educational and enjoyable.
I had the opportunity to travel to Guatemala this summer with our college age students. I was impressed to see how much AIR and its staff has done for the environment and the people of Guatemala. We planted trees and also helped build stoves that are not only more fuel efficient but also direct the lung infecting smoke out of the kitchen. The staff is incredible, the people of Guatemala are warm and friendly. AIR has taken the environment and the people that depend on it and made them a team.
I have led several groups of college students and other adults on trips to Guatemala with AIR. Each time I am overwhelmed by the wonderful and meaningful work AIR is doing. They work on a grass roots level to allow the local people to inform, lead, and guide the work they do. The AIR staff is extemely professional and committed to their work. I am grateful for all the ways that AIR works for good in the world and for the opportunity to share in that work.
I was fortunate to experience AIR and taking a part in changing the life's of the people in Guatemala...at the same time it changed my life. It was an incredible experience and I would recommend it to anyone.
My husband and I were blessed to spend 8 days in Guatemala, planting trees and building a fuel efficient stove in a villager's home. AIR Guatemala's Director, Dr. Anne Hallum, exhibits such love for the people that we were warmly welcomed just by being a part of AIR's team. We've been on several mission work teams through our church before, and would have to say that this was one of the best accomodations we've experienced. Although Guatemala is noted for being off limits to foreigners because of the crime, we never felt unsafe. The local staff is not only efficient and hard working, but very caring, meeting the needs of all the volunteers. I would highly recommend this trip to anyone wanting to see the real Guatemala and anyone wanting some good, hard physical labor. It's so rewarding to see the difference between the mudslides caused by deforestation and the beautiful older forests that AIR has planted. If you can't go on the trip, donating to this cause really makes a huge impact to the environment and promotes world peace.
I have enthusiastically served as a board member for several years, due to AIR's impressive international reputation as a productive and culturally sensitive organization. Through active reforestation programs, scholarship programs, and the construction of stoves that allow families to forego open cook fires for a more healthy and efficient alternative, AIR has earned a reputation as a valued partner in the local communities it serves. Not only does AIR have an exemplary record of accomplishments, but it is even more remarkable that it has achieved them through honoring and respecting the local, largely indigenous, way of life.
As a Ph.D. researcher in the field of public health, I have had the opportunity to work with numerous non-profit organizations both within the U.S. and abroad. The Alliance for International Reforestation without a doubt is a model organization - not only for the highly effective, responsive ways in which it serves and builds capacity across myriad communities, but also for the compassion with which it does so. Other organizations would do well to study AIR and learn from its strategies for effective and lasting community engagement. Truly, I have never encountered a group of more committed individuals. Led by Dr. Anne Hallum and Cecilia Rodriguez, the AIR team exercises the utmost care and compassion in all that they do. And the numbers speak for themselves - with a low overhead budget and a staff of less than 10 individuals, in over 20 years the organization has planted nearly 4 million trees throughout Guatemala and Nicaragua (most of which are still standing today).Given that Central America has some of the highest rates of deforestation and malnutrition in the world, and given that so many populations there depend upon a healthy environment for healthy food crops - it is safe to say that AIR is saving lives as it is saving the environment. It is an honor to continue working with them, and I hope to continue to do so for many, many years.
In'chelawach? (That's K'aq'chikel, it means How are you? :-) ) Yo soy Lester hijo de Elena en San Andres Itzapa, y la verdad les agradecemos muchisimo por la ayuda a nuestra comunidad y AIR in Inglish but en spanish es Aires hahaha! a sido de gran ayuda para todos nosotros en nuestra comunidad ya que capacitan a varios grupos de mujeres organizadas para la siembra y reforestación de nuestros suelos y bosques, esperamos que jamas se olviden de nosotros ya que desde el momento en que ustedes pisan nuestros suelos en Itzapa, ustedes ya tienen unos amigos que jamas los van a olvidar!! Gracias a nuestros voluntarios de Aires ya que tambien han venido a compartir en nuestras familias y la verdad es que ha sido algo bueno y divertido tenerlos, cuando digo divertido es porque junto a ellos tambien hacemos bromas y chistes hahahahaha... Cuando quieran venir nuevamente ustedes pueden, todos son bienvenidos en Itzapa! :-) Mat'iöx Ch'i we'! (Thank you everyone!)
Yo soy Lidia Otzoy y AIRES ha sido una bendición en mi vida, ya que he sido beneficiaria de su trabajo, tanto en los viveros forestales y principalmente con una Beca de Estudios que me brindaron durante 5 años, hasta que logre la meta de graduarme en el 2011 de Secretaria. Soy de una aldea que se llama Monte Cristo en Chimaltenango y gracias a AIRES pude seguir estudiando ya que mis padres son muy pobres. Soy la primera en poder graduarme en mi familia, por lo que me siento inmensamente feliz y agradecida. Y ahora una bendición más, desde Mayo del 2012, sigo formando parte de esta linda familia, solo que ahora trabajando como Secretaria de la oficina de AIRES, estoy muy orgullosa de ser parte de este equipo que lucha dia a dia para mejorar nuestro ambiente y que ayudan a mas familias de escasos recursos para que realicen sus sueños. Gracias AIR por preocuparse por mi y por muchas otras jovencitas que tienen metas y sueños de continuar sus estudios para ser mejores cada dia y construir un mundo mejor.
I traveled with a group from my church with AIR Guatemala to help out with their mission work. During my week with Anne, her tecnicos, and my fellow church members, we planted lots of trees (over 1000 if I remember correctly) on mountainsides to help combat deforestation and the associated adverse affects on local agriculture. Tree nurseries that AIR planted in its early years are now flourishing, providing communities with soil stability, food, and sustainable firewood. The other project I worked on was helping to build one of three stoves for a family. This brick stove and its chimney were an improvement over the open wood-fueled cooking fire this family was previously using indoors. Not only does the new stove consume less firewood, saving the family money and reducing deforestation, but it helps combat the rampant lung disease I observed in Guatemala, both for the mother that will be using it and for the baby she kept strapped to her back in the smoke-filled kitchen. Even though she doesn't smoke tobacco, she was plagued by a deep cough that I hope will be alleviated by her new and improved kitchen. As far as international missions are concerned, I believe that AIR Guatemala is unique in its ability to create both immediate and a long-lasting benefits for the Guatemalan communities it serves. I have every intention of returning to Guatemala with AIR and lending them my muscles, heart, and spirit as they reforest hillsides and nurture communities.
When my daughter and I traveled to Central America with the Alliance for International Reforestation in the summer of '08, I thought that we were going to "plant trees". Little did I know, that we were in for a a life changing experience that would plant, and nurture, life long relationships. We got to know and work with staff members of AIR and village families hard at work building sustainable farming communities. We did plant trees (lots of them!) but we also got to see first hand how the villages came together to build fuel efficient stoves. We participated in children's classes as they were taught about sustainable farming practices. The families worked so hard to make a better future for themselves, and to thank us for coming and lending a hand. My daughter and I were moved by what we saw. This was change and progress from the ground up, not the top down. Entire villages were working together in the tree nurseries. AIR has to be seen to be believed.
Alliance for International Reforestation is a wonderful organization. We educate families in Guatemala concerning the environmental challenges facing their country. We help them plant trees to avoid flooding and destruction of the environment. We have established tree nurseries. We build fuel efficient brick ovens for families to help end the pollution and smoke hazards occurring in their homes. We provide scholarships for children. Our staff is dedicated and hard working. We make a difference in the lives of families in Guatemala and establish a model project that can be duplicated in other countries to lessen the environmental challenges faced by developing countries.
The Alliance for International Reforestation (AIR) works in Guatemala to assist communities in the mountains develop sustainable agro-forestry. I was part of work teams in 2002 and 2007 that assisted villagers plant trees to stop erosion in the mountainous terrain around Chimaltenago. The teams were hosted by a professional staff of Guatemalans. This project change lives of the communities where they serve - and it has changed mine as well. AIR does this by building nurseries and relationships to plant trees. In addition they respond to various human needs created by natural disasters such as Hurricane Mitch and volcanoes. My trips have turned into regular monthly support of AIR. I recommend this project for it allows an individual to participate in life-changing work. Who knows? If you support or participate the life that is changed just might be yours.
Winner of the 2011 Morton Award from the National Arbor Day Foundation, CNN couldn't have named AIR founder, Anne Hallum, more appropriately than a hero. She is a true heroine of the environment, conserving the Earth one tree at a time. Founding the non-profit, the Alliance for International Reforestation, Inc. (AIR), in 1993, the AIR team works to conserve communities throughout Guatemala and Nicaragua, planting trees, establishing tree nurseries, providing environmental education for teachers and farmers, digging wells, building fuel-efficient brick ovens, and helping to educate everyone about the environmental challenges facing Central America. Since 1993, AIR has since trained over 2,000 farmers, constructed over 750 fuel-efficient stoves, provided 18 high school scholarships to rural teenagers, established hundreds of tree nurseries and planted over 3.7 million trees! Just this pass June, Dr. Hallum was responsible for organizing a group of US volunteers, who joined AIR’s permanent staff, and planted almost 4,000 trees and built seven fuel-efficient stoves—in just one month! These trees bring more than fresh air, but also hold hillsides together, preventing erosion, and protecting communities from deadly mudslides. These arboreal projects also have a great social impact, giving women a very important role in their communities as conservationists.
Dr. Hallum is the epitome of a humble servant. As a professor of political science at Stetson University, actively engaged in all of the campus' environmental initiatives, she influences hundreds of students each year, leading by example. She is also the faculty advisor for the campus' community garden, wherein she ignites a passion for sustainable food among many students. Taking a couple students with her to Guatemala each summer, Dr. Hallum has opened many eyes to environmental degradation, but moreover, to the possibilities of conservation and the hope AIR's projects bring.
I volunteered to work with AIR last summer, the year before my junior year of college. I went to Guatemala for one month with two fellow students and Dr. Anne Hallum and we based our operations primarily out of Chimaltenango. Daily, we would get picked up by local technicians who are familiar with the people in the surrounding areas and their languages. After breakfast, we would ride out in our pickup trucks to all kinds of neighborhoods who took it upon themselves to raise tree nurseries for the pines we would plant throughout the month alongside the farmers, technicians, and other volunteers. We looked over beautiful landscapes and saw the scars on mountainsides from landslides and remembered why we were doing what we were doing. We had a cause, a purpose, and we had friends with us all the time, new and old. We established relationships with strangers based upon general good will and I honestly believe we improved the lives of some of these people to a large degree, especially those who we donated stoves to before spending many hours building the sturdy and efficient kitchen commodities. It seems amazing to think that a stove could be such a significant thing to some because it is so basic and obvious to people like me. But, I must say, giving a gift like that which is so critical to quality of life is truly a beautiful thing. Time and effort can be recognized as some of the most valuable things in life and they are readily received as such. The purity and sincerity of taking part in a project that is intended solely for someone else is reciprocated to the person doing the giving. This is what I learned through AIR. People can love each other in such a basic way, without knowing names, or even the same language. Lead by example and give all you can by taking advantage of the things you are blessed with. The world can learn this and be overwhelmed by the beauty of the earth and all it supports: habitats, people, and the relationships between them all.
I interned with AIR in the summer of 2006. The experience was more than I hoped for and I had more contact with rural communities than I was expecting. On my second day interning we hiked to a small plot of land owned by an indigenous woman. We helped her to plant trees to stabilize her land and stimulate other crops she planned to grow. She and her family then prepared a meal for us on the mountainside. AIR is committed to working with local communities and is very practical. They do not spend much time with bureaucratic matters, but are very practically involved in the communities they work with. I found this to be a refreshing difference from other organizations. My favorite experience was teaching a group of indigenous woman how to make shampoo out of aloe they grew in their gardens. They were then able to sell the shampoo. This was a wonderful opportunity for the woman, it gave them another source of income for their family and economic independence. The local Guatemalans that are employed by AIR have the ability to connect with the communities instantly and do a great job maintaining and serving the communities. Also, AIR gives many visitors from the States and other countries, such as Japan, Spain, etc., the opportunity to work with their organization on a grassroots level. I will always remember the experience I had with AIR and how it is an organization that is truly committed to making change for the better.
As a former Peace Corps Volunteer in Guatemala I wanted to work in some way to support development at the grassroots level in Central America. AIR has provided me with the opportuntiy to work with Guatemalans as they seek to serve the poor in their country through reforestation, improved farming techniques, community organizing and education. AIR has no paid staff in the US and has on the average 8 Guatemalans working with the indigenous farmers in their own communities and surrounding villages. AIR has planted several million trees and touched the lives of hundreds of Guatemalans and dozens of citizens of the United States who have had the opportunity to work with AIR in Guatemala on a volunteer basis. I have chosen to be part of and support AIR as I have not seen an organization that does a better job of giving individuals from different countries and cultures the opportunity to serve beside each other and as part of the same team. Also AIR for the size of its budget and number of individuals involved has accomplished on a yearly basis much more than organizations several times larger with much larger budgets.