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.
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.
This is a simply wonderful organisation. We have visited many times and remain deeply impressed at the professionalism and compassion we see each trip. The programs save and change lives for the better in a sustainable way. No praise properly captures our opinion of Mayan Families, the staff and the volunteers.
I spent an amazing week with Mayan Families seeing first hand the wonderful work they are doing in Guatemala. The educational, economic, health, and home programs they operate not only sustain, but are making a life changing and in many instances life saving difference in the lives of the Guatemalan people. Wonderful organization with the most amazing people involved!
I have known Mayan Families a year after they started, when I came to Panajachel, at Lake Atitlan Guatemala, seven years ago. This was in 2006. I am simply amazed at the difference they have made in our small town, and every day you can see the huge difference they have made. There is no mistaking the changes that have taken place in the many villages around Lake Atitlan, all with the mark of Mayan Families. This is all due to the good-hearted, dedicated people that work with Mayan Families, the many volunteers, and the wonderful indigenous peoples that participate in the programs. I love living here now because of these changes, and I am so grateful that I can participate in them, too. Gratefulness on both sides counts!
The difference we see in the families, now with access to medical care, health & education, elder care, workshops, sewing and trade school programs, Mothers Day Baskets, Christmas baskets, Onil stoves, water filters, street dogs, street cleanup and recycling, micro-loans, savings accounts, women's empowerment, orphan care and more: just about anything that needs doing, Mayan Families has a hand in doing it.
It has grown from Sharon Smart & her husband Dwight working out of their own home to take in stray dogs and homeless children, to a very large group of fantastic volunteers and staff in Panajachel, where practically every cent goes to help so many. I think Mayan Families helped put more than 2,000 students through school. And they provide scholarships, shoes, books, supplies, pencils, paper, backpacks and more. No stone is left unturned to help these children who will be able to bring their families into the world of "reading and writing" and out of the third world suffering and poverty they have lived in for so long.
Education, Encouragement and Enabling are the key words here, and "enabling" in the best sense of the word, to help bring about a world that blends the indigenous culture with the modern challenges we all now face. It's a bridge here that people want to cross, and Mayan Families helps them do it.
Along with educational scholarships, I love the fact that they have started JOB TRAINING PROGRAMS that can be used here at home and are opening up international markets for the indigenous artisans around Lake Atitlan. The whole world is beginning to be at their fingertips, and it's a great doorway to "the other side." Along with the many medical missions and educational programs coordinated by Mayan Families, they are a hotbed of productivity & activity!
We need more people and groups in the world like Mayan Families... they are a role model for us all! I do all I can to help the good people at Mayan Families, and I hope you do too!
January was my first time to Guatamela and the Mayan Families organization and I can't tell you how life changing this experience was. I found myself on an emotional rollercoaster the whole week I was there. My heart went out to the people of Panajachel after observing the struggles they encounter to just survive on a daily basis. I couldn't get over how organized and structured the Mayan Families were and the help and hope they give these wonderful people. It was so obvious how devoted this organization is to help the people help themselves.
I am now sponsoring a child and an elderly person and I know that every donation I give goes exactly where I want it to go. And for this I am so very thankful to the Mayan Families because without them this would not be possible. Like I said it was an emotional rollercoaster ride, but it was the best ride of my life and I will be definitely be back next January.
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I sponsor 2 children thru Mayan Families and often donate to other Guatemalan families as needs arise. I'm always impressed with the professionalism, compassion and dedication shown by the Mayan Families staff. Consistent, precise communication is offered to donors and friends of Mayan Families via email, listservs, blogs and websites. When floods destroyed their own home, staff members ignored their own needs and instead quickly relocated to help their neighbors and our sponsored students who were also affected. I recommend Mayan Families to my friends and coworkers who want to make charitable donations that truly make a difference in peoples' lives.
Review from Guidestar
I recently spent a month in Panajachel, Guatemala and visited Mayan Families. Dwight, the director, spoke with our small group about the work of Mayan Families. I was especially impressed by the 360 degree approach that this organization uses to address the poverty of the local Mayan population. Their efforts at fund raising is word of mouth and their gratitude for even the smallest of gifts was truly inspiring. Dwight enthusiastically commented that even a $25 gift from a friend of mine would make a huge difference in their work. Their initiative to support children in going to school is a critical aspect of their work . Educating the children is the only possibility of creating a future for them that isn't one of total poverty, and malnutrition.
Review from Guidestar