My family and I learned about Mayan Families in December 2006. We were immediately touched by the stories told by Sharon on her blog. Through her words and pictures she let us know of the needs of the indigenous people in the highlands of Guatemala and more importantly, she gave us the opportunity to help them through her organization. I joined the group Mayan Families Connection and together, we have helped and we have watched Mayan Families grow. When I visited the first time, in the summer of 2007, there were only a couple of hundred students being sponsored through Mayan Families. I speak Spanish and I helped collect and translate information for the sponsors. My husband and children gave schools donations we had brought. It was an incredible experience for all of us. Sharon and the local staff showed us the land where they were hoping to build a community center for the town of Tierra Linda. It was only a dream. When we returned to the USA we collected supplies and sent them to Mayan Families. I was lucky enough to help with their website and the sponsored student program. The next time we visited, in the summer of 2008, there were more than 800 sponsored students and they had started construction on two community centers, one in Tierra Linda and one in San Jorge! Right now there are more than 1400 sponsored students. Mayan Families and their supporters have build community centers in small towns, they have build classrooms, provided schools with materials, desks, chairs, books and food, have started preschool programs in Panajachel and in two towns that had never before had one. They have offered sewing and computer classes. They have provided micro loans to help women start or grow a business. They have provided thousands of vitamins to children. Mayan Families have helped people with medical needs, food, energy efficient stoves, water filters and support. They have provided employment to many locals. There are many other ways they have helped the communities where they work, there are too many to list. I have seen Mayan Families grow and I have seen the difference they have made in hundreds of people's lives, there in Guatemala and here in the USA by giving us the opportunity to help. My husband, children and I are planning to visit Mayan Families for the third time in July 2010. We cannot wait to go back and help as much as we can.
Mayan Families changed the face of our program making it a precedent setting sports program for Mayan children and particularly female children. Instead of high minded pronouncements, Mayan Families simply put girls on our playing fields and into our teams. Now almost half our athletes are girls. More than 40% of our coaches are now women. The social impact of these changes is significant in rural Guatemala where traditionally sports were for boys only and girls were supposed to stay home, wear their traditional ankle length skirts and care for smaller children. Girls did not participate in physical education in school. That is changing. All of a sudden their dads are buying them athletic shorts, T shirts and sneakers. Moms and dads have seen their daughters playing on our teams and winning - they are proud of their daughters and want to support their efforts in sports. And the girls have a new confidence. They know they can play well, that they can compete with boys and win. We even have mixed teams, up to 16 years old, the girls are highly valued by their teammates and the boys want them on the team because they are winners. Mayan Families pointed us in the right direction, supported us along the way and helped create a program that is lighting the torch for social change in the Guatemalan Mayan Highlands.
I work with another local non-profit group here in Guatemala and we have frequently looked to Mayan Families for inspiration and practical steps regarding how to benefit the indigenous Mayans. It is truly remarkable how effective they have been in serving this population. Mayan Families is extremely successful in identifying and meeting needs within Panajachel and our surrounding communities, and I continue to be surprised by the sheer number and variety of programs they offer. They do all of this while making personal relationships with the people they serve a priority. I consider Mayan Families to be one of the most effective and inspirational non-profits I have ever worked with.
I heard about Mayan Families (MF) via word of mouth: people raved about them. I have a personal interest in Guatemala for family reasons, but anyone interested in creating a more stable society in a country just south of the U.S. should be interested. I particularly wanted to support women and children, because I feel empowered, educated women and children can make a huge difference in creating stronger, healthier communities. Mayan Families appealed to me immediately because they have a hands-on, community-focused approach. They live in the community, they know the people they are working with, they are practical, and they ask what indigenous families need instead of prescribing solutions that won't work because there is no local buy-in. Through this approach, MF provides an impressive range of services, from supplying a type of stove (onil stoves) that require less fuel and aren't smokey, to providing access to education, healthcare for a life-threatening illness, clean water, sewing classes so women can gain new skills and bring in income, and starting a preschool (staffed by local women) so kids have a safe, enriching place to be while their parents work. Perhaps of greatest significance: they have gained the respect and trust of the local indigenous community and surrounding towns. I was fortunate enough to visit MF in December 2009 and see firsthand how they operate. I can't say enough about their commitment to the work, their hardworking (local) staff, and their ability to make every penny of a donation count. It's humbling to see that whether it's $10 or $100, my donation really can make a dramatic difference in the quality of life for another human being. With MF, I have the satisfaction of knowing that my modest contributions aren't being eaten up on lavish overhead or glitzy marketing (though I would like to see them get a grant to expand their offices!) In short: they are an inspiration.
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.
This is my third trip down to Guatemala working with Mayan Families. I have seen firsthand the huge amount of work they accomplish, especially with Indigenous Women's issues. I am amazed at how much work they do and how much good they accomplish. Mayan Families touches so many lives. They are multi faceted in their approach working on Environmental issues like the fuel efficient stove project and Animal Welfare issues with the Hope for the Animals project as well as Micro Loans for Women.
I am a Board Member and Founder of Mayan Families. I personally moved down to Guatemala in August-2009 to be here full time and work with the Indigenous Mayan peoples of Guatemala. I am always amazed at what a small organization can get done. We are working with a young girl who has been on anti-biotics for the last 6 years and she is now going into Guatemala City to have an operation to correct the problem, thanks to donations that Sharon has been able to get thru her blog. There is a new Junior High School going up in the village of Tierra Linda thanks in part to Mayan Families. I have personally worked with many volunteers, medical clinics, dental clinics, delivering water filters to families, schools and the local Hospital in Solola, Guatemala. I have seen firsthand the benefits of Micro-Loans - Micro Finance on Indigenous Women and their families and the hope that kids have when we tell them that we found a sponsor for them to be able to go to school! I have smiled, laughed and been brought to tears here working with Mayan Families. It's amazing!
I spent two weeks in Panajachel, Guatemala. We arranged our housing and meals through Mayan Families, and were placed with a family. This proved to be an enriching experience, as well as excellent food! We spent time each day seeing various projects in the general area, such as building rooms and houses,stoves (with chimneys) that use less wood and cut down on respiratory problems. We visited a preschool that provided breakfast for the children and good programs. We attended several celebrations at other schools Tell your story here and help others understand this charity.
It was a wonderful trip! This group loves the Guatemalan people they care for. their work is hands on. There are so many programs that any one if they want to can find a way to help in a way that works for everyone. Here you learn that it really is true that to the world you may be just a person but to a person you maybe the world