Guatemala Conexions grew out of the explorations of Hallmark Retirement Communities in Abbotsford, BC, Canada, starting with trips to help in the Antigua area. Stan and Grace Hindmarsh, the founders of Hallmark, felt a pull to make a difference in Guatemala, without knowing what that would become. Staff, residents, and family members came along to explore, with the oldest traveler being 91 years old. We believed that even at 91, you still had something to give.
One conversation led to another, and soon we were painting the faces of children with AIDS, singing with seniors in an orphanage/hospital, and helping build homes. That opened doors to microloan projects, sewing machines, nutrition programs, computer labs in schools, and medical clinics.
As we explored, we realized how much we didn't know, and how much we needed to find great local partners. We wanted our contributions to help empower local change-makers, giving them the tools to sustain their projects. We also wanted those change-makers to be self-supporting, not dependent on us for their livelihoods.
Today, we primarily support the work of three amazing Guatemalan partners:
Candelaria and Gregorio Garcia, Spanish school owners, who lead a mentorship program in Panajachel, developing at-risk teenagers into the leaders of tomorrow. They call their foundation "Forging My Tomorrow."
We support with funds for scholarships, English House immersion, computer training, and leadership practicums where the teenagers serve as literacy mentors in their villages, helping 200+ children. In the US, Friends of Forma partners with Candelaria and Gregorio to raise funds for these students as well.
Dr. Francisco and Carina Mendez Puac, a doctor in San Pedro, who donates much of his time and effort to local indigenous patients.
We support with funds for clinic construction, equipment, and medical supplies.
Massimo Pigoni, local businessman, who coordinates community development in the village of Chujulimul.
We support with funds for classroom construction, water system improvement, or other projects the village leaders propose.
Some other important connections for us are the Walton International Scholarship Program, the English Access program via the American Embassy, Casa Maria Seniors' Home in Antigua, The Summer English Institute in California, and the Casa De Fe recovery hospice in Antigua.
Donations to Guatemala Conexions are receipted through our partner MMF, which charges 5% to manage receipting and Canadian tax reporting, as well as record-keeping accountability for our expenditures. The other 95% goes directly to the projects of our partners.
To donate now, visit MMF here and designate "Guatemala Conexions". Your help would be much appreciated, as our funding comes solely from friends and family. Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org if you would like to make a US donation.
For the future, we are open to new projects and ideas proposed by our partners, and discuss those possibilities frequently.
Our board members have traveled to Guatemala many times, enjoy coffee immensely, and are deeply connected. We are a small group, all volunteers, no fixed office, or red tape. Since we come from a business perspective, we like things that work well, and offer great value.
Guatemala Conexions Board Members:
Stan and Grace Hindmarsh, Abbotsford, BC, Canada
Tim Miller, Vancouver, BC, Canada
Ron Martens, Abbotsford, BC, Canada
Deb McMillan, Richmond, BC, Canada
Charlie Peters, Abbotsford, BC, Canada
Dave MacDonald, Abbotsford, BC, Canada