Saturday, October 30, 2010

Family Aid blog.

This is a new blog that we have started for families who are in need of help.
This blog has been started by two wonderful volunteers, Stephanie and Jessica and we are so happy to have their help.
To read the stories about people in need please go to this link.
If  you are able to help any of these people, even a little , it will mean a great deal to them.

A good goal makes you stretch!

The whole quote is: “A good goal is like a strenuous exercise – it makes you stretch.” Soccer Stretching
Mary Kay Ash, founder of Mary Kay Cosmetics, said that. I didn’t know much about Mary Kay until I started digging for a good quote to fit the picture above. When I found this one, I wanted to learn more about her, so I went to Wikipedia. It turns out she was an amazing woman. So I bought her book, The Mary Kay Way, on my Kindle. It’s an easy, fun and inspiring read. Mary Kay’s view of running a business is refreshing. She used the Golden Rule – treat others as you would like to be treated – as the founding principle of her company. I think that’s awesome.
When I first became a manager, my boss told me that the people who reported to me were no longer “my friends” and that my primary concern was the welfare of the company, not them. What he was missing, and I think what many managers miss, is that there doesn’t have to be a conflict there. I agree with Mary Kay that the best way to succeed as a company is to treat people (all people – your clients, your vendors, your contractors, and your employees) like you would want to be treated yourself. Also, work is more fun when the people with whom you work like you and enjoy working with you, so be nice and be kind. :-)

Back to Soccer

All this, by the way, is a tangent, so back to the photo. That’s me in red and next to me is Rovin Rodriguez, a former professional soccer player in Guatemala. This fall, my wife and I moved from Upstate NY down to Panajachel, Guatemala for a school year so that our three boys could experience Central America and learn Spanish. We also looked forward to a year filled with soccer as my two older boys are really into it. I played through high school myself and even into college a bit. Although I was never a superstar, it always meant a lot to me and I still crave to play every year when the leaves start to change colors.
Shortly after arriving in Guatemala, I was lucky enough to meet Rovin and watch him train. He runs a sports program under a non-profit group called Mayan Families that provides assistance and opportunities to the indigenous people of Guatemala. Now, every Saturday morning, I’ve been helping Rovin train these kids. It’s very different from volunteer coaching in the States where we have 2 or 3 parents coaching teams of 8-10 kids with some of the other parents hanging around for the whole practice and almost all of them showing up at the games. Rovin is pretty much on his own with as many as 60 kids at a time, ranging in age from 4 to 14. But somehow, he’s able to manage them 1-on-60 better than we do at home when we’re 3-on-10.
Due to the high level of poverty and to some recent weather-related catastrophes here, it’s hard to find funding for a sports program. But I think it’s really important to provide these children with some fun and play in addition to food and clothing and shelter. I hope to raise enough money for the program so that we can find others to work with Rovin and make sports an ongoing, positive part of kids’ lives here.
As such, my wife and I just donated $1,000 this month and Webucator is ready to put a lot more money into it – up to $10,000 in the next 12 months. To kick it off, we’ll donate $1 for every new Facebook fan (likes) we get before the end of 2010. At the time of this writing, we have 860. We’ll also match every $25, $50, or $100 donation made by a Webucator fan until we have hit our $10,000 goal.
To donate, go to and fill out the fields as follows (enter 25, 50, or 100 as the dollar amount):

Friday, October 29, 2010

Charity of the Month at Blogs for a Cause!

I have made the donation to the previous Charity of the Month, so Mayan Families is now officially the Charity of the Month at Blogs for a Cause- Email me if you want a blog design!

I am also giving away a blog design! All you have to do is enter by donating $2 to the Chip In fund on the sidebar of All funds raised will also go to Mayan Families.


Monday, October 25, 2010

Lucas Bocel

Lucas is still not complaining of any pain, but his appetite is very low and he is very thin. We bring him pedialyte and gatorade and Ensure so that he is getting as much nutrition as possible with the little he eats and drinks. We also continue to bring him lunch five days a week which always takes a long time for him to eat. We ask him if he needed or wanted anything but he said that he didn't. It is amazing that he never complains about his devastating situation. Here is our most recent photo taken of Lucas. Thank you for your support of this brave, young man.

--------------------------------Original Post------------------------------------

Lucas Bocel is 24 years old, and for the past year he has had a very severe stomach illness. Before his illness, Lucas had started to build a home for the family he was hoping to start in the next couple of years. Unfortunately the illness put a halt to everything, and Lucas had to move back to his mother, Yonada’s, home. Yonada has 7 children, 5 of whom live with and are supported by her (she has 2 sons who are married). Yonada makes tortillas for a living, and her daughter sells tamales at the market, but together they make less than $2 a day, and this is hardly enough to cover the cost of food and electricity. Before tropical storm Agatha, Yonada was able to get extra help from her father and sons, who worked pulling sand out of the river. However, the natural disasters practically destroyed that means of livelihood, and so her father and 2 able-bodied sons are unemployed and cannot help her. Lucas used to work in the river, too, but hasn’t been able to help his family because he is so weak. Because of the illness he has been confined to his house; he can get up from the bed only to go to the bathroom. Lucas uses about 4 rolls of toilet paper a day, which is a huge strain on the family, especially because Yonada often has to skip work to sit by her son’s side when he has the worst fits of pain. The grief often keeps Yonada from eating; it does not look like Lucas will be getting any better. Lucas nevertheless remains hopeful—he is very often found reading the Bible and praying for a cure—but it pains him terribly to be such an emotional and financial burden on his family.

To build his home for a future family, poor Lucas took out a loan that he had expected to easily pay back, but because he cannot work, he is borrowing from neighbors and extended family so that the burden does not all fall on his mother. He has 600 Quetzales ($75) left to pay back to the bank (including interest) and does not know how he will do it. Your help would remove from the family the great financial strain that sits atop of the suffering that the family endures due to Lucas’s illness. To make a donation, please click here and enter "Lucas Bocel" in the Other section. Thank you so much!

Friday, October 22, 2010

Soccer Tournament at the Mayan Family Kids and Teen Sports Club


Four years ago, the community of Barrio Norte in Panajachel came together under the banner of fútbol! (Soccer, to all of us gringos). The neighborhood children needed a place to play sports, but there was no field or facility available. In a true testament to community, one of the neighbors loaned a field and the community worked together to convert it into a soccer field.

Though it started off small, the project has grown to become the Mayan Families Kids and Teen Sports Club! The Sports Club provides a free sports program to at risk and poverty stricken children – all those who would have no other access to sports and reaction. Through the Sports Club, the children learn team work, increase their self esteem, and get physically fit through an activity that brings joy and pride!

The Sports Club started with only 150 children and soccer as the only sport. Now, it offers four sports: track, soccer, swimming, and basketball. It also has over 1300 participating children! All in just 4 short years!

Every two years, the Sports Club holds a Soccer Championship Tournament. This year’s tournament will start on October 30! With over 35 teams participating this year and both girls and boys teams, the Sports Club really needs help to be able afford materials like soccer balls, nets, referee whistles, field markers, shoes, and uniforms.

The Sports Club has been volunteer run this entire time: both referees and coaches donate their time, trophies are donated, and Mayan Families has donated uniforms and soccer balls. Even the Director, Rovin Rodríguez, a former professional soccer player is a volunteer!

Help make the Soccer Tournament and the Sports Club a success! Donations of balls, soccer shoes, whistles, nets, swimming caps, goggles, swimsuits, sneakers, basketballs, basketball nets, and kickboards are welcome! Or go to and specify that you would like to support the Sports Program!

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Problems on a different plane in Pana.



Problems on a Different Plane in Pana

A young girl dressed in traje.

We’ve been in Panajachel for two weeks now, and we’re starting to get to know it well enough to introduce it to you, though I’m sure we still have a lot left to learn.  Pana is very different from San Andres.  It’s a larger city (there’s a grocery store–actually, there’s more than one!), and it has a significant tourism industry–we’re not the only gringos anymore.
Actually, the demographics of Pana are very mixed, and a walk down the street will reveal at least five distinct groups: backpackers (identifiable by an apparent shortage of shampoo, and giant backpacks), tourists (like the backpackers, but with cleaner hair), ex-pats (like the tourists, but with more permanent housing), ladinos (Spanish-speaking, non-indigenous Guatemalans), and indigenous people. Indigenous people, especially in the more remote villages around Panajachel, speak primarily Kaqchiquel.  That means that despite our diligent Spanish studying, we’re sometimes finding ourselves back to trying to communicate through hand gestures or translators.  Luckily, most of Mayan Families’ staff speaks Kaqchiquel, but the extra layer of translation certainly complicates a conversation.

The lake from a mountain road

One of many impressive volcano views

I can’t talk long without talking about the geography here, because it affects so much about the place.  We’re right on the edge of Lago Atitlán, which is the biggest lake in Guatemala.  The surface of the lake is about mile above sea level, and the surrounding land is even higher, so it’s much colder here than in Petén.  Three volcanoes–Volcán Atitlán, Volcán Tolimán, and Volcán San Pedro–surround the lake, and the way the mountains rise straight out of the water has a way of making you feel very, very small.

A building that has collapsed into the river on the outskirts of Panajachel

This landscape, while breathtaking, has caused an incredible amount of suffering for the people of the Lago Atitlan region. For the villages poised on the steep mountainsides around the lake, the intense rainy season brings the constant threat of derrumbes (mudslides), which can destroy roads, topple buildings, and bury homes.

A bulldozer clears a road blocked by lodo (mud) from a derrumbe. The roads to Pana are often impassible after it rains.

These villages are mostly poor, and the most vulnerable families often live in homes made of little more than wood and sheet metal (or even nylon tarp), so it doesn’t take a lot of mud or water to cause complete destruction.

Unfortunately, families in the most vulnerable areas are often the poorest, and their homes the least able to withstand extreme weather. This home belongs to a family that lost everything during Hurricane Stan in 2005.

When disasters strike, few families have the means to rebuild, so they must rely on foreign aid, help from NGOs (non-governmental organizations like the Red Cross or Oxfam), or assistance from the government, to get back on their feet.  During a recent trip to distribute food in the town of Chuk Muk, Jess and I met a family of about 10 that was still living in a shack made of scrap wood and USAID tarps, five years after hurricane Stan destroyed their home.
I probably don’t need to point out that the poverty here is more striking than that in San Andres–malnutrition and hunger are unavoidably visible, and the wreckage from past storms can be seen by driving in any direction (in many cases it is the road itself that is wrecked).  Our activities as volunteers have shifted accordingly; in Petén, we focused on creating opportunities for the next generation to take advantage of and build a better future.  With Mayan Families, we’ve been organizing and handing out food and clothing to those affected by the recent storms, and bringing food and medical care to ancianos (elderly people) who would otherwise go without them.  You might compare what Volunteer Petén tries to do in San Andres to unclogging a blocked artery–trying to address a problem (the failing education system) that could cause disaster in the future.  What we’re doing now with Mayan Families is more like CPR–just trying to keep the heart beating until the underlying issues can be addressed.

A student and his mother receive a supply of food. 80% of the students at this Mayan Families-run preschool in the town of San Antonio lost or evacuated their homes earlier this year.

A girl watches as Mayan Families delivers food for her family.

A post by Jess...on delivering aid.

Jess here, with another update from Panajachel. In an area plagued by natural disasters, the story goes on long after it fades from headlines. A couple of weeks ago, Steph and I got the opportunity to go on a delivery run with some of the Mayan Families staff. We were bringing much-needed food, bedding and water filters to a town of emergency housing erected by the government in the wake of a terrible tormenta (storm). The surprising part about this story: these weren’t victims of recent tormenta Agatha – these were people who lost their homes five years ago to huracán Stan (hurricane Stan). The temporary town, called Chuk Muk, consisted of clusters of identical cinderblock and tin houses tucked far away on volcán San Pedro (San Pedro Volcano), reachable only by a small, weather dependent access road.

Families gathering
Families in Chuk Muk beginning to gather to collect their supplies.
Rebuilding after a disaster takes much more than just putting up some houses, though. While tourism drives the economy in Pana, that industry doesn’t touch the rural surrounding areas, where many families must scrape by without even one steady source of income. Many in these towns rely on agricultura (agriculture), and when disasters strike, crops are often destroyed along with houses and property.  This means that families lose their source of income along with their homes and possessions, making it incredibly difficult to get back on their feet.
Many of the people we encountered in Chuk Muk live on the brink: there’s not enough food, clothes are scarce, shoes are a luxury.  That’s why a program that Mayan Families began as just a student sponsorship program has evolved into so much more. A sponsored education will only go so far if a child and family are starving, so Mayan Families and their sponsors do their best to make sure that students and their families have food, water filters, small mattresses, or other víveres (basic provisions), though it is not required.
The organization needed to manage and distribute víveres is far more logistically complex than I ever imagined. The Mayan Families staff didn’t miss a beat, springing into action as soon as we arrived to organize both supplies and the crowd of families that had started to form. The students send their padrinos (godparents/sponsors) una carta (letter), un dibujo (drawing), and a copy of their most recent report card (to show they are attending class). Then they get their photo snapped and head over to the food distribution table, where they pick up anything else their sponsor may have given.
Things were definitely on the chaotic side: distributing food while managing hordes of small children, trying to get report cards, pictures, legible letters, plus photos, all while struggling to decipher a fair amount of Tz’utujil (the indigenous Mayan language of the area, which even indigenous Mayan Families staff members don’t speak) certainly made for an interesting morning. But the Mayan Families staff was beautiful in action; they were even armed with laminated lists of all the students with photos, full names, and student ID numbers.
Family getting food
A large family in living in a USAID tent receiving food.
Steph and I helped out where we could, mainly shepherding children and collecting letters. At the end of the day, there were still some víveres left for families who lived too far away to come pick them up. Racing against the afternoon rain, we loaded up la camión (truck) and headed to deliver the supplies. This one gave a whole new meaning to the term “shanty town.” With corrugated roofs and walls of nothing but tarp bearing the name USAID, these were more tents than houses. Here, we delivered food to a family of about 10 people all living in one such shack. Housing such as this provides serious insight into just why heavy lluvias (rains) and derrumbes (mudslides) cause such severe damage in this area. Just as the big bad wolf didn’t have much trouble blowing down the house of straw, a derrumbe makes quick work of a tarp shack.  A brick (or block) house stands a much better chance.
Tent town
Two boys watching as we left the town of USAID tents.
As we piled back into la camión and prepared to head home, I realized how much my philosophy on aid had shifted. It’s tempting to think that implementing a self-sufficient system is simple – send in donations, promote education, and things should improve in a few years. But when families lose everything – homes, possessions, livelihoods – every year or two, the needs are much more basic. Yes, if you teach a man to fish, he’ll eat for a lifetime – unless his home, land, and fishing pole, as well as those of his neighbors, just got washed away in a mudslide. In that case, his wife and kids just need to not starve. That is one of the most important roles that Mayan Families fills so well: getting the basics where they need to go. You begin by keeping a family afloat, thus allowing a student to go to school instead of work. It’s not always logistically easy, but it’s crucial if you hope to have a better system eventually in place.
Over the next few weeks, we’ll be helping Mayan Families organize their Family Aid program to better meet these sorts of needs. Stay tuned as we begin to meet and profile these families!

Home for Caterina....

  This blog entry below  was written by three wonderful volunteers who are working with Mayan Families, Stephanie, Jessica and Ronnie. We thank them for all the love and time they are giving to the people here in Guatemala.  I just want to clarify that the home that will be built hopefully, for Caterina and her children , is just one room made of tin sheeting. Caterina does not own the land so we can't build a permanent house there made of block. But it will have a cement floor, four walls of tin sheeting, a door and a window.  It will give them a safe place to live.

First, we want to send out a huge thank you from the three of us, and from Mayan Families, for all of the donations we’ve received towards the Elderly Care Program and a decent home for Pedro.  With your gifts, we’ll be able to help Pedro with his first few months of rent, and we’ve built up a substantial supply of essential medications and food for the ancianos who count on them.  You’ve really given the Elderly Care Program a solid start—thank you.
Today, though, I want to introduce you to someone who won’t qualify for the Elderly Care Program for quite a while (and we hope she’ll never need to!).  Caterina is a young woman doing the best she can to raise four small children on her own.  Despite the fact that she’s battling a depressed economy, a rising cost of living, and a painful family situation, things were beginning to look brighter for Caterina and her kids—she had just gotten a new job as a housekeeper.  The job paid 500 quetzales (~$65) a month—the family certainly wouldn’t be living in luxury, but it looked like they might have enough to eat, and maybe eventually they would be able to improve the makeshift one-room shed that the five of them share.
Their tiny building is made of nothing more than lamina (corrugated metal).  This ‘home’ has a dirt floor, no door, and barely enough room for its five inhabitants (small as they are) to stand. It contains just one bed and one dresser.

Caterina with her children, (L to R) Hirson (8), Estefani (4), Gloria (2), and Carla (10)
They live in the backyard of their extended family’s modest (and crowded) home. This proximity to family should be a good thing, but it isn’t.  Caterina’s father left when she and her siblings were very young.  Her mother eventually remarried, but her new husband abandoned her as well—for Caterina’s sister, his stepdaughter.  As if that weren’t bad enough, the new couple lives together in the same house as Caterina’s mother.  Another married sister and her family, as well as their only brother, live in the house as well.  All of this would be enough to make anyone want to get away from home, which is what Caterina did—she married young, and was raising her own family apart from all the drama—until her husband abandoned them, refusing to pay anything at all to support his children.
When Caterina found herself a single mother, she and the kids were forced to move into the obviously strained environment of her family’s home.  Tensions quickly exploded.  Resenting the extra strain on space and food, Caterina’s sister became abusive towards Caterina and the kids. She hits the children when they make noise or look hungrily at her food, and she allows her children to do the same.  She also hits Caterina, and has for a long time made clear that she wants them to leave the house, but Caterina has no place to go.
Despite all this, with Caterina’s new job, and her two older children in school through Mayan Families sponsorships, things were looking better.  Until yesterday, when Caterina got some awful news—after months of pressure to get off of her family’s property, Caterina is officially being evicted. She, Carla, Hirson, Estefani and Gloria must leave by Friday.  They have found a small plot of land that they can rent for less than $20 a month, but the lot is currently empty.  They have no other option—they need a house.

The plot of land that Caterina found, where we hope to put a house for her and her family.
That’s where you come in.  It sounds like a huge undertaking, but houses can be built relatively cheaply—and quickly—here.  We’ve consulted with Mayan Families’ excellent construction chief, Juan, and we can have a safe (though simple) home erected by Friday, for just $750.

We know this will be a challenge, but we can do it with your help.  Caterina has been working hard, and she’s made significant progress by finding a steady job, but this is a crucial turning point. If they end up homeless at the end of this week, the momentum will stop, and she may never be able to pull her children out of poverty.  But if we can make sure that this young family has a safe, warm place to sleep, Caterina can continue to work, and they will have a real chance.  That has to be worth $750.
To help us build this house, just click here–enter your donation in the Family Aid box, and write “Caterina’s House” in the Family Name box.  We’re working against the clock, so please don’t hesitate—even a small donation will get us closer to the goal.  We’ll report on our progress over the next few days—find Project MicroMundo on Facebook for the quickest updates.

Monday, October 18, 2010

A look at the Overlooked.....Elderly Care Program in Panajachel.

A Look At the Overlooked

Hi all. It’s Ronnie. I have wanted to write to you all week, but I have been overwhelmed with a kind of work that couldn’t wait. It’s been really hard to set aside time when the truth is that I can always be doing more here to help.
Tereso receives his lunch
Our first working day with Mayan Families, I was asked if I could go on a lunch run for the new Elderly Feeding Program. They wanted me to help check up on all the participants, see how they were doing health-wise and if they needed any special attention. I had never worked with elderly persons or in any sort of health service, and to be honest I had never really taken much interest in that sort of thing—but there didn’t seem to be anyone else available, so I of course said yes. So I hopped into the tuk tuk [a three-wheel rickshaw used as a taxi] with Seño Estela, the cook, and our driver Oscar, and off we went (each under piles of food).
After a short ride, we jumped out of the tuk tuk and weaved through narrow pedestrian streets and alleyways. Surrounded by windowless, tin-roofed, cinderblock and wood shanties, everything looked the same to me. But Seño Estela and Oscar reached the first stop without hesitation. We yelled Buenas tardes (Good afternoon) as we passed the fence and walked through the doorless entrance. It was damp, dim, and cramped, and the dirt floor was speckled with empty buckets and containers. Apparently this room was the kitchen, but that fact wasn’t indicated by the presence of any food. We were welcomed with the tired smile of a middle-aged woman wearing traje and a dirty apron. She called us into the adjacent bedroom, where a very pale, old woman lay in bed, seemingly dazed, under a dirty blanket. The walls were covered in tarp in a weak attempt to keep out the draft that crept through the gaps in the wooden plank walls. 83-year-old Josefa Quechi stirred and (although I explained it wasn’t necessary) with slow and painful intention rotated to face us. The notebook I had with me read: “No puede caminar porque sus piernas le duelen . . . Por el momento se encuentra tomando medicamentos” (“Unable to walk because her feet hurt . . . Currently taking medication.”) But in a short conversation with Josefa’s daughter, I learned that Josefa had actually dislocated her hip ten months ago.
-Tomaba medicina, pero ya terminó. (She took medicine, but it has run out.)
-Hace cuanto tiempo que ella no tiene medicina para dolor? (For how long hasn’t she had pain medicine?)
-Hace algunas semanas—es que no tengo dinero para comprarla. (Weeks—It’s that I don’t have money to buy it.)

Lucia with hygiene product donations
Made nervous by the fact that the binder was outdated, I made a note to be very thorough in my questioning with everyone we were going to visit. I asked for Josefa’s history and if anything else ailed her. After that I wrote down the medicines and help that Josefa needed. We left lunch on the table and said Hasta mañana (See you tomorrow), squinting as the sun hit our eyes upon exiting the dark space. Visiting Josefa was not nearly the most shocking thing I experienced that day. There was disease and visible hunger and profound loneliness. There was a family of 8, including 2 severely disabled persons, sharing a cramped and windowless room. There was an old man living in what was essentially a closet. Almost without exception, every person that we visited had pain—in some cases debilitating—and no pain medicine. I collected unfilled prescriptions (the public health clinic here offers free checkups, but hardly has any medicines to hand out) and made a note of who needed urgent medical care. There were untreated infections, unchecked chest pains, and terrible stomach aches. I quickly stopped expecting any form of dental or general bodily hygiene. I also learned that this lunch that we were bringing was in many cases the only thing that some of these people ate all day. They would try to make Friday’s lunch last the weekend.
Rosa gets her lunch
The next day we did the same run, but this time I delivered filled prescriptions and told a number of the ancianos (elderly persons) that we could go to the doctor (or, in the case of the bedridden, bring the doctor or nurse to them). That afternoon we took a nurse to the ancianos who were in the worst condition. On Wednesday after the lunch and medicines delivery run, I picked up several ancianos to take them to the health clinic. Mayan Families has a very tight budget, and so our first stop is almost always the public health clinic. Through its Elderly Care Program, Mayan Families does all it can, but we have so little funding that I walk blocks and blocks to different pharmacies in order to save (the equivalent of) 30 cents on drugs. It is a constant struggle, and a terrible thing to have to decide who will receive our help and who will not.
Ana Francisco in the doorway of her home
I’m going to be especially candid in this post. As I mentioned before, I’m an economics major and statistics minor, and I think mathematically. I always consider return on investment, and with almost everything I do, I choose the path of highest return. If you had asked me a few months ago whether I would be interested in dedicating some of my resources to elderly care, I would have said yes, perhaps, but I admit that in the back of my mind I would have been thinking that it would make more sense to focus efforts on children, who can grow up to build a better standard of living. In the past few weeks I have realized that some things are much more simple. The right of every person to a dignified existence, and our obligation to do our best to reduce the suffering of others, regardless of the demographic—those have become absolutely simple concepts to me ever since I came face to face with raw suffering.
Ronnie says goodbye to Francisca

I have updated the blog for Mayan Families’ Elderly Care Program, where you can read about some of the elders in our program, and, most importantly, where you can elect to sponsor an individual or make a one-time donation (please enter “Elderly Care” into the other section). General donations would go to ensuring that we always have a supply of food, medicine, adult diapers, blankets, and funds for transportation and medical services. You can ask for your one-time donation to go to our Elderly Care Shelter Fund, which will help us to secure homes for the homeless and better homes for people like Pedro. You can also ask for your one-time donation to go to our Elderly Care Medical Fund, which will help us to ensure that everyone gets the medical treatment that they need. This program has very little overhead, and 100% of the donation that you make will end up with our elderly members. I’ll be talking more about this program and its members later, but we could really use your help now. You can truly make an immediate, dramatic impact on someone’s life.

The story of an amazing woman!

I came across this story today about an Englishwoman who was awarded the highest honor in Guatemala.    A very fascinating story.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Student Sponsorship for 2011 in Guatemala!

Mayan Families Student Sponsorship

Amigos of Mayan Families,

It is time to get ready for another school year in Guatemala!

Although students do not start school until January 2011, the Guatemalan Ministry of Education has changed their system to require students to enroll in school in November at the end of the school year. So now is the moment of decision for thousands of families in the Guatemala highlands who are forced to decide between money for food or an education for their children. Even if you choose to delay your payment until December or January, please make a commitment by E-mailing today to ensure your student stays in school! Please include your students number and name, if possible, in your e-mail.

As you know this has been a year of hardships for families in Guatemala. But thanks to your love and support, we have responded to tragedy with empowerment. We have opened a new (4th) preschool - feeding program, taken over management of an existing orphanage in San Andres Semetabaj and opened a home for pre-teen and teenage boys, as well as expanded our computer classes and adult sewing classes.

To those of you who sponsored a child to go to school in 2010, we want to thank you very much!

You have made a huge impact in the life of your sponsored student, their families and the whole community! You have given the family hope and given the children the tools they need to break out of poverty and claim a brighter future.

If you are currently sponsoring a child to go to school or would like to begin sponsoring a child, now is the time to renew or begin a sponsorship for the coming 2011 school year. If you are considering sponsoring a child, this is the right time to do it.

This year the Guatemalan people are recovering from the tragedy of flooding, mudslides, volcanic eruptions, a cyanobacteria bloom-environmental crisis, ongoing hunger, and an economic crisis. Education is the key to help this generation survive and take responsibility for problem-solving in their communities. More than ever, education is a precious asset that will set these students apart.

There are many children eagerly wanting to go to school, and they are waiting for your help. Sponsorship today will determine whether this child goes to school or spend their days gathering firewood in January.

If you have sponsored a child this year but are unable to continue, please, let us know as soon as possible, at so that we can try and find another sponsor for that child.

We strive to use your sponsorship fee to give the students what they need to be successful in their studies. Although we have worked hard to not raise sponsorship fees, as the cost of adequate educational expenses have increased, we recognize we cannot do justice to the needs of the students without a small increase. The sponsorship fees for 2011 are as follows:

PreK - 6th grade $180 ($15/mo)

7th - 9th grades $380 ($31.67/mo)

10th - 12th grades $480 ($40/mo)

University $1200 ($100/mo)

(Partial sponsorship is an option for University Students)

Please note: Our new prices are not yet updated on the web site, we apologize for any inconvienience.

If you want to Sponsor a Student for the first time or add another deserving Student to your donation please click on this link - to see the students available. Many more students will be added in the coming weeks. Sponsorship Provides the following:

Pre-school sponsorship - Food, Teachers, and Educational materials.

Elementary, Junior High and High School - School fees, School shoes, Gym shoes, School supplies, a Backpack, School Uniforms when required, shorts and t-shirts for gym. University - School Fees, a Backpack, and books, depending on the school.We appreciate your continued faithfulness to the value of education in Guatemala and to this generation of children! Some of them will be the first in their family to be able to read, write and graduate!

TO DONATE: If you are renewing your Sponsorship,

1) Please click on the link to our website and donate online at

2) Scroll down to the Student Sponsorship section,

3) Type in the $ amount and

4) Type in your student's number, then

5) Click on Submit Form which will take you to our simple, safe and secure online payment using PayPal. (You can pay by PayPal, E-check, or credit card)

If you pay online, we offer a monthly payment option, as well: ( Scroll Down to Other, type in the $ amount and your student's number, then click on Submit Form) Type in your student's number, then click on the Submit Form.

You may also choose to send your Student Sponsorship donation in the form of a check. Please make it payable to Mayan Families and send to:

Mayan Families

P.O. Box 52

Claremont, N.C. 28610

and please include a note with your student's number on it.

If you would like to make your donation in Honor of someone special please

send us an email to giving us the details and

we will put them on our IN HONOR OF web page.

We hope that you will be able to help us by Sponsoring a Student, however if you cannot at this time, you might consider a general donation of $25, $50 or more-- any donation no matter how small is always welcomed and appreciated. We make every dollar count! You can make a difference right now, today!

Thank you for your support.

Best wishes,

Sharon Smart-Poage


Tel: 619-550-2608


Mayan Families is a small non-profit group working in the Highlands of

Guatemala. We are a registered 501(c)(3) Non Profit Charity. Your donation is tax deductible as allowed by law.

P.S. Please help spread the word by forwarding this e-mail to your

community or posting it on your personal blog, web page and your social

networks such as Facebook, You Tube, MySpace, Twitter, Hi5, Blogs and any others that are appropriate.

Please follow Mayan Families on





Mayan Families Connection Blog


If you would like to join a Yahoo support group that assists Mayan Families please go to:

To ensure receipt of our emails, please add to your Address Book."

To signup for our E-mail Newsletters please go to:

Thank you once again for supporting Mayan Families!

Education is critically important for these children, their families and their futures!


Dwight Poage

Mayan Families

a 501(c)(3) registered Non Profit

Your donation is tax deductible as allowed by law.

FOOD-GUATEMALA: Bad Omens for 2011 - IPS

FOOD-GUATEMALA: Bad Omens for 2011 - IPS

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Little winners!

Our Mayan Families Panajachel pre-school, "Caritas Sonadoras" ( Little faces with big dreams!) had a dream come true today.
They were awarded a trophy for coming in third place in the town's basketball games!
It was really exciting for all the children.
Only 16 of the 43 children who are at the pre-school were able to play, the others were too small but they are practising for next year!
This competition has given the kids a real boost in self esteem and they were so excited that they won a trophy.
Every Wednesday the children play basketball and have a little court at the pre-school.

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Unwanted visitors!

An outbreak of head lice at the Panajachel pre-school had everyone involved!
We arranged for the parents to come and bring all their children.
The govt. Health center actually donated the lice treatment and we had many mothers, volunteers and Mayan Families workers helping treat the children.

Definitely an unhappy face! But at least this student will be lice free!
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Project Santa for Guatemala.

We have a supporter, Vanessa who has collected a lot of toys for Christmas.  She is sending 6 big boxes herself but she does not have the funds to send more.     But she has a lot more toys.  A box can hold up to a 1,000 toys.   We have a lot of children who would love to have one of these toys for Christmas.   If anyone could possibly sponsor a box of toys is $310 US per box. would mean a great deal to the children here.
If you can do that...please send a donation to :  . Please note on the payment that it is for shipping for Christmas toys.     This gift would spread a lot of joy!!!!

Beautiful photos of our programs in Guatemala!

Hi everyone,
We had two professional photographers , Barbara Reis and Kathleen Hennessy, really lovely women, come down who took tons of gorgeous photos. They are entering a competition . We were so honored that they chose Mayan Families to be one of their subjects. Please take a moment and see these photos. The two women in the back of the pick up are Berta and the time, they were delivering the food to the elderly but now we have another woman, Ana who has recently started and she is delivering the food.

Sending a link to the online post about Mayan Families:

Thank you Barbara and Kathleen!

Maria from Patanatic. Guatemala

Maria is 73yrs old. She thinks that the swelling on her head was caused by being hit by a falling piece of wood while she was out collecting firewood.
But the swelling did not come out till a year later. Sometimes she has a yellow discharge coming from her nose and she has a lot of pain in her head.

Maria has had this problem now for over a year. We are hoping that the next medical team that comes will be able to help her. Salud y Paz has a medical team that will be doing operations on tumors and cysts and we hope that she may be able to get some relief or at least some answers from them.

We do need some funds to help Maria with this operation. The operation itself will only cost $7 but we need to help Maria with her transportation and food while she is there. Maria is very poor and even the little that it will cost for her bus fare and food to eat while she is waiting to be seen is very difficult for her. $20 US would really help Maria to be able to receive her medical treatment.

Maria had very little to eat and thanks to the generous donations that many of you have sent to help the people of Guatemala during this very difficult time, we were able to give her bags of food with beans, corn, sugar, oil, rice, coffee, incaparina and oatmeal.

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Shop with a purpose!

This on line store is dedicating a percentage of their sales to help fund Tamale Baskets this year.

Shelly Teagle I am so happy to announce that My Little Cuddle-Bugs is working to donate a portion of sales from Oct 15 until Nov 15 to Mayan Families. I have some work to do to get the website set up, but I am excited that we can help make a difference for the families in the birth country of our precious children.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Tierra Linda family in need of help.

 We are fortunate to have two sponsors visiting us who are also nurses, Carrie and Kelly.  They were going to Tierra Linda today to visit one of their sponsored students . Once there, we heard about a woman who was very ill. 

Along with Mayan Families staff , Carrie and Kelly did a very long trek to visit the family .
The mother gave birth three months ago. She had a cesarian birth and has been ill ever since. She is very weak and cannot stand for long and spends most of her time in bed.
She has moved to her mother's home so that she has someone to care for her.
She is producing very little breast milk and is taking medication.  She says that the baby has only been drinking warm water with sugar.  The baby is malnourished but not terribly. Probably someone has been giving them a little milk or breast milk to keep the baby going.

 The mother has had 7 children, two have died.  These two babies died a  few days or weeks after birth. The mother did not have milk to feed them.  These are her five surviving children. Four of the children are sponsored by Mayan Families to go to school and pre-school.  They are Irma Carmelita #1294, 10yrs old and in second grade.   Alexander #1295 9yrs old and in second grade.

Josue Arnoldo #1216  5yrs old and in the Mayan Families pre-school in Tierra Linda and Ingrid #1217 who is 4 yrs old and in the Mayan Families pre-school in Tierra Linda.
 These children all walk an hour and a half to get to the pre-school and the school and then an hour and a half back home.

 Carrie and Kelly found that the mother had an infection. She did have some medication but today was the last day and she is still ill and needs further treatment.

 The father works in the fields planting corn and onions. They own the fields and they sell their crop every three months. For three months work they earn $263 US which is approx. $2 US a day.  They eat a lot of tortillas with salt as their main diet.  With all the rain the crops have been destroyed and it has been very difficult to have enough to eat for the family.

 This is the father of the children accompanying the visitors on the walk from their house to the road.

The family is now in debt because the father borrowed nearly $250 US to be able to pay for the medication that the mother needed after her operation . They also had to buy 2 liters of blood which is very expensive in Guatemala.
They have very little food. Mayan Families gave them milk and baby bottles, some clothing and we hope to be able to send them some more food.
This family needs help with a regular supply of food for the next few months.
If anyone would like to help them, even a little will make a big difference to this family. Please put on the donation that it is aid for FA 40

Global warming, disasters and plans.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Report Card time in Guatemala!

Some of our happy sponsored children showing off their report cards!

It is almost the end of the school year here in Guatemala. School finishes in October and starts again in January. If you would like to sponsor a child to go to school, now is a great time to do it.

With the floods, the mudslides, the devastation, the loss of jobs, lack of tourism, volcanos erupting, this has been a bad year for families in Guatemala. Many children will need help to go to school next year or they will not be able to go. If you would like to sponsor a child to go to school or like to give a gift in honor of someone for the holiday season, this is something that will make a huge difference in the life of a child.

Maybe your school would consider sponsoring a child or even becoming a sister school and helping a school here in Guatemala.

To see some of the children who are waiting for sponsorship ...please go to this link.:

Sad news for adopting children from Guatemala.

On October 5, 2010, the United States withdrew its letter of interest in participating in a pilot program to resume processing of intercountry adoption placements for a limited number of older children, groups of siblings, and children with special needs. The letter of interest had been previously submitted to the Guatemalan Central Authority for Adoptions, Consejo Nacional de Adopciones (CNA), in response to its November 2009 announcement of this limited pilot program.

The U.S. decision to withdraw its letter of interest is based on concerns that adoptions under the pilot program would not meet the requirements of the Hague Intercountry Adoption Convention. Specifically, the United States believes that more safeguards for children should be in place before the CNA could start processing new intercountry adoptions. In addition, the Guatemalan Government has not yet provided specific details for how adoption cases under the pilot program would be processed under Guatemala's new adoption law.

The United States remains open to resumption of intercountry adoption placements from Guatemala, but will consider such a resumption only when it is confident that a Hague-compliant system is in place, including strong safeguards against abuses and resolution of the issues that led to corrupt and fraudulent practices prior to the 2007 halt in new adoptions.

It is our hope that the U.S. withdrawal from consideration for the pilot adoption program will allow CNA to focus its attention on resolving all pending transition cases.

Beautiful wreaths for Christmas will give vitamins to children in Guatemala.

This year, give a gift that will really make a difference.
 I'd love to have everyone to order their Christmas Wreaths early so that the little kids in Guatemala will have vitamins. Each wreath provides a child with a full year of vitamins.You can order your wreath now, have it delivered later and the vitamins will be packed and shipped down on the 16th to arrive... to Mayan Fami...lies in plenty of time for Christmas! To order these beautiful wreaths please contact Sue who has done a fantastic job supplying vitamins to Guatemala.

Vitamins ....last day to order vitamins for children in Guatemala.

 Just a reminder that tomorrow,Thursday, Oct. 7th is the last day to order vitamins to be included in the Boston shipment. If you would like to donate vitamins to your student and their family please order at The cost is $30.00 for a bottle of 1000 vitamins and covers shipping within the US and on Mayan Families in Panajachel. Donations in any amount are welcome to help cover vitamin costs for general distribution and the various preschools. This will be the final vitamin shipment for 2010.   If you would like to order a bottle of vitamins please email Sue Frank at

Please, please, please, everyone, consider donating a bottle of vitamins for our preschools (remember we're up to 4 preschools now, as well as an after school feeding program). Talk about bang for your buck! Vitamins for children in their formative years are powerful stuff!
We also now have over 17 children in the small orphanage that Mayan Families together with Tom Heaton..Mission  Guatemala have taken over. We need vitamins for all these children as well.
This year we have had a couple of occassions when we didn't have enough vitamins at our preschool to make it every day from one of your loving shipments to the next. Vitamins are completely inaccessible here, or at least prohibitively costly. Most of these kids go for extended periods living on tortillas, with little more. And that's just, plain dangerous for their development.
This is a sure investment, please help. You guys are basically our only supply for vitamins. Thank you so so much!

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

“Dia de niños”

Friday was “Dia de niños” (Children’s day), so we headed out to the San Antonio preschool to bring a little something extra for each of the kids. We brought food bags full of corn, beans, rice, sugar, and incaparina for every family. A few days of rain meant that the road was in pretty bad shape, and carrying the heavy bags down the long hill to the preschool (you can’t drive up—there are steps in the road) left all of us (pathetically) winded, but it was worth the trouble of getting there for the chance to do something nice for the students and their families, about 80% of whom have been directly affected by the recent storms.

After helping with lunchtime and playing a great game of ‘run away from the terrifying pipe-cleaner snake,’ we were ready to distribute the food. (pictures 32, 4, 2 dia de ninos) Somehow, the mothers, grandmothers, and older sisters that came to take the students home didn’t seem to have nearly as much trouble with the heavy food bags as we did—plenty of them headed up the hill with the bag balanced on their head and a baby or toddler in their arms. Impressive.

While we were there, we noticed that one of Mayan Families’ sponsored kids, Laura, didn’t have any shoes, and her brother, Pedro, was in need of a new pair as well. After tracing their feet, we headed back to the office to find some footwear. Sapphire and I had to do some serious donation pile diving to get our hands on the right size.