Aldea Maya is a non profit grassroots organization working in the Lake Atitlan area of the Guatemalan highlands. Our focus is assisting the indigenous Mayans to help themselves, with projects particularly directed toward education, food sustainability and nutrition. Since June 1, 2013, Aldea Maya has had the status of a Registered Canadian Charity.
The region where Aldea Maya works is one of immense natural beauty, great cultural richness, and a complex historical legacy. It is also a region of intense poverty. The indigenous people have long been subjected to colonization and civil war. In 2005, the people of Panabaj, near Santiago Atitlan, were hit by a massive mudslide which devastated their village, killing hundreds of people and leaving many survivors homeless.
Aldea Maya had its genesis in this stricken community. Approximately half of the village was relocated to a new site 8 miles away. We have continued to work with the Tzu’tujil Mayans in the new village of Chuk Muk.
Since its beginnings, Aldea Maya has focused on sustainability. We have initiated a wide range of projects that included growing and cooking chaya (nutrition), to water filters ( health) to student sponsorship ( education). Aldea Maya has working partnerships with other NGO’s in Lake Atitlan region from our Onil stove , sewing and permaculture program.
Where does the funding come from?
Aldea Maya is constantly working to raise funds. Aldea Maya sponsors over 70 students through direct sponsorship. Some of the other funding comes from selling the beadwork made by local artisans. Another source is holiday gift cards, with sales linked to such needs as garden supplies, water filter, school supplies, or sponsorship for school fees. Rotary International gave Aldea Maya a grant in 2016 which has enabled us to fund our industrial sewing project. As of January 2017, Aldea Maya is a full member of Global Giving and uses their social media website to raise funds for our rural nutrition/ cooking project. Many small businesses or organizations donate towards our program : Charity Painting, Karuna Vihara and Delia Organics ( food security), and Mapa- café Germany ( bike, sewing )
How much of donation money goes toward administration?
The majority of the administration work is done by volunteers. All donations go to the projects themselves and the materials necessary to run them. Within Chuk Muk, the charity also contributes local salaries to a secretary, a gardener, and a manager who tutors students, teaches English in the Basico, coordinates the women’s group, visits families and runs the elementary school nutrition program.
HISTORY OF ALDEA MAYA
2007 The Launch of Aldea Maya
On October 5, 2005, a massive mudslide struck the Santiago Atitlan area of Guatemala. It was the biggest natural disaster in Central American history. In 2007, one of the founders of Aldea Maya visited the refugee camp that was constructed after the Panabaj mudslide. She was shocked at the conditions and resolved to do something about them:
“I was moved and appalled by the living conditions and the amount of loss these Mayans had suffered. I came home to Vancouver Island and started talking to everyone I knew. Next thing you know I had 50 children sponsored. I then started raising money for water filters as the water situation in the camp was neither clean or safe. The local response was amazing and we were able to give 450 families water filters. Rotary International awarded us the Paul Harris award for our efforts.”
This was the beginning of Aldea Maya, formally established in 2008, and became a registered Canadian charity in 2013.
2010 Relocation to Chuk Muk
The majority of the Panabaj mudslide victims were relocated by the Guatemalan government to the new village of Chuk Muk, into cement houses paid for by aid from the Spanish government. Unfortunately the people were still desperately poor and the land in the new site was far from arable. The new location was not near any source for firewood and the inhabitants needed to use their limited financial resources to travel to buy food and to look for jobs.
Aldea Maya focused on garden and nutrition projects and on helping the children continue their education. In early 2011, a volunteer working with the grade 6 class, learned that only two of the 34 students were going to continue their education beyond the elementary level.
“The students explained that the closest Basico was 3 miles away. It was too far to walk, especially in the rainy season, and transportation would cost at least $0.80 per day. Even if they could afford to pay for school fees and school supplies they could not afford to pay the transportation. In addition, Basico is in the afternoon and it is not always safe for young girls to travel home alone in the early evening.
When asked if they would attend a school was in their own village about half said they would. The other half still could not afford the supplies and fees and would not continue studying.
2012 Starting the Chuk Muk Basico
It is not easy to start a government accredited middle school in Guatemala. Without the diligent work of the elementary school director and community involvement the Chuk Muk Basico would not have been approved. The middle school opened in January 2012 with Aldea Maya funding teacher salaries and all supplies. When the doors opened, there were over 50 students. The school needed to operate for 2 years and then apply for full accreditation. During this time Aldea Maya continued to financially support not only the school, but the students attending the school. In July 2014 the Chuk Muk Basico became fully accredited.
At present, the classrooms are full and, with the help of sponsorships, many children who would have dropped out after grade 6 are now going on through grades 7, 8, and 9. In addition, the graduates of the Chuk Muk Basico are now going to the local high schools. They have much more hope now of a brighter future.
Aldea Maya has continued to grow and develop new programs. Poor nutrition and hygiene coupled with poverty and illiteracy have resulted in chronic malnutrition in the highlands of Guatemala. By looking at the multiple health burdens of malnutrition in an integrated manner, Aldea Maya has developed a sustainable food program which increases the quality and quantity of food available to a family. In addition, we are focused on education, employment opportunities, clean water and energy efficient stove programs.
Throughout its history, Aldea Maya has partnered with other NGOs in the area, made strong connections within the community, collaborated with and respected the desires and traditions of the local Tzu’tujil population to create sustainable solutions to a myriad of challenges.