At the start of this year, I vowed to make a change to my life. For years, I have wanted to do something to help other people, but I've just never been able to get off my butt and get involved. There were all sorts of excuses - working too much, not knowing how I could get started, planning my wedding, etc. But that's enough. It's time for me to jump in.
Particularly, now that I am married, I have no excuse. I remember how the priest told us at our wedding that one of our responsibilities, now that we have been blessed with each other in marriage, is to be generous.
So here goes! My inspiration is the Cumpar family you see here. I found out about Mayan Families when I was doing research for my husband's and my trip to Guatemala in April. I have been to developing countries before, but I have never done anything to help the people there, aside from spend my tourist dollars.
In the traveler community, there is a lot of debate about what you can actually do to help people in poor countries. "Volunteer" programs are often viewed suspiciously - what do they truly accomplish? Are they just lining the pockets of the stateside organizers and giving the volunteer a feel-good vibe before they continue on their travels?
I started out looking for established volunteer programs, but then wound up looking at grassroots organizations. And then I found Mayan Families. They help the very poor indigenous people who live in the highlands of Lake Atitlan in Guatemala through various projects. Some of these projects are traditional types of help, such as student sponsorships and building homes. Others focus on the environment and health, including providing fuel-efficient stoves that prevent the respiratory diseases that often accompany a lifetime of woodfire cooking. Still more of the initiatives include animal cruelty prevention and pet spaying and neutering clinics, as well as preserving the indigenous culture through traditional dress (many people cannot afford to purchase traditional clothing, and instead wear second-hand Western clothing).
So we got involved. We are now sponsoring two children from the Cumpar family, Candelaria and Juana. We are hoping to get a chance to visit them when we make our trip next month.
I will write more about this in my posts. For now, this is a start to my blog!