Mayan Power and Light

by Appropriate Technology Collaborative
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Mayan Power and Light
Mayan Power and Light
Mayan Power and Light
Mayan Power and Light
Mayan Power and Light
Mayan Power and Light
Mayan Power and Light
Mayan Power and Light
Mayan Power and Light
Mayan Power and Light
Mayan Power and Light
Mayan Power and Light
Mayan Power and Light
Mayan Power and Light
Mayan Power and Light
Team Activity to Set up a Business
Team Activity to Set up a Business

Our social business workshops are special, and we'll say it loud and clear.

In Guatemala, it's become pretty common knowledge that there simply aren't enough jobs to keep people properly housed and fed. The national government, public schools and non profits agree that entreprenuership is the most realistic solution for youth and women to generate an income in this lifetime.  And we agree! 

But most "entreprenuership programs" are, in fact, teaching production skills like baking, sewing, candle-making, etc. They barely address the most important parts of business success: sales skills, personal motivation, financial tracking and how to save-and-reinvest in your business.  

Mayan Power and Light makes basic business skills accessible to everyone, and we take it a step further too. Microentreprenuers are the ambitious leaders in a community, we help them make a plan to serve their community's social and environmental needs.

The women entreprenuers of ASODI are ready to design their business plans to make a living that serves their families while caring for their community's social and environmental needs.  They represented a range of common businesses from selling tamales on the street, selling weavings in the market, to starting up the community bakery and Fair Trade shop. 

In the first workshop we discussed ways that their businesses could do even more good for Nahuala.  They suggested using biodegradable packaging like tamale leaves to avoid plastic bags. Creating a Fair Trade location by the bakery for women to sell their work at fair prices.  A percentage of sales from this Fair Trade store will get cycled back to the nonprofit to create opportunities for a new group of women. 

In this week's workshop, we covered the 4 keys to business start-up and conveyed some basic sales strategies to keep customers returning to your tamale stand, your weavings, your bakery.

A very positive side-effect of teaching social business concepts is that these new entreprenuers establish a unique brand as they enter into the market. They attract attention for their ethical business practices and role model good stewardship to others. 

Rosy and Marilena, MPL business mentors
Rosy and Marilena, MPL business mentors


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High School girls learn intro to business skills
High School girls learn intro to business skills

After months of hard work by our team of trainers, we're proud to announce the completion of our brand-new educational curriculum! 

Later this month we will be debuting our new curriculum with a group of rural women in cooperation with the Municipal Women's office in Colomba, Quetzaltenango.

It's strategically designed to get rural entreprenuers active in the market within the first 3 months of training with practical exercises and coaching over 10 months that progressively builds her business. 

We match business training with empowerment training to build public speaking confidence, emotional resiliency skills and determination to help them succeed with their life goals despite gender barriers.

Our special focus on social businesses that promote awareness & education requires workshops on preventative health & environmental awareness to 'teach the teachers' and inspire them with the impact they can make in these areas. 

If you are interested in the details of our course, here's a brief outline of how we set up rural social businesses over our 12 year program:


Empowerment & Entreprenuership training:

    Over 192 hours of in-person trainings provide core and advanced skills necessary to start a microenterprise and advocate for her community. Each workshop topic is directly tied to her success in distributing MPL products while giving her practical experience prior to developing her long-term business plans. The educational program includes practical homework projects, reading, and self-tracking to help new entrepreneurs establish successful habits in business and personal life.   Bi-weekly phone calls coach students to help them achieve their goals. Pre-assessments provide baseline data of each student to be compared to her progress throughout the year. Her final business plan and pitch provide a final assessment of skills obtained during the course of the program. 


Introduction to Small Business

Students become well versed in “Lean Start-up” methods to develop small businesses with a minimal budget. They become familiar with the Business Model Canvas to analyze the MPL business model and apply it in their communities. During the final months of the program, students develop their own business plans that include positive social and environmental impacts as well as personal financial success. 

Market Studies teach students the process of identifying clients, business competitors and opportunities in the market with tools to segment and understand their local markets. New entreprenuers will understand the Growth-Share Matrix and the Boston Consulting Group Matrix to strengthen their business plans. 

Mastering the Elevator Pitch gives students the confidence to express their business, goals and products to attract the attention of potential customers or investors. As public figures, social business women have extensive practical application in town fairs, tabling and community council presentations.

Sales Strategies show new entreprenuers how to access their market segments understanding Value Propositions of products and services. New social entreprenuers implement Mayan Power and Light sales strategies of presentations and workshops to approach low-income and under educated market segments with solutions to basic needs.  These skills and others are incorporated into their own business plans to provide long-term services to their local market. 

Towards the end of the year, new entrepreneurs understand the process to formalize and register their business under Guatemalan law.  They will understand important topics like labor laws; tax requirements and fiscal regulations; forms, fees and processes to register their business with Guatemala’s tax agency.


Financial Literacy 

We train new microentrepreneurs in financial education and how to manage the economic resources they generate. Since women are the often administrators of home finances it is important to recognize between needs and desires, saving and responsible financial decision-making. Students directly apply their learning to managing budgets, inventory and receipts through the Mayan Power and Light program.


Personal Empowerment:

This essential topic addresses the main barriers to success in business for women in Guatemala: self-confidence, communication skills, emotional control, resiliency and motivation.

In dynamic, participatory activities, new business women learn Interpersonal Communication public to build public speaking confidence to hold public workshops, engage with Municipal government representatives, approach customers and respond to their questions.  Strategies for resilience, emotional control and motivation address the ups personal challenges associated in the ups and downs of starting a new business. 

Reading is assigned throughout the program with homework questions based on the readings and in-class reflections. Working with motivational books such as The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen Covey; and The Biggest Seller in the World.



As advocates for their community’s development, this module will teach the skills to lead community processes to plan and execute sustainable, community-led projects. By the end of this training, new social businesswomen can confidently build relationships with Municipal and Community committees, complete a needs analysis, identify community projects and create sustainability plans for long term maintenance. 



As public promotors of green technologies, social businesswomen educate the public via her free public workshops.  This module assures they have a complete understanding of the effects of climate change, efficient use and management of natural resources and personal commitments to protect the environment. 



An introduction to preventative health provides a review of techniques to prevent the most common waterborne and airborne diseases in Guatemala.  With an introduction to WASH and Nutrition social businesswomen can educate her clients about important practices to increase family health and the impact of water filters, clean cookstoves and solar power.

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Meeting with Malacatan's Women's Affairs Director
Meeting with Malacatan's Women's Affairs Director

As we approach one decade of program delivery, Mayan Power and Light is recommitting to a model that pairs carefully planned structure and program execution with overall flexibility that meets the needs of each community. Our policy is to learn from those we serve and be responsive through functional adjustments or variations of any program when necessary. This past week, we completed a listen-and-learn initiative during which MPL met with leaders of 14 municipalities in the Western Highlands area.

We interviewed the community leaders like water committees and Parent Teacher Associations as well as Mayors, Municipal Planning Directors, Municipal Women Directors, Environmental Protection Officers, and Health Care Centers to undergo a comparative study of regional needs and priority projects. The process also cultivated trusting relationships and set us up to create formal partnerships with several Municipal governments.

We learned about the distinct issues facing each community. For example in Sibinal, oficials reported social problems due to migration, including human trafficking; in most towns contamination of rivers and the rise of deforestation are primary concerns. In towns with well-funded Women’s Affairs Offices, basic skills trainings for women’s income generation were available for over 300 women. In other towns, the women’s office had very few funds and instead focused their work on youth.  

In most of the municipalities we interviewed between 5% - 15% of communities do not have electricity due to the distance between communities and electricity poles. Nonetheless, many constituents lack electricity because they lack funds to pay for the monthly service.

Due to high levels of theft of electricity, the electrical grid has refused to install electricity in some areas and has raised prices to their consumers to cover the cost of stolen electricity. In these rural communities, income is irregular – depending on agricultural harvests to last them a whole year. At these times, it’s common for people to invest in repairing their homes and businesses– making the purchase of solar power a natural fit into economic patterns, keeping households electrified year-round without monthly payments.

This listen-and-learn initiative—coupled with our long-term presence working with all Mayan ethnicities located in our target areas—has uniquely positioned Mayan Power and Light as a trusted community partner, advocate for women’s empowerment and rights, and conduit for socio-economic change.

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Group Lunch to celebrate the new year
Group Lunch to celebrate the new year

Getting to know our clients is one of the most important elements to project success.  We're going to let you in on a day in our empowerment program with ATC's Project Coordinator and Women's Empowerment specialist, Marilena Choguaj. Marilena shares the responses of 5 women in a five hour sesion to define their life goals and take steps towards them.  This process helps identify motivations to start-up green businesses in low-income communities.   Here's what they said:

Discussion: Empowerment and it's characteristics 

When presenting the characteristics of an empowered woman, we reflected on which characteristics students demonstrate in their environment. They mentioned: leadership, self-esteem, trust, honesty, respect.

When asking what quality should they improve, they mentioned tiscipline and independence.

Ruth added, "It does not mean getting away from our partners, but working with them. If we want to leave, it is not asking for permission, but informing them that we will leave, in this way not to create conflicts and reach violence."

When asked what they are doing to demonstrate their empowerment, they said, "Being in the group, working to strengthen the group."

We asked them, "Why are they in this entreprenuership group?"

Maricela: I'm because I want to be more economically and emotionally independent.

Ruth: So I do not have to ask my husband for money for the things I want and to learn more, besides contributing to strengthen the group.

Suly: I want to earn money to help my children to study, graduate and go to college, I want to give them opportunities that I did not have.

Aucelia: I want to support my mother with the expenses at home and continue studying at the university.

Jhoselyn: Earn money to give my son what he needs and have more knowledge.


Notice anything about their responses? We did!

Each new entreprenuer had some other family member in mind for their motivation to earn money. 

Ultimately, this demonstrates that their prime motivation is the longterm wellbeing of their family. When a woman is emotionally empowered and ready to start her own business, she immediately transfers her success to her children, parents and community.

Come meet them in person - Community Volunteer Positions are now open to help communities start small green businesses!

Writing out their Life Plan
Writing out their Life Plan
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Community Circuits & Solar Santa Isabel March 2018
Community Circuits & Solar Santa Isabel March 2018

That's 10 Years of community-led solar projects in Guatemala. And we're really taking off!

Our first projects in 2008  were 4 solar installations with handmade circuit boards & LED lights built in Guatemala for rural family homes.  This pilot project as done in exchange for long term information about the life and value of a small solar power system on the family's quality of life and health. We learned of the benefit of home productivity when there are lights on at night. A respondent said she could finally weave at night and her son could do homework. These comments encouraged us to spread that benefit. 

We began offering community Circuits & Solar workshops to empower low income people to manage and install their own home solar power systems to benefit family economy and health.  These workshops reduce the cost of solar power by empowering individuals to install on their own homes.

In 2009 we began offering trainings with CECAP of Santa Cruz la Laguna, finding that only a few girls participated. Noe Simon, Director of CECAP explained, “Girls won’t take these classes with boys, but we would be very interested in offering all girls-classes.” At this point we organized with Starfish-one-by-one, a girl's empowerment in education organization, to offer their students with empowering green technology workshops.  

Feedback from one of the Starfish teachers commented, “It’s great to learn this green technology, but what are we going to do with it?”  

Our response came in 2015, training 12 rural women from across Guatemala in solar power and entreprenuership. This group was in constant communication with us throughout the course of the program, their stories and comments during the project taught us that gender-based barriers to business were barring them from success.  Some could not travel alone to make sales and lack of family support disuaded them from continuing.

We learned that the program would be more successful by identifying women leaders, including women's empowerment curriculum, visits to assure the support of their families, and training the entreprenuers to offer free public workshops on water filters, eco-stoves and solar power. This is what's coming in 2019. 


Over 50% of project funds come from individual donors like you.  We need $18,000 by December 31st to make the project a success.  Please help us by sharing our project with your friends and family and becoming a monthly donor.

#GivingTuesday November 27th: New Monthly donors get 100% match on this donation after 4 consecutive months of giving.  


Highschool girls install solar on school 2017
Highschool girls install solar on school 2017
Women-owned solar business is 6 years old, 2018
Women-owned solar business is 6 years old, 2018
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Organization Information

Appropriate Technology Collaborative

Location: Ann Arbor, MI - USA
Facebook: Facebook Page
Project Leader:
Luis Cahuex
Ann Arbor, MI United States
$177,334 raised of $390,000 goal
2,529 donations
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