Xela Aid is full of wonderful people, both stateside and in Guatemala. The leaders of our trip did an amazing job of utilizing each volunteer's talents and bringing the group together in meaningful ways. The staff in Guatemala are warm, welcoming, talented, and passionate. Overall, the trip was a great balance of relaxing/enjoying all that Guatemala has to offer and working on projects in San Martin. I highly recommend!
San Martin Chiquita is a village surrounded by small plots of terraced fields on the steep hillsides. The population is Mayan and many still wear the traditional hand woven clothing which reveal their innate love of color and pattern. There is small store in which the hand woven items can be purchased. Also there is a clinic, which was transformed into an optometrist clinic when I visited with the efficient VOSH team and their translators. Eventually they examined almost 500 people. I was teaching English to a group and one of my students was examined, returned with his glasses and wore them to read his assignment.
At the same time they initiated the use of new kitchen to provide lunch for the team, orchestrated by restaurant owners who taught the Mayan cooks the ins and outs of a modern kitchen. However, they made their tortillas by hand and served traditional Mayan food.
Everywhere in the village there was evidence of the many years of efforts made to change lives. I volunteered in the local school teaching English. The last day I taught there all the students and teachers were clearing the rooms to be painted by paint donated by Xela Aid. Soon they will introduce clean water systems to all the schools in the district.
I left energized and evolved. I would recommend Xela Aid as volunteer experience. It was my first volunteer experience and I will return to this little village where my enthusiastic students of English stole my heart.
What makes Xela AID and its trips an incredible, unforgettable experience is the people. The groups that they manage to put together are full of fun, interesting, and driven individuals who all bring something unique and exceptional to the team. Likewise, when you get to San Martin, the local Guatemalan staff are a group of all-stars doing amazing work and who are so eager to connect and share. My trip down to Guatemala was an unforgettable mix of fun adventures and truly meaningful, impactful work where I felt I grew personally as much as I helped locally.
Xela AID turns standard volunteer work into an unforgettable adventure. They do a great job at mixing business with pleasure. From being a tourist on the cobblestone streets of Antiqua, to the breathtaking views atop the Pacaya volcano, to working with the Mayan people in the small village of San Martín Chiquito, getting involved with Xela AID is guaranteed to enrich your life and the lives of others.
I have gone with Xela Aid 3 times. I love the trip, the people and the great structure in San Martin Chiquito. The Mayan group in San Martin are the most welcoming, loving people I have ever met.
Xela Aid is a first class operation with a great mission.
I met Leslie in the early 90's and was so compelled by the work she was doing ended up going to Guatemala as a volunteer with Xela Aid. The organization was pretty small at that point, but was doing such amazing work. Building a school, building structures in San Martin Chiquito, starting a weaving co-op, medical and dental work, etc. The work continued year round in the states with a group of weavers coming to the US every year and raising money by putting on weaving workshops and cooking classes. Leslie even expanded the vision to try to help and support weavers and other indigenous artists from around the world by starting a "World Weaving" event that, for a time, was held annually at Mission San Juan Capistrano.
For me, one of the best things about Xela Aid is that they are an organization that teaches a community how to sustain themselves and grow in positive ways. They just don't go in and provide "a band aid' for the problems that exist. One of the best examples is the education sponsorship program that has educated so many children in the community. It is amazing to me that babies and children I met in San Martin Chiquito in the early 90's are now educated adults that give back to their community.
Any positive impact I may have had as a volunteer and former Board Member is far outweighed by the impact this organization and the people in Xela and San Martin have had on me and my family. My children were blessed to get to know so many beautiful strong women from San Martin as they spent time with us every year when they came to the US. They became part of my family. My children were very young during this time, but still have wonderful memories of these times. in fact, at 18 years of age my daughter saved her own money so she could go to Guatemala as a Xela Aid volunteer. She loved her experience working in San Martin and was so well taken care of by the community and especially Luis Enrique and his family. Xela Aid is a true community!
I would highly recommend becoming involved with this organization and monetarily supporting their projects as they are excellent stewards of their funds. I hope to go back to Guatemala as a volunteer in the near future.
My collegues and I went to Guatemala with the Xela Aid team. It was such an amazing experience, and I would definitely do it again. I plan on returning since i was so impressed with the organization. I will cherish the memories with all of the people I had the chance to meet, and will hopefully see them again in the future. It was not only a great emotional experience but it was also extremely useful for educational purposes. I would definitely recommend others to get associated with Xela Aid.
My university--California State University, Fullerton--partnered with Xela Aid to create a study abroad course that focused on community engagement. It was an incredible experience for my students and for me. Xela Aid really knows the meaning of partnership. We worked together to make a meaningful and important course of study that my students benefitted from, and that I know they will continue to benefit from for the rest of their lives. The work that Xela Aid does is important, one could say vital, to the people of San Martin. It is also vital to the rest of us in the most basic sense of the word: Xela Aid is about life and lives.
Xela AID has completely changed my life. This incredible organization does more than just give back material goods. They give their time, passion and whole heart. The volunteer trip I went on was amazing. I had the opportunity to work hands on with the people of Guatemala by helping individuals enrich their lives. I also got to really see what Xela AID is all about. They have created leaders, many learning opportunities and hope for the people in the small village of San Martin. Xela AID truly gives people the feeling that they are making a difference. Changing the world!
I am a professor and have travelled multiple times to Central America and the Caribbean, often with students along as well. I have also done significant reading on the economics of global poverty. Many efforts fail from lack of on-the-ground communication and establishing of relationships. Often "development" or "mission" trips drop in to meet immediate "needs" as perceived from the outside with little regard to long-term impact and sustainability and can even do more harm than good (e.g. giving away clothes can be valuable or it can harm a local garment industry -- how can you know without relationship? [See "Toxic Charity" by Robert Lupton or "White Man's Burden" by William Easterly.] XelaAID, however, gets it right. They are building on over twenty years of relationship with the Mayan people of San Martin. Their focus is on long-term, sustainable, impact principally through education while thoughtfully and caringly meeting immediate needs as well. The people of San Martin clearly love Mel and Leslie and the other workers there. The children served find a bastion of safety and happiness amid lives that would otherwise be relegated to complete poverty and neglect. I am both proud and humbled to have worked with XelaAID. I trust them completely.
There is a reason Xela Aid recieved an award last year for their fantastic organization. This program is a well rounded, inclusive experience for both contributing members and the San Martin Chiquito village. Their continued efforts to improve the quality of life for so many people is very apparent. My time with Xela proved to be a heart warming and educational experience. I can only hope to volunteer with programs such as this shining example in the future!
Working with Xela Aid was a beautiful and life changing experience. I was unsure of what to expect in terms of the difference I would be able to make, but I saw powerful connections being made between all of the volunteers, including myself, and the people in San Martin. It is a beautiful place, but the people are what made the experience so overwhelming, in the best way.
I will be forever changed because of my time working with this nonprofit. Xela AID is an absolutely incredible organization. It is apparent how the lives of the villagers in San Martin have been touched by its efforts, and the amount of love and connection felt among the leaders, volunteers, and locals is overwhelming and humbling. Lives are positively changed every day thanks to Xela AID, and I look forward to seeing its continued and growing legacy.
My time with Xela Aid was absolutely life-changing. The amount of effort and love that is felt upon entering the clinic is astounding. The people of San Martin and surrounding areas are gaining invaluable care and skills that are allowing them to thrive. I love Xela Aid!
Going to Guatemala with Xela Aid was a life-changing experience for me. I was able to discovered the essence in my life which is to help others the way I was helped, receiving and giving love. Once I learned to love others, I learned how to live. At Guatemala there was so much love to give that we ended up receiving more. I learned that people is what makes places amazing, and at San Martin Chiquito people are the most loving and caring people I ever met. Since day one, we felt at home with people that learned to love us the way we are.
I learned this saying in a restaurant in Antigua: "the most difficult thing to open is a close mind." and going to Guatemala helped me broke part of my close mentality. The perspective of my culture was changed, and it will help many of us who decide to go back or do a humanitarian act around you (it does not have to be outside your neighborhood to do this) to transform your worldview.
There is to much to say about going to another country that if I was to write most of the experiences in here I will have to include an essay format review, so what many of us need to do to understand many behaviors of people is to go out and explore.
Definitely, if you have the chance to go to Guatemala with Xela Aid, please do it
My husband and I signed up for the March 2015 Guatemala trip with XelaAid. Wow what a wonderful experience. We have traveled extensively to many countries but this was the all time best trip we ever had. Starting out knowing only one other person we became instant friends with 14 others. Leslie and Mel really know how to run the most organized, fun, heartwarming trip you will ever be on. There is nothing they can't handle or work out. The "work" was a blast and and so rewarding. XelaAid is the best thing that has ever happened to us. And should you have any questions feel free to contact us.
My husband and I were two of the lucky volunteers who participated with the Xela Aid project in August 2014. We were instantly hooked when we went to the home of Leslie Baer for our first orientation in Huntington Beach. The people going on the trip were committed and excited to return to continue the on-going projects. When we arrived at the clinic, we were greeted as family and the joy and appreciation was felt the duration. To see what Xela Aid has accomplished over the past 22 years is more than impressive. Because of Xela Aid, houses for the impoverished were built, a clinic was built and now has 14 staff, the nearby schools have seen improvements, such as bathrooms, classrooms, and playgrounds, and much more. Nothing can be more satisfying than working along side the local people in their endeavor to better their lives. For sure, our lives have been enriched.
I am a physician and have had the opportunity to go to Guatemala twice in the past six months with two groups of wonderful volunteers of Xela AID nonprofit organization. Each trip has exceeded all expectations on many fronts. First of all, the trips have been well organized with group leaders being capable and pleasant people. The spirit and camaraderie of the other participants have been exceptional. The Mayan people who we work with and help are warm, caring and appreciative. They are quick to welcome you with a smile and a hug.
Xela AID seems to be at a point in it's long standing existence of over 20 years, where it is growing and gaining momentum. Much of this is do to the outstanding people involved and the special mission of helping and caring that is the cornerstone of Xela AID. This organization focuses on a comprehensive approach that facilitates self reliance and sustainability, both being so important for long terms success.
I highly recommend to anyone who wants to help others, find meaning in life and share some special time with special people, sign up and go down to Guatemala with Xela AID.
Having retired a few years ago from 40 years in public education as a teacher then an administrator, I welcomed the chance to get back into a classroom and teach some kids. My husband knew how much I had enjoyed my career in education and said he'd give a try being a teaching assistant. We loved it last year, we loved it this year, we'll probably go next year too. The students and staff in the San Martin area are amazing and we absolutely learned more from them than we taught them. As a professional educator, I can tell you that they have model programs where students not only master the basics but also have meaningful art, music and physical education programs. From an early age, students are encouraged to think about the future and choose a meaningful career. It is certainly a bonus to be a volunteer who speaks Spanish, but there are plenty of ways to contribute if you only speak English.
There were other projects this trip such as in working in adult literacy, in the newly-expanded medical clinic, with the young leaders. There was also a project to build a house for four orphaned children being cared for by their loving aunties. It was called "A House for Julia" and you should read all about it on the XelaAid website or FB page. My husband and I worked in the schools for three mornings and on the house the rest of the time. Earlier volunteer teams had it built, and it needed to be painted inside and out and furnished. The cooperation of the community with the volunteers was heartwarming and effective. We will never forget the tears of joy shed by our amazing leadership (Leslie, Luis and Mel), our team who worked on it, the local artisans and volunteers...and mostly the children and the aunties who never dreamed they would have a safe home with a roof that didn't leak, a real concrete floor, real beds, basic furniture, a stove and even a peach tree in the yard. This is an amazing non-profit and I am so glad we are a small part of it.
We first heard about this project 8 years ago from our former pastor's wife. She made a presentation at our church and we signed right up to sponsor a student's education. Our $1/day would make the difference between him staying in school or not. Over the years, we mailed, emailed and Facebooked with that student and watched him grow up. When our beloved pastor died a few years ago, we sponsored an additional student in his honor, since this was one of his favorite projects.
Most students never meet their sponsors face to face. At the encouragement of our new Xela family, my husband and I volunteered for a summer work team, partly to meet these two "godchildren" and partly because we thought so highly of Leslie and Mel and all of Xela's well-thought-out, sustainable projects. Over the past 20 years, this project has grown from sponsoring the education of a few children to planning a comprehensive and sustainable program to keep these educated students in their villages and truly become the future leaders of the area.
I recently came back from a trip from Guatemala with XELA Aid. From the moment that we were greeted into the San Martin community, it became clear that this organization has become family and a consistent source of empowerment, aid, and joy for many of the people there. Headed by smart, hard-working people both in Guatemala and the U.S., the leaders are constantly working to improve and stretch dollars to help people help themselves. Especially exciting programs that I saw were the youth leadership group (empowering youth to be community leaders and raise money through micro-loan businesses); a restructuring of the clinic with an energized, committed, and accomplished new doctor; a literacy group of women who are learning to speak Spanish for the first time; sponsored students who are going further in school than they ever would have imagined; construction of new homes and schools to make survival and education possible; and a continuation of a woman's weaver's co-op that generates income and preserves an important artistic tradition. These are just a few of the MANY ways that XELA Aid affects the community. Beyond these initiatives, XELA Aid trips and events with the community are filled with love and cross-cultural communication and respect. I have amazing new friends on both side of the border. I am proud to now be a small part of this organization and am excited to see what wonderful work they will continue to do.