Asociación Centro Maya Servicio Integral is a small Guatemalan non-profit organization located in San Juan La Laguna, Sololá. We serve people with all types of disabilities of all ages (although 74% of our program participants are children) through education, rehabilitation, healthcare and labor inclusion programs.
At the moment, we are providing 181 people from 7 different towns located in the north-west area of Lake Atitlán who belong to the tzutujil and kaqchiquel Mayan groups with services such as Special Education; Early Stimulation; Physiotherapy; Language Therapy; Psychology and Counseling Services; Occupational Therapy; Music, Dance and Theater, and a labor inclusion program “Alma de Colores” for young adults which consists of 5 areas of work: craftsmanship, sewing, bakery, organic agriculture and a vegetarian restaurant.
Our main objective is to empower people with disabilities for them to be independent, autonomous and participate in their communities to become actors of change. By doing this we are contributing for them to be included in society without discrimination; a big problem and challenge that they have to face every day due to the lack of information and misconceptions about disability in the country. Our work also includes working with other people from the community (parents, children from local schools, town dirigents, etc.) by providing workshops, information and sensibilization activities in order to contribute to eradicate discrimination towards disabled people.
In Guatemala, public services have collapsed due to impunity and corruption, having make it impossible for people with scarce resources to access quality healthcare and education; this struggle is magnified for the indigenous population (almost 50% of the entire population) who face discrimination and even worse for the indigenous population with disabilities who have the least amount of opportunities. These are the people we focus on, as we are aware that even though they have rights, no one is guaranteeing them. We strongly believe that given enough opportunities, they will thrive and most importantly that everyone deserves to live a dignified life.
Providing basic services for the progress and development of citizens with disabilities is a responsibility of the government; however, this is a nonexistent reality that seems far away. We are politically involved in order to change that by advocating for people with disabilities’ rights. We are members of the regional network of organizations that fight to guarantee this rights and belong to the National Council for the Attention of People with disabilities (CONADI in Spanish).
85% of the families we work with live under the poverty line and extreme poverty, meaning that they often cannot afford to contribute to the sustainability of our programs in a significant way. We do not have support from the local or central government, on the contrary, all the funds raised to cover for the costs of our programs come from private sources, foundations and individuals that share our mission and it requires a lot of effort from our staff to secure it through grant applications, local fundraising activities and promotion. At the moment we are directing a lot of energy into strengthening our fundraising and promotion campaigns in order to be a step closer to self-sustainability.