Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Wednesday at Mayan Families.

We have been busy preparing for the grand opening of the El Barranco school.
Christine, Alexa, Rodolfo and Juan Carlos have been helping the teacher, Zoila and he new cook, Rosa organize everything today.
It already looks very bright and cheery.
We were hoping that the landlord had removed the bee's hive that is on the roof but he is reluctant to do so because it is a sign of good luck here. I think we will be keeping a close eye on this in case it turns out to be not such good luck!

We have been calling in the students and giving out the gifts from the Medrano if you sent gifts to your sponsored students you should see their photos very soon. Some of them will be uploaded to Picassa this evening. Thank you for sending such wonderful things!!

We were very saddened today to learn that Isabel Mucun who has had her three children removed from her and placed in the care of the grandmother, under Mayan Families supervision is ......6 months pregnant. She came to us to ask for help with pregnancy tests, she apologized for being pregnant and said that she does not want the baby and wants to give it away. Her last child has severe learning disabilities and it will be difficult to find a home for this baby if it has the same problems. We have put her in contact with the social worker at the local hospital and we will give her the tests to make sure that as much as possible can be done to help the unborn child. Isabel's mother who is in her 60's has her hands full caring for little 4yr old Norma and the two older girls. She cannot take on another child.

We had representatives of the Mayor's office come today looking for help for two young teenage girls who were in danger of sexual assault at their home. The girls 15 and 18yrs old are aunt and niece. The 18yr old has taken responsibility for getting the 15yr old out of the house away from the stepfather. It has been a problem for several years at the home but no one would believe the girl till her Aunt came to help her. We have paid one month's rent for them to live in a safe house and they are going to the court with the help of local authorities. They need support for food and rent till the Aunt can find a job to support them. It is a huge responsibility for the Aunt but she is willing to do it.

Anna has been attending a meeting today organized by an NGO here in is to strive for more collaboration amongst NGO's which seems like a very good thing.

We are starting to build a house for a family in Tierra Linda. This family is very, very poor and their mud brick house is in danger of falling down around them.
We are starting immediately and hope to have it finished before the rains come too strongly. This project is being funded by members of a Rotary club that came to visit.The family is beyond excited!

We are starting the process of interviewing for the position of Family Aid program. Anna, has decided to go back to Australia and to University to get her Masters is leaving us in June. We are so sorry that she is going, she has done a fantastic job.

Tonight we are having a farewell pizza with volunteer, Pamela who has been back with us for a few weeks, she has painted some great signs and we wish her very well on her trip back to the US. and then she is off to the Greek Isles!

Sharon Smart-Poage
Panajachel, Guatemala

UA Rotaryview March 15, 2011

Please visit this link!
Rotary Club Newsletter with information about working with Mayan Families!

Elderly care program in Guatemala.

These are just a few of the elderly that we are caring for in San Jorge la Laguna.
The program we have provides a hot and healthy lunch every day for 40 elderly people who live in the village who have little or no family support.
They receive medical care and medicines as we have them.
They are incredibly grateful for the little that we are able to do for them.
There were several of them this week who were fortunate enough to receive blankets and even mattresses from a kind donor.
The mattresses will make a huge difference to some of the elderly, they are often bedridden and lying on bare boards with just a straw mat for over the bare boards. They often do not have enough blankets and are cold at night.
If you would like to sponsor an elderly person for meals, a blanket , a mattress would be greatly appreciated.
Please go to our blog for the elderly go to our

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Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Tuesday at Mayan Families

First day back after the long week end celebrating Semana Santa. We finally closed on Thursday and re-opened today. Though we did have a few requests that we had to attend to over the week end. Sick people who needed treatment urgently but overall we had a great break.
Today we held a clinic with Opticians from the U.S......we started the clinic at 9a.m. and by 3p.m. 75 people had received glasses.
The group also left us 1,000 pair of glasses that we can distribute!
In El Barranco we delivered the tables, the chairs,the cooking equipment, changed the locks on the doors so that no one else can have keys for the location. In Panajachel we sorted out toys, puzzles, games, crayons, school supplies, socks, shoes, for the opening of the El Barranco pre-school feeding program on Thursday.
The girls from the San Jorge pre school received black cortes and blue blusas, the boys received jeans, blue polo shirts and black caps....these are in preparation for the big parade on Thursday morning that all the schools will be participating in . It marks the beginning of the San Jorge annual Fiesta .....they will have a pick up that is being decorated tomorrow afternoon by all the parents, the kids will carry balloons, there will be music and it will be the start of a big parade back to the village of San Jorge from the main highway. When they get to the village the children of the pre-school and their parents will all go to the Mayan Families community center and enjoy a traditional lunch of polik. The parents have all contributed some money into providing this lunch ....they have invited all the Mayan Families staff to attend but only Christine ( Ely's replacement ) and Alexa ( who is also Ely's replacement and will be Christine's replacement when she leaves in August) are able to attend.
Stephanie, our fabulous volunteer is almost finished writing the March /April Newsletter and should be in your inbox soon.
We finalized plans for a medical and dental group to come down in June. Two dentists and one G.P. , one paramedic and one R.N....will be coming to do a clinic for four days. We are very happy to have them come.
Our wood working shop has been working to finish all the tables and cupboards needed for El Barranco.
Zoila....who has been teaching in San Antonio was sad to say goodbye to the children there today. She will be the teacher at the new El Barranco pre-school. She lives very close to El Barranco and it has been really difficult for her to get to San Antonio, especially during the wet season, often two pickups and a boat to get to the pre-school. While she is sad to say goodbye to her fellow teacher, Griselda and the children, she is excited to be opening the pre-school in El Barranco.
Please look at the photos in the Picassa Web to see the people in the Elderly program who were fortunate enough today to get blankets and mattresses!
We also added another elderly gentleman to the feeding program in San Jorge, he has been bedridden for two years and has not been able to seek medical attention.
And at the end of the day, two students found a cat being attacked by dogs in the street, brought it to us in a bag and we are now looking after a very unhappy adult cat who would rather be somewhere else. We hope we can find that somewhere else soon for him!
Thank you for your support that makes all we do possible,

Sharon Smart-Poage
Panajachel, Guatemala

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Happy Update for Vicenta and Juan!

Vicenta and Juan

Update April 19th 2011
Thanks to generous donations, Vicenta and Juan are now getting a brand new mattress for their bed!! They will be so delighted when they find out! Thank you so much, this will improve their quality of life considerably. We are also happy to announce that their first month of medication has also been covered by the same generous donor.  Thank you for making this wonderful difference to Vicenta and Juan's life.

Original Post
Vicenta Chial is 93 years old, and her husband, Juan Ramos, is 87.  They live next to their grandchildren, who give them what they can for breakfast and dinner, to supplement the lunch they get from the program.

Vicenta and Juan outside their grandchildren's home.
Vicenta and Juan have a bed, but no mattress.  The lack of a mattress must be especially painful for this couple, since Juan has constant lower back pain, and Vicenta recently fell down, landing on her back.  She went to the doctor following the fall, but Juan is distrustful of doctors, and hasn't gone, despite pain in his back and feet.  He told us that he would like some over the counter pain medications, though, if we are able to provide them.

The bed, without a mattress, that Vicenta and Juan share.
Vicenta and Juan could most use a mattress, pain medicines, blankets, or a water filter.  If you would like to help them, please go to Donate Now, and enter your gift in the 'Other' box.  Enter A34 (for Vicenta) and A35 (for Juan) and the purpose of your donation ('mattress', 'meds', etc) in the 'Details' box.  Thank you!

Good news for Juana and Rosaria!

Juana and Rosaria

Update 19 April
Thanks to very generous donations, Juana and Rosario now both have a brand new thick blanket each to ward off the cold mountain air at night. Thank you for helping these two lovely ladies out!

Original Post
Juana Par, 75, and her daughter, Rosaria, 28, live alone in a house made of wooden boards.  They have no family to support them, and before being added to the Mayan Families elderly feeding program in San Jorge, they supported themselves on the $3.30 that Rosaria earns cleaning onions each week.

Juana, 75, and her daughter Rosaria
They cannot afford to buy firewood, so 75 year old Rosaria goes down the mountain to a wooded area to look for it herself, and then carries the heavy load on her back up the mountain to their home.  At home, they do not have a water filter, a fuel efficient stove, or a pila to wash clothes and dishes and store water for the frequent times when water is not available in their home.  Though they would greatly benefit from help to buy any of these things, what they would most like is blankets to help keep them warm during the cold mountain nights.

Juana at the center
If you would like to help provide some of the basic necessities that Juana and Rosaria are lacking, you can do so at Donate Now, by scrolling down to the "Other" box, and entering the amount of your donation.  Enter A65 and A67, along with the purpose of your donation (i.e. 'blankets,' 'filter,' 'stove,' etc).

Good blankets cost $20.
A fuel efficient Onil Stove, which would dramatically decrease their need for firewood--and therefore the amount that Juana has to carry--costs $160.
A water filter, with the filter cartridges which provide clean water for 1-2 years, costs $50.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Puppies in Guatemala available!

Mayan Families has a whole mess of puppies--3 different litters--that are just about old enough to go to good homes. They come fixed, vaccinated, and well socialized with other dogs and people. Just send me a message or comment on the picture if you want more info, in general or about a particular puppy. I'm going to put up a few more puppies periodically until they're all on here (I think there are 9 total). Two of the moms are street dogs, (one has a home that wouldn't care for the puppies), but all three are great with people.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Feliz Semana Santa! Happy Passover! Happy Springtime!

Yesterday was a great day! We gave out lots and lots of baskets......we started work at 7am and we left here at was a long day but a very happy one.
So many people grateful for the food that they were receiving.
Unfortunately, about 60 baskets are still waiting to be given out.... these were people who either had to work and couldn't get here or were the staff made the decision to come in and work today....hopefully, just for two hours till all the baskets are picked up. I just have to say what a great staff we have, everyone is here at on this public holiday which they had expected to have off, they are all smiling and I can hear laughter coming from outside the garden where people are starting to come in to pick up their baskets.

We had about 60 people still lined up outside the gate when we left last night , they had waited even when it rained , hoping to get a basket but there are just not enough to go around .

There are so many people sick with a flu virus going around that lots of mothers could not come with their children, they were sick at home, or else mothers came without children who were too sick to come. Several came with children with fevers and obviously sick, we sent them to the whole family came that was very sick, we sent them off to the clinic and got their meds. I have just gone through both Dwight and our children being sick with this flu and it is awful , so I was really sympathetic to the children and parents suffering with this flu. It is very, very strong.

Families came and waited in the line to get their baskets and their photos taken, some came in their new trajes para Semana Santa looking very beautiful, many had been gifts from their sponsors.

It was quite a fun atmosphere with the children all playing on the swings, the playground equipment and the bicycles and ride on's that have been donated. Any more small bicycles or ride on toys that your kids have grown out of would be so loved here!

Three mothers of sponsored children asked permission to set up booths selling food and drinks. We were really happy to be able to help them do that. One set up a bbq and sold tortillas with guacamole and chorizo. smelt wonderful! Others sold drinks, sweets they had made, tostados.

I wish that you could all be here to experience the baskets being distributed and see how much they are appreciated!

Thank you everyone who has helped make this such a happy occasion......those who were able to send baskets, those who spread the word and those who sent their best wishes.
Everyone is very, very grateful!
I hope you can see the photos, not all of them are uploaded yet, but there is a slide show on the blog and there are some on Facebook and all that we have now are on Picassa.
Wishing you and your families a very Happy Semana Santa and we are getting ready here for some serious processions and some beautiful carpets, not as fancy as Antigua but made with a lot of love and heart.

Sharon Smart-Poage
Panajachel, Guatemala
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Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Semana Santa Food Baskets being delivered!

This is a slideshow with some of the families getting their Semana Santa Food Baskets!

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Semana Santa Baskets, packing!

We are so excited , we have nearly 670 Semana Santa baskets to give out tomorrow!!!

We have been packing nearly 150 of them this afternoon and they are stashed all over the offices....

We have had people waiting outside the gate to see if they will get a basket...this is the hardest part of giving out the baskets....there will always be the people waiting at the gate who are hoping to get a basket and we just do not have them to give away.

But ...there is a possible 6,700 people who will have food for Semana Santa from the baskets that we are distributing and I think that is a great effort by all of us.

Thank you , each and everyone of you, we could not do it without you!

We are not closing the Elderly/Orphan Care program in San Jorge for Semana Santa nor the Elderly Care program in San Jorge. Now that we have realized how little food most people have ...we cannot leave them for five days without food.

They will be having a wonderful meal of chicken with green beans and fragrant bread with hot chocolate!

All of the orphaned children families that we have will also be receiving baskets of food to celebrate Semana Santa.

Thank you all for making this possible.


Semana Santa Baskets tomorrow!

We are so excited , we have nearly 670 Semana Santa baskets to give out tomorrow!!!

We have been packing nearly 150 of them this afternoon and they are stashed all over the offices....

We have had people waiting outside the gate to see if they will get a basket...this is the hardest part of giving out the baskets....there will always be the people waiting at the gate who are hoping to get a basket and we just do not have them to give away.

But ...there is a possible 6,700 people who will have food for Semana Santa from the baskets that we are distributing and I think that is a great effort by all of us.

Thank you , each and everyone of you, we could not do it without you!

We are not closing the Elderly/Orphan Care program in San Jorge for Semana Santa nor the Elderly Care program in San Jorge. Now that we have realized how little food most people have ...we cannot leave them for five days without food.

They will be having a wonderful meal of chicken with green beans and fragrant bread with hot chocolate!

All of the orphaned children families that we have will also be receiving baskets of food to celebrate Semana Santa.

Thank you all for making this possible.


Monday, April 18, 2011

Guatemalan Government might enact national food emergency!

vpspeachHunger Emergency had been denounced by Guatemala’s Human Rights Ombudsman Sergio Morales. The Guatemalan government might agree to enact national nutrition risk after today’s cabinet meeting. About 49 percent of children in Guatemala are chronically malnourished according to the World Food Program—the fourth highest rate in the world. In indigenous communities the rate is closer to 70 percent.

According to data from the Secretary of Food Security (Sesan), director Lily Caravantes stated that at least 15,000 cases of chronic and acute malnutrition have been identifies in 2011 so far. This greatly affects children under five years. Lily Caravantes explained that a total of $ 26 million are needed for food aid to prevent starvation.

The National Food Security Council-CONASAN, will present the plan Nutritional Risk to President Alvaro Colom. This plan seeks to adopt long-term measures that comply with the protocol of the World Health Organization-WHO.

Vice President Dr. Rafael Espada explained today in general terms how the plan will work. The Plan consists of four parts: to investigate the availability of food and immediately address the problem, to ensure access to food teams with equipment will be mobilized to the affected communities, the food consumption will be evaluated mainly in the municipalities of greatest risk.

Espada explained that it will take six to eight weeks to distribute the food in high risk areas which are in located in 127 municipalities, 367 communities in 22 departments.

The European Union, EU, donated € 6.5 million (U.S. $ 9.42 million) last week. The EU representative in Guatemala, Rafael Senan, said the funds will go to support the Government in implementing policies for food security and nutrition 2012-2019.
With this contribution, the EU has donated a total of 40.3 million Euros (U.S. $ 44.10 million) for Food Emergencies in Guatemala since 2010.

The worst drought in 30 years happened in Guatemala in 2009, it created severe food shortages due to destruction of staple food crops and affected over 2.5 million people according to the UN. The two hurricanes Agatha and Alex and the volcano explosion of Pacaya that affected Guatemala in 2010 caused extensive damages by volcanic ashes and torrential rains that destroyed much of the agricultural production and severely hit Guatemalan infrastructure. Guatemala needed 980 million dollars to rebuild, quoted a UN-led research team. Prices of corn are higher than they have been in four years, at 15.60 dollars per 100 pounds, compared to 12.20 dollars in 2009. The cost of black beans has also gone up, from 52.70 dollars per hundred pounds in 2009 to 57.20 dollars in 2010 according to FAO.

The increase in staple food prices hit an all time high this year, (FAO) all these factors combined with high inflation rates in the country and severe effects of climate change like increased desertification and decrease of water availability have a devastating effect on the nutritional status of the poorer population.

Guatemalan Congress will discuss the approval of emergency funds for the current food crisis. The issue of a tax reform to address the structural roots of hunger in Guatemala faces stiff opposition by the private sector and the chambers of commerce in Guatemala (CACIF). “No tax increase without transparency of governmental spending” is the mayor reason the opposition presents.

Here is the original link:
According to the EU, World Bank, the US, ECLAC and many other institutions and governments, the tax revenues in Guatemala are the lowest in the region with Haiti and development is impossible without addressing a comprehensive tax reform.

Approximately 75 percent of the population is estimated to live below the poverty line, which is defined as an income that is insufficient to purchase a basic basket of goods and services. Almost 58 percent of the population have incomes below the extreme poverty line, which is defined as the amount needed to purchase a basic basket of food. Poverty is especially prevalent in rural areas in the North, Northwest, and Southwest and occurs primarily among the poorly educated and indigenous members of the population. More than 90 percent of the indigenous population live on an income that is lower than the poverty line.

Photo: Vice President of Guatemala, Dr. Rafael Espada

Friday, April 15, 2011

12 yr old Heidy needs heart surgery.

Heidy Needs Heart Surgery

Heidy, her mom, and her youngest brother,
receiving a food donation a few months ago.
12 Year old Heidy is sponsored to go to elementary school through Mayan Families.  This year she is in 5th grade, but she can't run around during phys-ed like the rest of the kids.  She has a 20mm hole in her heart, which allows blood to leak out.  Heidy suffers from chest pain, and she has a lot of trouble breathing.  Her concerned parents recently took her to the hospital for tests to determine exactly what was wrong, and doctors determined that she needs surgery as soon as possible to repair the hole.  Doctors told Heidy's mom, Estella, that with an operation now, Heidy should be able to recover fully and have a normal life.  Unfortunately, they also said that that may not be the case if the operation is postponed for too long.

The surgery, which will cost $800, is currently scheduled for May 19th, but, as is usual in Guatemala, the hospital requires payment beforehand.  Heidy's mother and father, who have five other children to support, do not have the money for the operation.  Estella works at home, caring for the children (Heidy is the oldest of the 6--the youngest is only 18 months).  Heidy's dad, Juan Carlos, works as a day laborer, earning only about $20 per week.

They came to Mayan Families not to ask for a donation or a gift from Heidy's sponsors, but for a loan, so that Heidy can have the surgery she needs as soon as possible rather than having to wait months or years as they try to put together that much money.

If you can help us get the hole in Heidy's heart fixed, so she can go back to being a normal kid, please go to Donate Now, and enter your donation in the "Other" box, with "#285 medical" in the 'details'.  Thank you!

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Report card time!

Lots of children are receiving their first report cards for this year! There are lots of happy and proud children bringing in their report cards, having their photos taken and writing letters to their sponsors. If you have been able to sponsor a child for school this year, thank is making a huge difference in their lives! If you would like to sponsor a child for school, we have many children waiting who are in desperate need of help to get through this school year and to be able to remain in school. To see the waiting children on our website ...please go to

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Books to San Jorge Jnr High in Guatemala!

Karen and Mack for the second year have brought down wonderful text books that they found in the schools in California. These books used to be part of a bi lingual program in California schools but once the program was stopped ....the books were put away in a store room and forgotten. Karen and Mack who spent a year in Guatemala as teachers in an International school realized the great value of these text books for Guatemalan schools. They worked very hard to get these books off Santa Catalina Island, ferried over, shipped to Guatemala. They had a lot of community support in this venture for which we are very, very grateful. Some of the text books were delivered to day to the Jnr. High school in San Jorge la Laguna. There are more books waiting to go to the Tierra Linda Jnr. High in the next few days. Thank you Karen and Mack for all your hard work in getting these books to the schools here in Guatemala! The students were so excited to receive them!

Telma celebrates her birthday!

Little Telma was overwhelmed with excitement and happiness when she received a bicycle for her birthday from her Madrina ( her sponsor).! This was totally unexpected and everyone here at Mayan Families shared in her happiness! Thank you so much to her sponsor for giving her such an unforgettable experience!

Telma's father abandoned the family 3 years ago and has not supported Telma, her  brother and their little sister.  The mother works very hard making tortillas in a store.  But they are renting and they pay $41 US per month in rent so most of the money goes to the rent.

Thanks to sponsorship that the children have they are able to attend school....without this help, they probably would not be in school.

Telma has never dreamed of getting a brand new bicycle is something that she knew her family could never afford.

But today she is all smiles and cannot believe her luck!

Happy Birthday Telma!

The circus is in town in Panajachel!

A flashy (for here!) circus has come to town from Mexico and it is a really big deal here!
I have to say that I hate animals in circus's but we went and looked at the tigers, horses and goats....yes.. goats, that they have and they are all in very good condition. 
I still would prefer not to support animals in circus but as anyone who has visited Panajachel knows that there is not a lot here for children and having the circus come to town is huge!
All the children are excited and we would love to be able to take all the pre-school children to the circus....they are giving us a special deal of $1.50 per ticket  which will also cover the teachers entrance as well. 
Tom Heaton from Mission Guatemala who we are partnering with for the San Andres pre-school is going to cover the 35 children from San Andres. 

I don't like to take one pre-school and not the others but we need help to pay for the tickets.

There are 44 children in the pre-school in Panajachel.  $66 US for the whole school to go to the circus.

There are 65 children in the pre-school and after school program in San Antonio .$97.50 for the whole school to go to the circus.

There are 35 children in San Jorge pre-school. $52.50 for the whole school.

There are 65 children in the Tierra Linda pre-school. $97.50 for the whole school to go to the circus.

Would anyone be interested in helping for the kids to have a fun excursion ?
The circus is only here, they say for two more days so we would have to be able to go tomorrow.
I know this is not as important as food or so many other needs we have and please forgive me for asking for help with this but I see how excited the children are and most families will not be able to take their children to the circus.
Sharon   These are some of the girls from San Antonio having a giggly moment!
To donate please go to this link.

Friday, April 8, 2011

Father Needs Urgent Medical Care

Alberto is an electrician by trade. Some years ago while working, he suffered a terrible accident: he was electrocuted, severely burning one of his arms.  The damage was too extensive to save the arm--it had to be amputated.  As a skilled electrician, Alberto had always been the family's breadwinner, but electrical work requires both hands, and since losing his arm he has been forced to take any work that he can find--no matter how low the pay or how grueling the task.  Though he is willing to do any work available, he isn't often hired, as potential employers assume he won't be very useful with just one arm, and he has faced great difficulty in securing a steady income for his wife and three children; the family often doesn't have enough to eat.

Alberto has never received any follow up care since his accident: the family simply doesn't have enough money to pay for medical treatment. His wife Estela has diabetes and has also suffered from a stomach ulcer for many years, but she also has never received treatment for either of these life-affecting problems. Alberto and Estela's youngest child, Suly, was adopted by these caring parents, because she was abandoned by her blood parents when she was still a baby. They have cared for her ever since as if she was their own child, despite all the problems they have faced. Suly has a Mayan Families sponsor and is currently in 7th grade. One of their other children, Fredy is 18 and is finishing high school this year. Their eldest child Pascual never went to school but he is now married, working and lives apart from the family.

Unfortunately we don't have a photo of Alberto or his wife,
but this is Suly receiving shoes at the beginning of this year
Alberto's health has been worsening recently and last night his family put him in hospital because he was so sick. The hospital didn't think they could help him with the limited equipment that they had so the family took him instead to a private clinic and then came to us asking for help. Alberto is on the brink of contracting cirrhosis of the liver. Despite the hardships in his life, Alberto has never succumbed to the temptation of alcohol--and the doctors have been unable to figure out the cause of his failing liver. At the moment, though, the doctor is very concerned about Alberto, and has laid out a plan of action for emergency treatment. The most pressing need is to have the liquid in his abdominal cavity extracted, and get an ultrasound and commence on some medication, all of which is going to cost almost $600. If you can help this loving father and his family, please go to the Donate Now page, scroll down to the 'other programs' box and enter FA 127. We are hoping to start him on this treatment a soon as possible. Thank you for all your support!

Happy Soccer fans in Guatemala!

Concacaf Main CONCACAF Home Tournaments Under 20s News Under 20s News Guatemala shocks U.S. 2-1 in U-20 quarterfinals

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Abby ...has an eye problem.

6 y.o. Abby ;May Need a New Eye

6 year old Abby was born 3 months early.  She was tiny, weighing in at only 2lbs, and she was completely blind.  At three months old, doctors operated to correct the birth defect that was robbing her of her sight, and for almost a year she had vision in both eyes.  Unfortunately, after that year, Abby lost sight in her left eye, and it began to shrink.

Abby more recently, with her eye inflamed.
When she was just two years old, doctors told her mother, Anna, that they needed to remove Abby's eye.  Anna was hesitant to subject Abby to another operation at such a young age, and, though her eye didn't look completely normal, it didn't cause her any pain.  Anna decided against the operation, and Abby lived comfortably for several years, until a few months ago.  Her eye became irritated and inflamed, and it has been causing her pain.  Anna took her back to the hospital, where they were told again that Abby would need surgery to remove the eye, as well as tests to check for kidney problems.  Abby's mom, who just lost her steady job cleaning in an apartment complex, hasn't been able to pay for either the surgery or the kidney tests.  We would like to send Abby for a second opinion at a private eye clinic, to be sure that removing her eye is the only option.  This clinic gives Mayan Families patients a reduced rate, and we could have Abby examined for just $40, to ensure the surgery is necessary.

Abby last year, before her latest eye troubles.
Abby is the youngest of three children.  She lives with her mom, her grandmother, and her older sister (11) and brother (10).  Abby's dad left for the United States intending to send money home, but he has started a new family in the US and no longer supports Abby or her siblings.  Her mother earns all she can working as a domestic in private homes, but it's all she can do to provide for her children's basic needs.  Without help, she won't be able to get Abby the second opinion or the surgery.  If you would like to help Anna get her daughter the medical care she deserves, you can do so by going to Donate Now, and entering your donation in the 'Other' box, with '#1211 medical' in the description.

Josefa and her children.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Josefa and her children, abandoned 3 times, sleeping on cardboard

Josefa Xep Twis works the land and weaves cloth and clothing by hand, in order to earn whatever she can. With just a second grade education, she has never been able to earn enough to support herself, and has found herself again and again in the all-too-common situation of relying on a man for support--a situation which has left her vulnerable to all types of abuse.  Josefa's first husband left her for another woman soon after their third child was born, leaving her and the children to struggle on their own for survival. 7 years later she met another man, who offered to help support her and her children.  It was an offer she could not refuse, and he became her second husband.  They had a child together, followed by 4 consecutive miscarriages, before he also left her for another woman, plunging the family back into desperate circumstances, with one new mouth to feed.  Not surprisingly, the cycle repeated itself; several years later, she met her third husband, and became pregnant with her son Miguel, who is now 4.  Miguel's father, too, abandoned her while she was pregnant, and the economic help she had hoped for disappeared.

Throughout all these trying times, Josefa and her five children have survived on what little she has earned from her weaving and working in the fields. Luckily, they have found shelter with Josefa's sister, who lets Josefa and her children live in a one-room house that she owns.

Josefa's 3 oldest children are all married with children of their own, but 11 year old Cristina and 3 year old Miguel still live with their mother in the one-room borrowed home.  They share this tiny space with very few material possessions. They all sleep together on pieces of cardboard on the dirt floor. They do not own a single item of furniture. They cook in the same room that they live and sleep in, using whatever wood they can find or buy, so the room is always filled with smoke--a situation that badly affects the family's lungs and eyes.

Though Cristina is now 11 years old, she has never been to school--she works as a domestic, and contributes her tiny salary to the family. We would love to get her in school as soon as possible, but the process has been complicated by the fact that she has never been registered officially in Guatemala, and has no birth certificate or documentation, which she needs to enroll in school. We hope that we will be able to help Cristina start her education next year.

Her brother Miguel will turn 4 this year, and we would like to ensure that he has the opportunity for an education. If you would like to sponsor Miguel, please email cristina[at]mayanfamilies[dot]org and request to sponsor Miguel, student #1841.

The family would also benefit greatly from donations of a bed, any furniture, and/or food.  To help them, please go to the donate now page, scroll down to the family aid box and enter FA 126 as the family name.

Mayan Families Elderly Care Program: Maria Felipa needs food

Maria Felipa needs food

Maria Felipa Coros is 75 years old and lives in a house in the hills above San Jorge. She has lived alone since her husband died roughly 30 years ago, and she has no family to assist her. To say that her house is hard to get to would be an understatement. The trek up the long dirt path, which is interrupted frequently by rocks and roots, is difficult for a healthy person; for Maria, who has trouble seeing and cannot wear real shoes, the walk is downright treacherous.  Because her home does not have running water, she must often make the hike with a container full of water from the communal water source.

Mayan Families' generous donors have already provided Maria with a stove, bed and water filter, but because she cannot work and has no family support her, her stove is usually empty.  She rarely eats more than what is provided by Mayan Families--she usually saves one or two tortillas from lunch to serve as both dinner and the next day's breakfast. 

Maria's feet, which cause her so much pain that she can't
wear any shoes, save these plastic sandals.

To help make Maria's breakfasts and dinners more substantial, you can give a one time or a monthly food donation.  To make a one-time donation, go to Donate Now--enter your donation in the "Other" box, and enter "A30" in the details section. You can also set up an automatic monthly gift in order to give Maria the stability of a regular food donation.  To do so, go to Donate Monthly, and enter "A30" as the family name.

Mayan Families Canada ....

We are so proud of our sister organization, Mayan Families Canada.......each year they come to work with us here in Panajachel and they do a wonderful job. Not only of increasing awareness in Canada but in making real changes to peoples lives here in Guatemala.
If you live in Canada and would like to make a donation or become involved.....please write to Robin

"Robin Pawliuk"

Giving Back

Helping Mayan families in Guatemala


From Saturday's Globe and Mail

Published Friday, Mar. 25, 2011 6:44PM EDT

The Gift: Mayan Families Canada

The Cause: Helping families in Guatemala

Seven years ago Robin Pawliuk and her family went to Guatemala for a few weeks to volunteer at a clinic.

During the trip, Ms. Pawliuk and her teenaged daughter, Leigh, talked about doing something long term to help people in the impoverished region around Lake Atitlan, about 140 kilometres west of Guatemala City. “We saw the need for what was happening down there and that’s when Leigh said, ‘We’ve got to do it,’ ” recalled Ms. Pawliuk, a teacher in Parksville, B.C., north of Nanaimo.

 Shortly after the family returned home, Ms. Pawliuk made a presentation to students and teachers at her school, Springwood Middle School. She talked about the region and how the school could help. “There was just an overwhelming support,” she recalled.

Ms. Pawliuk and Leigh soon formed Mayan Families Canada and began raising money and collecting shoes, toiletries, blankets and clothes. They packed everything in suitcases and headed back to Guatemala to distribute the donated goods.

They’ve been going back every summer since and today Mayan Families raises about $50,000 annually. Along with distributing household items, the charity has sponsored education for 28 students, built five houses and helped build a community centre. This summer 16 people from across Canada will accompany the Pawliuks to Guatemala, each loaded down with donated supplies.

The charity has become a total family endeavour. Ms. Pawliuk’s husband, David, and son, Nick, are involved along with Leigh, now 21, who is planning a career in international development.

Ms. Pawliuk said the charity’s biggest accomplishment has been engaging students at Springwood and a dozen other schools across Canada who raise money. She recalled one young boy who was reluctant to get involved at first. “He came up to me three weeks later and said ‘I never knew that helping somebody else could make you feel so good.’ ” she said. “That said it all to me.”

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

All About Semana Santa! is releasing a new book titled "Semana Santa 101:  A Look at Holy Week in Guatemala" and is donating a significant portion of the profits of books purchased by Mayan Families supporters to help with Mayan Families' efforts.

Semana Santa 101: A Look at Holy Week in Guatemala is a guide from an insider's point of view, sharing the author's experiences and those of friends.  You'll find information about the major celebrations, preparation for the festivities, easy to prepare recipes, and fun activities for kids and teachers.  In addition, there are several bonuses that you will receive.

Semana Santa 101 is available in ebook (pdf), printed book, and Amazon Kindle format.  For Mayan Families to receive your contribution, please write "Mayan Families" in the coupon code box when you purchase.  Note: If you purchase the Kindle version, you will need to email (contact info at the bottom of the book page) to let them know of your desire to help Mayan Families, as Amazon has no notification system in place.

To find out more about Semana Santa 101, visit:

(To buy the books in bulk for fundraisers or group orders and receive preferential pricing while helping Mayan Families, please visit

Thanks again for your support!

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Jetta leaves a lot of love behind in Guatemala!

Jetta, a wonderful volunteer who has been working at the Mayan Families San Antonio Pre/After school and the feeding program is unfortunately, leaving. She said goodbye to all the kids at the pre-school with a lovely gift bag each.....they were so thrilled!!! She also brought cookies, sang songs and played games with the kids. I think the teachers are going to miss her just as much, even more, than the kids! Thank you Jetta for all the love and joy you have spread around while you have been here. We have loved and appreciated your warmth, your enthusiasm and your love for the children. We all hope you come back soon! To see more photos please go to this link below.