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Review for Avivara, Seattle, WA, USA

Rating: 5 stars  

I was in Guatemala in May of this year - the latest in many trips there over the past 9 years. During that time, I have been involved in 2 humanitarian projects and been exposed to several others. As a result, I have become convinced that one of the keys to helping the people of the rural areas (and in particular, the people from an indigenous background) is education. Anyone who has spent any amount of time in these areas knows that far too often, families cannot afford to have their children attend school past the sixth grade and sometimes not even that long. A friend (with similar experiences) had discovered Avivara through their website, told me about it and we were both quite interested. Based on information from the website, we felt that Avivara was a good project with the right intentions, very transparent in respect to their financial affairs, and with sustainable goals.

I contacted Gary (Avivara’s Executive Director) some time prior to my trip and he indicated he would be pleased to meet with me when I was in the Antigua area. I was travelling with my grand-daughter (a university student studying to become an art therapist) and called Gary from Antigua expecting to meet with him for a brief discussion. Much to our delight, he offered to pick us up and take us to some of the locations where Avivara is active. He and his wife Ann arrived early in the morning at the house where we were staying and off we went. After a stop to pick up Gustavo (who is the Guatemalan Project Director for Avivara) we were off to three of the rural villages to visit the schools there.

At the schools, we met the Directors (Principals) and several teachers, and saw some of the direct results of Avivara's impact. One initiative that struck me as unique was seeing a large banner on several of the school walls with that individual school's mission statement. I think it's very unlikely that the most of the schools would have thought of doing this without the urging and guidance of Avivara. What a great way to get the school staff focused on what they hope to accomplish with their students. Gary also spoke of sponsoring a forum at the end of each year where all the directors get together and compare notes. At this meeting, they are encouraged to examine their accomplishments over the past year and to set goals for the future. I can imagine how thankful the directors must be for this opportunity.

We spent most of the day with Gary, Ann and Gustavo and talked a lot about their experiences, successes, stumbles, lessons learned, etc. We were also able to witness first-hand how they were welcomed with genuine warmth and respect at the schools we visited and the obvious physical results of Avivara’s involvement with those schools (improved facilities, computer classrooms, etc.)

My impression after a day with the project is that Gary, Ann and Gustavo have taken the time and done the research (often at great personal sacrifice and hardship) to learn what the communities need and (more importantly) want. Then they have worked with the community to provide it. Bottom line - a great project, very well done! I have no hesitation recommending Avivara to anyone looking for a way to help those less fortunate.

Bob Goodwin

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