The organization has been working in order to promote the rights of people with disabilities for over 3 decades. Centro Maya started working in the 90’s by the name CANDELA thanks to a French benefactor named Felipe Mattiot, who realized there was a strong need of a rehabilitation center due to the lack of services for people with disabilities in the surrounding areas. It started offering basic services such as physiotherapy, personal hygiene and the fight against hunger and malnutrition butit strongly contributed to the families joining the cause and mission of the center and it becoming an important meeting point for people with disabilities and their families.
In 2004, after Felipe Mattiot left the organization, a group of parents of kids and adolescents with disabilities realized the importance of the center and formed an association in order to preserve it. After this event the structure changed radically, starting with the name going from Candela to Centro Maya Xe’kiyaqasiiwaan, moving from a small building to a larger one and most importantly the confirmation of an identity, one of a rehabilitation center ran by local people who understood the real needs of the indigenous population and context. Additionally, the center started providing more services such as special education, language therapy, animal assisted therapy andoccupational therapy, being established as a leader institution in the care, education, and social inclusion for people with disabilities in Lake Atitlán.
In June 2010 the organization changed locations again, moving to a more adequate and accessible building and was constituted as Centro Maya Servicio Integral ONG, being this the starting point for a more formalized institution being involved in all kinds of actions directed to ensure people with disabilities’ rights. It joined ACOPEDIS, an association of 10 organizations working in favor of people with disabilities in Sololá with the common objective of contributing to their development and quality of life in an integral and inclusive way and it’s through this association that CentroMaya started participating in CONADI, the national entity in charge of coordinating, assessing and promoting the application of general and State policies that ensure and guarantee Human Rights and fundamental liberties for people with disabilities in Guatemala.
In 2011 the labor inclusion program Alma de Colores started working, as a result of the difficulties and discrimination that people with disabilities face in rural areas in Guatemala, that make it extremely hard for them to be active and be employed. The program has 5 working areas functioning according to a justice, inclusion and solidarity philosophy that extends to the products made in the workshops. The areas of work are: a crafts workshop that uses local seeds, a sewing workshop that uses recycled fabrics, a bakery that makes fresh integral bread with sourdough, organic agriculture that promotes native plants and a coffee shop/restaurant that serves nutritional meals. Beneficiaries of this program get paid fair rates in exchange for their work and get additional benefits that include food, therapies, transportation, small loans without interests, and access to a healthcare fund. This project collaborates with local businesses with a similar philosophy and organizes educational activities in the surrounding communities.
Centro Maya Servicio Integral is now considered a reference point for organizations that works with disability around the area and also a trusted organization supported by the community and local authorities, especially because it works according to the indigenous population’s reality and it’s run by locals.