At Mayan Families we have been working hard to structure our programs and deepen the impact of our work, all of which is made possible by our incredible staff and supporters. Read on for more information on the progress that we are making, and how you can further get involved.
As Mayan Families works to deepen our impact, we have begun to describe our work in three areas of focus—Education, Economic Development, and Nutrition and Health. We know that if done well and done in concert, these three focus areas will make a lasting impact on breaking the cycle of poverty and supporting families in our region to thrive. Over the next few months we will be sharing more information about each area—the need and how we are addressing it—starting this month with Nutrition and Health, with a focus on malnutrition prevention.
Guatemala has the fourth highest rate of chronic malnutrition in the world. Chronic malnutrition is disproportionately concentrated in indigenous families and impacts 70% of indigenous children in the region where we work, slowing growth and brain development and leading to educational problems, higher drop-out rates, reduced overall earning potential, and life-long health issues. Chronic malnutrition is different from ongoing hunger (acute malnutrition)—many Mayan children are consuming enough calories, but the food they have access to lacks the nutrients needed for proper growth and development. Two out of three Mayan children will be inches shorter than they should be and have severely reduced cognitive abilities because they don’t have access to nutritious food. Essentially, chronic malnutrition keeps families in a cycle of poverty. If we don’t catch it early in our students and families, they won’t benefit from our preschools and sponsorship program as they would if they were well nourished.
Chronic malnutrition is a critical health issue that can be prevented if we focus our resources and expertise towards early and ongoing interventions. There are well-researched solutions and Mayan Families, working with knowledgeable local and international partners, can make a measurable difference in the communities where we work over the next five years.
Partnering with the community of El Barranco
Mayan Families is deeply grateful to the Indigenous Alcalde of Sololá (the elected indigenous leadership of the region), who on June 20th affirmed our right to operate the El Barranco Preschool and their support for Mayan Families to serve the community with high-quality programs, rooted in respect, integrity, and community-led solutions. We had planned to reopen the preschool immediately in July, but after conferring with local leaders, parents, and staff, we have decided collectively that it would be best to spend the coming months preparing intentionally for the start to the school year in January. In the meantime, we will be strengthening community relationships, making repairs and improvements to the building, offering other services to children and families, and deepening and improving our preschool curriculum.
Mayan Families is delighted to announce its upcoming socioeconomic study; this is an in-depth discussion with our sponsored students and partner families, so that we can better understand their situations, what their biggest needs are, and how as an organization we can best support their communities. This undertaking aims to optimize our resources, and to continuously learn and grow with our partner communities to ensure that your donations are having the intended impact and serving them in the best way possible.
A talented team of staff, consisting largely of social workers, are designing the study which will help to determine each family’s socioeconomic situation, strengths, and needs. We will conduct interviews and house visits with each family, giving us an opportunity to talk in depth and build stronger relationships.
Combining individual socioeconomic studies of each family with a larger community needs assessment will ensure that community will guide our future work and direction, and that our resources are invested where they are most needed and will have the highest impact.
Deepening Mayan Families’ expertise
Our team has been expanding in the first six months of 2019; we have hired 12 new staff members, 11 of whom are Guatemalan, and the majority of whom are indigenous. Mayan Families will continue to hire a few more highly-qualified individuals in the next few months to continue to strengthen our team and work. We are excited to have a wide variety of expertise and indigenous leadership to help carve the path and set the direction of Mayan Families. New perspectives and experience of incoming staff will help us maximize our ability to partner effectively with the communities which we serve and implement best practices in international development, to make a measurable impact on the communities around Lake Atitlán.
Staff highlight: Marina Saloj
Marina joined our team last month as the Preschool Coordinator, and is excited to be driving the work of our preschools as she believes strongly that the impact of early childhood education affects not only students but also their families and communities.
“I think of education in Guatemala like a tree. The government invests in the trunk, which is students in elementary school, but they completely forget about the roots: children 0-6 years old.”
Marina has a degree in Education with a focus on Early Childhood Education in rural communities. In her new role, Marina works closely with teachers, helping them conduct evaluations for our students focused on language skills, physical education, and creativity, and will be deepening our preschool curricula and connecting teachers and families with needed resources to further educational growth. We are thrilled to have Marina on the team and look forward to continually improving our preschool program under her leadership.
Community Cleanup Day
On June 21st, Mayan Families staff and volunteers spent the day cleaning up trash and recycling in Panajachel and the surrounding areas of the stunning Lake Atitlán. We surpassed our original goal of removing 50 bags of garbage and filled an extraordinary 72 bags.
As a team, we recognize that one clean-up is not a long-term solution to the systemic problem of solid waste in our region. Mayan Families will move towards education and awareness-raising of these issues, through hosting workshops for students, families, schools, and other partners, focusing on the importance of conservation and reducing waste, and involving our greater community in clean-up and waste reduction efforts. An important aspect of this is to work with city officials to help develop and implement local policies to reduce waste and help improve waste systems holistically. Because most of the families that we serve get their drinking water directly from Lake Atitlán, the health of the lake is tied intrinsically to community health.
Thank you to all our supporters from near and far who donated to the cause and cheered us on, we greatly appreciate your dedicated support. Raising funds through community activities like this are both fun and impactful, and Mayan Families is always grateful for supporters willing to fundraise on our behalf. If you would like to do a fundraiser similar to this, please email our Development Director at firstname.lastname@example.org