Improving health of 500 Guatemalan school children

by Mayanza, Inc.
Improving health of 500 Guatemalan school children
Improving health of 500 Guatemalan school children
Improving health of 500 Guatemalan school children
Improving health of 500 Guatemalan school children
Improving health of 500 Guatemalan school children
Improving health of 500 Guatemalan school children
Improving health of 500 Guatemalan school children
Improving health of 500 Guatemalan school children
Improving health of 500 Guatemalan school children
Improving health of 500 Guatemalan school children
Improving health of 500 Guatemalan school children
Improving health of 500 Guatemalan school children
Improving health of 500 Guatemalan school children
Improving health of 500 Guatemalan school children
Improving health of 500 Guatemalan school children
Improving health of 500 Guatemalan school children

With the arrival of spring, and the relative decline of COVID cases, children in Guatemala are finally returning to in-person school consistenly for the first time since 2020.  And for our health educators, this means there is a lot of work to be done and time to make up for.  Both of our educators Lola and Elias are back in the schools throughout each week teaching topics such as hygiene, nutrition, exercise, and disease prevention. 

Our team returned to Santiago in February, prior to the schools re-opening, and met with school administrators and teachers to perform a needs assessment.  The needs assessment focused on areas of need directly related to topics consistent with our health education curriculum.  We performed approximately 20 interviews with questions focused on the areas of hand hygiene, nutrition, exercise and dental hygiene.  Our team will use this information to help drive our future projects to ensure that they are consistent with the areas of need identified by the schools.

In the next few months, we will be making decisions based upon the needs assessment and then start to implement our plans.  We look forward to updating you about our progress with our next report.  Thank you for all of your support of our work!  Now that in-person school has returned, there is much work to be done and our team is ready to jump back in!


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Students play different types of games like chess.
Students play different types of games like chess.

Happy Holidays!  Its time for an update for Mayanza and we wanted to share our most recent work in Santiago.  Students are traditionally on vacation from school from October to January and this year we wanted to give students that we work with a little extra enrichment during their time off.

Our Vacation Program included 15 children, from the ages of 3 - 12, from vulnerable families of the community of Tzanchaj.  The students started their time at camp by practicing healthy behaviors of handwashing and toothbrushing.  Then, they had lessons focused around health topics, art, math, music and movement and reading stories.  They had time for free play and finished up their time with a healthy snack.

Over the past year, school has primarily been online and we have worked to provide health education on an individual level in student homes, to small groups in schools and with informational packets sent to the students homes.  Just this week, we were very excited to learn that children will return to in-person school in January!  We are looking forward to returning in February to provide a health clinic in the schools.

Thank you for all of your support during these difficult times!  We look forward to sharing our ongoing work with you in 2022!

Students practice hand washing every day.
Students practice hand washing every day.
Toothbrushing can be fun at camp.
Toothbrushing can be fun at camp.
More fun and games!
More fun and games!


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Thank you for your support of our work in Santiago.  We wanted to send an update on our recent visit to Santiago and our ongoing work in the community.  In July, two members of our team were finally able to return to Santiago.  Although our team has become skilled at communicating via Zoom, it had been 18 months since our last visit to Santiago and our visit was jam-packed with schools visits, program evaluation and a graduation ceremony.  Here are a few updates to our programs:

School Health Education Program:

In early 2021, Mayanza hired another health educator to work in the schools, teaching health education topics such as hygiene, nutrition, disease prevention, importance of exercise and understanding our emotions.  Although the school are closed to in-person instruction now, our educators have been providing home visits, homework packets and small group, socially distanced lessons depending on the government restrictions in place.  We were able to observe two engagning and information health education lessons at David LaMotte School and Escuela Panul that focused on healthy eating and understanding emotions.

Health Mothers Program at Puerta Abierta:

In February 2020, we recruited a group of mothers to participate in a year long education program aimed at providing education and skills on nutrition, portion control, exercise, stress management and goal setting.  Despite a pause due to the pandemic, the women were finally able to complete their program and received a certificate of completion at our graduation ceremony.  Earlier in the day, the women chose an activity that would allow them to demonstrate their newly achieved level of fitness.  The group went birdwatching in the forests of Atitlan Volcano and for the first time, many of the women were able to view the Resplendant Quetzel in its native habitat.  What a special day for all!

Healthy Mothers at Tzanchaj

Building upon our successful gardens and chickens program during 2020, we began a new program in March 2021.  We recruited a group of women who were interested in learning more about improving the health of themselves and their families.  The weekly sessions focus on healthy eating, hygiene, exercise, female reproduction and contraception, mental health and empowerment of women.  We have partnered with a number of local organizations who are helping to deliver this content.  During our visit, we conducted a program evaluation, which will help drive future programming and we were able to visit our garden that provides women with education and a supply of fresh vegetables.

It was wonderful to be back to visit our friends in Santiago and see that our important work is continuing.  The Delta variant is now sweeping through Santiago, where medical care is scarce and we hope that you keep the people of Santiago in your thoughts and prayers.  

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Hello Friends,

It has been a few months since our last update and we wanted to check in with you and let you know what's new.  Although the COVID case rates continue to be high in Guatemala, there is some semblance of a return to a new normal and Mayanza is working hard to adapt to the overwhelming needs of the community of Santiago Atitlan and the restrictions put in place by the Guatemalan government.  A few highlights from the last few months include hiring a new teacher for our team, returning to work in the schools, starting a new project in Tzachaj and creative fundraising efforts.

A New Teacher for Our Team

We are happy to announce the newest member of our team, health educator Juan Elías Esquina Damián.  Elias grew up in Tzanchaj with a large family speaking both Spanish and Tzutujil, the local Maya language, completed his teacher training and is excited to be working with Mayanza to improve the health of his community.  He will be working with our current educator, Lola Ajtujal Chiviliu in the schools to reinforce important health topics of nutrition, hygiene, exercise and disease prevention.

Back to School

And speaking of schools, our program has shifted to adapt to the Guatemalan government's restrictions in schools.  Every school has needed protective equipemnt and cleaning supplies to protect the children and teachers.  We are now focusing on the pre-school, kindergarten and first grade aged children in an attempt to impact their behavior from a young age.  Our time in the schools is limited compared to the past, but the educators make the most of it.  Sometimes, they even visit the children at home and bring their lessons and Andrés our traveling tiger who helps our team to teach toothbrushing.

Health Women Tzanchaj

After collecting data for a needs assessment in March, we have begun a new program with 18 women in the community of Tzanchaj.  We are focusing on health education in the areas of nutrition, exercise, hygiene and disease prevention.  We are partnering with local organizations and planning to have guest speakers from the community to talk about menstrual health and reproduction, growing herbs and plants for health, stress management and implementing ventilated cookstoves and water filters as part of our programming.  Stay tuned for updates on the outcomes of this exciting new project!

Creative Fundraising

Over the past few months, we launched a series of webinars to showcase the beautiful craftsmanship of Guatemalan artisans and create awareness for Mayanza.  We demonstrated Mayan tortilla making, artisanal chocolate and backstrap weaving.  These events were a success and helped create revenue for small business owners in Guatemala.

These projects could not happen without your support!  Thank you for all of support in the past and please consider helping us to continue our work.  There are lots of ways to support the work that we do.  

  1. Consider making a tax-deductible donation to Mayanza today.  Your donation will support the projects that were mentioned above.
  2. Purchase Mayanza merchandise - there are lots of designs and colors to fit every style!
  3. Choose Mayanza as your non-profit to support when using Amazon Smile. 

Thanks again!

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Lola our health educator distributes masks/soap.
Lola our health educator distributes masks/soap.

Reflections on 2020 for Mayanza

What a year it has been!  As we make plans for our projects that will come in 2021, its important to evaluate and reflect upon what we have accompished despite and because of the pandemic in 2020.

We started off 2020 busy with preparations for our trip to Santiago.  Some highlights from our February trip include:

  • Providing dental screening, fluoride varnish, anemia screening and personal hygiene supplies for almost 550 children
  • Launching our first Family Health Fair at the 4 schools we serve and reaching over 360 people with health education and supplies
  • Bringing our largest, interprofessional team of health care providers, students and volunteers
  • Graduating our first class of women from our Diabetes Prevention Program and enrolling our next class

Shortly after this trip, word of  COVID was spreading across the globe.  In an effort to control the virus, there were extensive lockdown measure in Santiago and we began to its effects on the families and school children of Santiago.  We shifted our efforts and responded in the following ways:

  • Partnership with the Mother Artisans group of Puerta Abierta to manufacture and distribute 1500 cloth masks in April.  These were distributed by our health educator to community members most in need with handwashing education and 600 bars of soap.
  • Collaboration with Olla Comunitaria, a volunteer led organization of women from Santiago who provided hot meals and bags of healthy food to families.  Over 500 families benefited from this initiative.
  • After a social worker identified the families most at need, we provided bi-weekly bags of healthy food including protein and fruits and vegetable to 30 families for 4 months.
  • In a joint effort with the Sparks Foundation, 186 families were gifted with a large bag of nutritious food
  • Partnership with Respira, a Guatemalan organization that created high flow nasal cannulas to donate the machines to two local health centers, Hospitalito Atitlan and Centro de Salud.

After the initial crisis, it became clear that this pandemic would not soon resolve.  Again, we shifted our response to provide a more sustainable solution to the current problems.  Some of the highlights include:

  • Partnership with Imap to provide education and supplies to create sustainable family gardens.
  • Programs in Chacaya and Tzanchaj that provided women with education, skills, and supplies to grow family gardens and raise chickens which will provide much needed protein and vegetables to their families.  We plan to continue these projects that will benefit the individual families and community long after the pandemic has passed.
  • We piloted our first online Auction of handmade Guatemalan good in December with an overwhelming response.  We plan to continue this in 2021.

And will all of this, we are not done yet.  We are not yet certain when we will return to Santiago, however upcoming projects for 2021 include:

  • Continuing our Diabetes Prevention program focusing on healthy food choices, exercise sessions, goal setting and stress management.
  • Based on the data from our anemia program, we will be launching a targeted program to the families of the children who are most at need with education, health supplies and food.
  • Continuing our home garden and chickens programs.

To maintain our ability to provide help where it is needed most, we need your help.  There are a  number of ways that you can support Mayanza during this time. 

1. DONATION: As always, 100% of our donations go directly toward our programs in Guatemala. We have zero adminstrative fees for the work that we do.  Did you know that the CARES Act provides additional tax relief for donors. If you take the standard deduction on your 2020 tax return, you may still claim an “above the line” deduction of up to $300 for cash donations to charitable organizations, like Mayanza, on gifts made by December 31.

2. MAYANZA MERCH: We have launched a website with merchandise that supports our programs and helps to create awareness of our organization.

3. JOIN US: We will be hosting a series of webinars over the next few months showcasing and highlighting the artisans from around Lake Atitlan.  Join us for tortilla making, chocolate tasting and to appreciate how textiles are handmade just to mention a few.  Our first session is on Saturday, January 23rd at 6:30pm ET where we will learn to make handmade tortillas and pico de gallo with the teachers from la Puerta Abierta, one of the schools we partner with.  It is sure to be a lot of fun! You can purchase tickets here.

4. Finally, you can also support us with every purchase that you make from Amazon Smile.

Thank you for your support during this year that has challenged each of us in so many ways.  With your support, we hope plan to move into 2021 prepared to make a difference in the lives of the children and families of Santiago!

Nutritious food baskets for families.
Nutritious food baskets for families.
Chickens provide a much needed source of protein.
Chickens provide a much needed source of protein.
Join us!
Join us!


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Organization Information

Mayanza, Inc.

Location: Rocky Hill, NJ - USA
Facebook: Facebook Page
Twitter: @mayanza_guatemala
Project Leader:
Jami Smith
Rocky Hill, NJ United States
$30,390 raised of $40,000 goal
330 donations
$9,610 to go
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