Frequently Asked Questions
Getting Around and Visiting Guatemala
Can I get a receipt for my donation?
Yes. The form of your receipts will vary by the way you make your donation payments. We are advised that for tax deduction purposes, your most important document is your "proof of payment." For payments to Mayan Families, your proof of payment is in two basic forms. If you are contributing by check, then we have been advised that your canceled check is your proof of payment. If you are contributing through our web site's Donate button, then we have been advised that the online email receipt sent to you by PayPal is your proof of payment. In addition, we send contributors payment acknowledgment email messages and letters. For all personal tax deduction claims, we recommend that you consult with whomever prepares your tax returns. If additional Mayan Families information is required on this subject, then go to Contact Us and select Contribution Inquiry from the drop-down menu when creating your message.
Where can I get more information about the nonprofit status of Mayan Families?
Please see our IRS letter granting Mayan Families 501.c.3 status
How and where do I send money to Mayan Families?
Without question, the most effective way is through simply selecting the Donate button. We find PayPal to be a safe and secure online payment service. However, if you prefer to contribute by check, then please send checks made out to Mayan Families to:
P.O. Box 52
Claremont, N.C. 28610
I made a personalized donation to buy something for a specific person. How long will it take before it is delivered and installed?
There is no straightforward answer to this question. Our delivery schedules are driven by three things:
- We try to service the oldest received donations first.
- We always try to efficiently manage the Operations Program. This includes our staff's daily work schedules. Their time is divided between needs at headquarters and in the villages. We do not have a team dedicated to only deliver and install goods in the remote villages.
- We always try to efficiently manage all of our road trips and field work for any of the many projects we work on. But we also know that our schedules for the villages can be easily interrupted as unexpected new emergency cases arise, and unplanned conditions are encountered.
Some items are purchased by the truckload and we have very limited space for inventory. We sometimes have to wait for vendors to make purchased items available for us. Village to village travel around the mountainous Atitlan region is slow and time consuming. There is an annual six-month rainy season that often restricts our ability to go to some of the villages due to mudslides and other hazardous conditions. Difficult delivery conditions to many homes are not uncommon. A delivery trip to a single home can require an entire day's round trip.
Our resources are limited by our budget to more effectively service many areas with varying circumstances for deliveries and installations. We do our best to make sure the needy have items purchased by donors as quickly as we can. We have not been able to determine honest standards for delivery times because of the obstacles and unplanned emergencies we are faced with every day. We ask for patience, understanding, and faith that we are committed to delivering your donated items as quickly as we can.
Can I come to volunteer?
Absolutely. As our web site evolves we plan to create a more informative volunteer space. Our plans are to provide online calendars of our Operations Schedules. Scheduled activities will include details about what a volunteer should know and be able to do before signing up to participate in a planned activity.
I would like to coordinate a medical, veterinary, eye or dental clinic. Who do I contact and how do I go about setting one up?
Go to the Contact Us page. Select Volunteer Inquiry from the drop-down list when describing what you'd like to do. Someone will get back to you with more information.
Getting Around and Visiting Guatemala
Is it safe there?
Panajachel has a very low crime rate. Most of our visitors stay at hotels on Calle Santander, which is the main boulevard for restaurants and vendors. Santander is heavily traveled by walking tourists both day and night. Incidents of crime on Santander are very rare, especially involving tourists. However, Panajachel is also very international and has many visitors. For any part of the world, it is always a wise practice to ensure your valuables are protected and take care against pickpockets in crowds. You may also wish to visit State Department web sites posted by your government for advisory reports on Guatemala.
How do I get to Panajachel from Guatemala City?
If you have never been to Panajachel before we recommend a van service. If you are coming here to visit Mayan Families we can arrange for an honest and responsible driver to pick you up and take you to where you will be staying. A more expensive way is to take a taxi. The least expensive way is to go by a series of buses.
By going to the Contact Us page and providing your itinerary we will be glad to arrange a van service for you. Please be sure to select Planning a Trip Inquiry from the drop down list when sending the form to request van arrangements. You can also make your own arrangements or rent a car at the Guatemala City Airport.
How do I make reservations to stay in Panajachel?
If you would like us to make reservations for you at one of our standard hotels we have used in the past then go to our Contact Us page. Select Planning a Trip Inquiry from the drop-down menu when filling out the form and describing your travel plans. Someone will get back to you. You may also wish to look through galleries of Panajachel hotels and make your own reservations online through your favorite search engines. Geographically, Panajachel is a small town, so walking is common; however, you have an option of taking a tuk tuk taxi service from any hotel to our headquarters. Tuk tuks charge 65 cents (5 quetzales) per person per trip.
Will I have email access in a hotel?
Most hotels do provide some form of email access. Quality of equipment and speed of service vary from hotel to hotel. Panajachel has many Internet cafes which are very inexpensive. Several have excellent equipment and high speed service.
Can Mayan Families arrange a local homestay?
Yes, Mayan Families can arrange a local homestay with or without meals. For further inquiries please contact firstname.lastname@example.org
Are the local buses, known as chicken buses, safe to ride?
Generally speaking and in terms of crime, yes. However, like anywhere else in the world, safe driving practices vary from driver to driver. Occurrences of vehicular accidents are relatively low considering the number of buses and cars on the roads in Guatemala. The rule of the road here is simple. The bigger guy gets the right of way. This also applies for pedestrians walking on streets. Never assume you have the right of way over vehicles, especially the local buses. You may also wish to look at advice from reputable travel guides.
Do calling cards work there?
There is no 100% yes or no answer to this question. And there are caveats.
- The international calling capabilities and charges of calling cards vary from service to service. In most cases, and depending on the phone you're calling from, you will be able to dial a 1+800 number preceded by the country code where that 800# is recognized. However, calls from Guatemala to 800#'s in other countries are not necessarily free. You may be charged a local per-minute rate to call your service's 800# if it is not in Guatemala. Typically, that charge is $.30 per minute for the duration of your call.
- Panajachel has many Internet cafes which offer phone service at very low costs. Some visitors bring laptop computers and use Skype to make inexpensive phone calls.
Do shops and restaurants take U.S. dollars?
Not always. Not all vendors accept money other than Guatemalan quetzales. Panajachel has many money exchange locations who give fair rates and are honest. Using an ATM often provides the best rate of exchange.
Sometimes a restaurant will accept foreign money but cannot make change due to the significant difference in the exchange rate. It is not uncommon for someone to have to wait 20 or 30 minutes for the change from paying their bill while a runner is sent with the customer's money to money changer.
Is the food safe to eat?
Panajachel has many tourists from all over the world. Restaurants marketing themselves to tourists know they must serve safe food or go out of business. That said, fruits and vegetables that cannot be peeled, such as grapes and tomatoes, purchased in markets should always be sanitized before eating.
How much do I allow for food each day I visit?
- A breakfast of juice, coffee, eggs, beans, cheese, and toast averages US$2.50 - $3.50
- A lunch of a smoothie, soup and sandwich averages US$4.50 - $5.50
A typical full dinner averages US$6.50 - $8.00
- Gratuities may or may not be included in bills. Average expectation is 10%.
I don't speak Spanish so will I need to find a translator?
A friendly smile, honest eye contact, and best attempts to speak the local language are usually met with cooperation and help. If you are planning to spend your entire trip close by Mayan Families, and if you don't plan on going into indigenous communities to do your own thing, then you should not need a translator. It should also be appreciated that many of the indigenous people only speak their own native languages and not Spanish. Our indigenous staff is bilingual Spanish and Kakchiquel. Some also speak a bit of English and T'zutujil.
What kind of money should I bring?
We suggest that you do not bring large amounts of cash with you.
- Use Visa bank cards at ATMs. There are several ATMs in Panajachel that accept Visa cards if they work on the larger networks, such as Star, Co-Op, and Plus. Check with your card supplier to understand more, as well as advise them that you might be making withdrawals in another country.
- The local machines will convert your home currency and dispense Guatemalan quetzales at the prevailing exchange rate, plus a $1-$2.50 service charge per withdrawal.
- Stolen bank cards and credit cards are not valued on the black market here.
- If you prefer to bring enough cash for your planned expenses, Panajachel has several reputable money exchangers who give fair exchange rates. If you do not want to withdraw Guatemalan money from a bank machine, or if you do not want to use a money changer, then we recommend that you only bring small denomination money, such as $10 bills and smaller. Also, bring a few blank checks with you for unforeseen expenses and emergencies.
- We can also assist you in the exchange of U.S. dollars for quetzales.
What shots do I have to get before I come?
Consult with your personal physician and visit the CDC web site for further information.
Meeting the Needs of Mayan Families
How can I find out what a family needs?
The Gallery of Students link on the Student Sponsorship Program web page provides information about many of the families supported through our Programs. If you require more information about a particular family, or information about families who may not be included in the student gallery, then go to the Contact Us page and select Specific Family Inquiry from the drop down list when composing your message. However, we do ask for an appreciation of local circumstances. Many people do not have telephones and can be difficult to contact. We ask that you please be patient if your inquiries about specific families are not answered as quickly as you might prefer.
How can I sponsor a student?
Please go to our Student Sponsorship Program page. After selecting the Donate button and completing a payment to the Program, you would then select the link to create a message to email@example.com. Someone from the Student Sponsorship Program will contact you to find the best match for your personal interests.
Can I sponsor more than one student from the same family?
Yes. You can also sponsor students from different families.
Can I write a letter and receive mail from my sponsored student?
If you would like to send letters written in Spanish and photographs to specific people we can deliver them as we see the families. However, we do not provide a regular international mail service out of Guatemala. In the future, we do plan on new features to our web site which will enable a contributor to see scans of personal letters and report cards.
How can I send items to my sponsored student?
The most effective way to send goods to Panajachel is through the MFC community. Go to the Contact Us page and select MFC Inquiry from the drop down list when describing what you would like to do. Someone will get back to you with more information.
Can I send in sponsorship money at different times during the year?
Yes. By clicking here you will be able to set up a monthly contribution plan for variable numbers of student sponsorships.