The Maya Relief Foundation was officially organized on July 4, 2002, with the goal of serving the humanitarian needs of the poor in Latin America. Over the years the foundation has gone from funding a broad range of projects, including Mesoamerican archeological projects both in Mexico and Guatemala, to a very select effort to help in a more relevant fashion . Focus has been placed more on helping the “living Maya” with their greatest needs for health and well being. Self-reliance for the Maya depends first on the replacement of indoor open cooking fires with highly efficient cooking stoves. Once that is in place, a water purifier is their next greatest need. These two items change the quality of their lives forever.
Since most Maya families (and much of the Third World) use open cooking fires inside their homes, their health suffers greatly. Maya Relief has always been aware and concerned about the dire conditions within the home that affect primarily the mothers and children. The open fires and accompanying smoke and toxins cause respiratory problems, terrible burns, eye irritations, rampant deforestation, and come at a huge cost to the family in their time spent obtaining the firewood for cooking. Back in 2002, Maya Relief Foundation began installing a very efficient cement cook stove with great results. No more smoke inside the house. No more burns or eye irritations. 70% less wood was needed to operate their stove, and time and money spent decreased greatly.
Clean water is a worldwide challenge, and in Guatemala 95% of the water sources are contaminated. On top of that it has been found that nearly 40% of the Maya daily wood supply is used to boil water for drinking. Maya Relief Foundation has joined forces with the highly effective Ecofiltro company to provide homes with a purifier that can provide 10 gallons of bacteria free water daily. Over the past 10 years, it has been verified that portable home water purifiers are a practical and reliable solution to this problem. Maya Relief has seen evidence throughout Guatemala that families with water purifiers are drinking more water, resulting in greater health. The families appreciate that the threat of constant dysentery or diarrhea from contaminated water has been eliminated.
Maya Relief’s major projects are carried out by its Guatemalan counterpart, Socorro Maya, located in the highlands of San Pedro Carcha, Alta Verapaz. Thousands of efficient stoves and water filters have been placed into over 100 communities by the Socorro Maya team, headed by Carlos Barrios. Additional projects are offered to these same families. For example, the Mosaic Corn Program that brings expertise, soil testing and high-grade seed to the farmers who join the program. A Mosaic Corn Program farmer yields 2-3 times greater corn harvest compared to the use of their traditional methods. Besides providing adequate corn to his family for the whole year, the farmer is now capable of earning cash by selling his excess corn. Over 900 families have participated in this program since it began in 2007.
Kirk Humanitarian Foundation has partnered with Maya Relief to provide a prenatal multi nutritional program for pregnant and nursing mothers in Guatemala. Beginning in February 2012, Kirk Humanitarian provided a year supply of pre-natal vitamins for 14,000 women. Maya Relief through Socorro Maya targeted villages with high-risk women in their child bearing years for these multi nutrients. The goal is to decrease or eliminate certain birth defects and stunted growth caused by poor nutrition, and also to improve the mothers’ overall health. Other charities have helped in the monitoring and distribution of these multi nutritionals. The goal is for this program to expand each year to include an ever-greater number of women in Guatemala, with the expectation that their improved nutrition will increase birth weight for their babies with less health problems caused by malnutrition.
Maya Relief has created relationships with like-minded foundations where alliances are mutually beneficial. One example was a project carried out in 2011 with FUNSEPA, a local Guatemala foundation that provides computers to primary schools in rural areas. Microsoft donates appropriate software. Funsepa prepares the computers and monitors and identifies the communities. Socorro Maya employees work side by side with community parents in preparing the rural schools to become “computer ready” with the proper infrastructure of electricity and secure facilities. The enthusiasm from the communities has been overwhelming. Most of these children quickly adapt to the world of technology, and know it is part of their future.
The list of new ways to help the indigenous Maya become self-reliant grows with each passing day. Once a family has the efficient cooking stove and the Ecofiltro water purifier, they are well on their way to self-sufficiency. Progress is happening among the Maya because of the new hope they have to provide for their families.