Sponsor FAQs

Can I sponsor more than one student from the same family?     

Yes, you can.  Siblings of a sponsored student who are also part of the student sponsorship program can be eligible for sponsorship if they are not already sponsored and after a socio-economic needs assessment of the family and student has been conducted.  If you would like to inquire whether any of these students are in need of a sponsor, please email education@mayanfamilies.org.

Can I write a letter to and receive mail from my sponsored student?

Unfortunately, the Guatemalan postal system has indefinitely shut down. You can email your correspondence to education@mayanfamilies.org. Learn more about writing to your student here. If your student has written back or wishes to communicate with you, this will be uploaded to your student’s profile. 

How can I send physical ítems to Guatemala?   

Get in touch with Volunteer Coordinator at volunteercoordinator@mayanfamilies.org and look over our In-Kind Donation Guidelines.

Can I send in sponsorship money at different times of the year?  

Yes, you can.  The easiest option is to set up a monthly subscription.  You can do this when you’re initially sponsoring a new student or renewing your current sponsorship.   You can also do this by reaching out to us at studentsponsorship@mayanfamilies.org and we will be happy to help you.  

If you would like to send in donations for sponsorship without a monthly subscription, just send us an email at studentsponsorship@mayanfamilies.org to let us know you will be doing so.  

How do I renew my sponsorship?

If you have made a one-time donation as opposed to a monthly subscription, we will contact you in the Fall to remind you to update your sponsorship of your student(s) with clear instructions to follow. 

Please add studentsponsorship@mayanfamilies.org to your contacts to ensure that you receive our emails and don’t miss out on the opportunity to provide another year of education to your student(s).

Here are the clear directions:  

  • Log in to your donor profile through the Mayan Families website.  
  • Once logged in, click on “Update Sponsorship” in the upper right hand corner.  
  • From there, select the student(s) whose sponsorship you would like to update and proceed to the checkout.   

You can email studentsponsorship@mayanfamilies.org for assistance at any time or give us a call at 1-(619) 550-2608 (Monday-Friday9am-5pm CST).

Why is co-sponsorship changing, and what are the changes that will be made?

In an effort to provide the best service possible to our students and our sponsors, we decided to minimize the option to co-sponsor a student and brought an end to new co-sponsorships in January 2017. Unfortunately, many of our students who were in need of a second co-sponsor never found one. It is in the student’s best interest to have a full sponsor, as well as in the best interest of Mayan Families to be able to maintain the program. 

Co-sponsors who are currently sponsoring with friends or family will be allowed to continue until one of the co-sponsors is no longer able to continue, at which point you will be given the opportunity to be a full sponsor of that student.

If a student has two co-sponsors, those co-sponsors will be able to continue until one of them is unable to continue. At that point, the remaining co-sponsor will have the chance to either fully sponsor the student or find a friend or family member to co-sponsor with them.

If you have any further questions about this change, kindly email studentsponsorship@mayanfamilies.org

When does the Guatemalan school year start and end?

The exact start and end dates for each school in Guatemala are different, but generally, the school year begins mid-January and finishes in late October.   

The Mayan Families Preschool Nutrition Centers run from January through November.  

What does a sponsorship provide my student?

Your sponsorship provides your sponsored student with the specific school supplies he or she needs: classroom supplies specific to each student’s classes, shoes, a backpack, and daily uniforms.

It also provides him or her with help to pay registration fees and monthly tuition fees.  Mayan Families also provides student beneficiaries with access to medical clinics with doctors from the US and Canada, as well as community participation in preventive healthcare workshops. Students also receive regular monitoring of their academic progress by a social worker, and in some cases receive additional support with school costs dependent on the determination of our social workers.

What responsibilities must my student take on in order to maintain sponsorship?

We recognize the importance of instilling a sense of responsibility and ownership of one’s own education.  Therefore, we do require that each student and their families fulfill certain requirements when being enrolled in our program.  These requirements also make it easier for us to track their progress, and they help our sponsors stay informed of students’ progress.  

  • Every student is required to bring in his or her grades to Mayan Families four times per year. There can be certain exceptions to this as some local schools release grades only once or twice per school year.  
  • Students must come to the Mayan Families office each January to receive their school supplies.  If the student does not come in January to receive school supplies (and does not have a justifiable reason for not coming), they are subsequently removed from the School Sponsorship Program.
  • Many of our student beneficiaries fail a grade level.  This is not at all uncommon and we recognize that many of the students face difficult obstacles including poverty, malnourishment, discrimination, and a language barrier (for those who grew up speaking their indigenous Mayan language and are learning Spanish as their second language). We allow students to repeat a grade level once only.  If the student must repeat a grade level a second time, they are removed from the School Sponsorship Project.  There are sometimes exceptions made to this rule depending on that student’s specific circumstances.
  • Our older students (7th -12th Grade) complete 40 hours of community service each school year. We feel that this requirement is essential to a student’s development within his or her own community.

What does a sponsorship NOT include for the student?

Mayan Families expects the parents of student beneficiaries to take care of certain school-related costs:

  • Transportation Fees: Many students make the decision to attend a school outside their hometown, normally due to personal preference rather than necessity. These students take public transportation, such as buses or pickup trucks, to get to their school. The student and his or her family make the decision to study outside their hometown with the knowledge that they will be personally responsible for that cost. In Guatemala, it is not common to be able to receive receipts for transportation fees, making it difficult for us to regulate the payout to students.
  • Snacks: We expect parents to cover the small daily fees of snacks for their children. This is one way in which parents can invest in a very small way in their own children’s education. We believe that when parents are not required to provide anything to assist in their children’s education, it can create a sense of dependency in families.  We strive to make sure that we assist families as much as possible while encouraging students and parents to be independent and self-reliant.
  • Extra Supplies: In Guatemala, it is common for teachers to request extra supplies at different times throughout the year depending on the projects students are working on at that time.  There is usually little to no warning from schools or teachers about when the costs will come up or how much they will be.  Due to the unorganized way in which these extra requests are given, the sponsorship cannot account for them.  Also, we feel that this is another way in which parents can contribute to and invest in their children’s education.  
  • Non-compulsory school excursions: It is common for many schools to take field trips at least once a year. As these are sometimes costly, they are not covered by a student’s sponsorship.

If you would like to help your sponsored student with extra costs, please contact our Education Program Coordinator at education@mayanfamilies.org.  

Why is my student doing poorly in school?

In Guatemala, it is not at all uncommon for students to do poorly, to repeat a grade level, or even take a year off of school only to return later on.  For all of these reasons, there can be a wide range of ages of students in any given grade level.  There are several reasons that students do poorly.   

  • Malnutrition: Students who are malnourished find it hard to concentrate and learn in school and tend to do worse than students who are properly nourished.
  • Cultural and Social Factors: Many families consider academic education more important for boys than for girls. Girls are expected to learn how to take care of children and a household, and this is sometimes seen as more important that academics.  This attitude tends to cause low achievement in girls.  
  • Family and Environmental Influence: Many of our sponsor student’s parents received little to no formal education as children.  This means that parents are often unable to help their children with homework and are less likely to place importance on academics than those parents who have had more education.  Children of people with little to no education tend to not fully realize the importance of schooling or simply do not have family support and do worse in school. Family turmoil can also cause students to have lower grades in school.  Many of our sponsored students have very difficult home lives.  They deal with serious issues such as physical and/or mental abuse, alcoholism in the home, single-parent homes, untreated illnesses, death in the family, and other serious issues.
  • Work: Many children who come from extremely low-income families are forced to work to help with the family’s expenses.  Children who are required to work often miss school or don’t have time to do their homework or study for exams.  This often causes students to earn lower grades than children who do not have to work.

How do I understand what the grades my student has received mean?  

Please use the table below as a reference for understanding the grading system in Guatemala.  The teachers use numbers to reflect the grade of the student instead of letters or "GPA".  60 is recognized as a passing grade, and in fact a student can move to the next grade if he or she gets 60's (or D-) in all subjects.



  Letter Grade   






































Below 60




What opportunities are there for students who fail?

Once the school year ends, most schools and teachers offer students an opportunity to make up missed work in order to gain the points that they need to pass.  Students are also able to retake tests that they have previously failed.

For any other questions regarding your sponsorship, please do not hesitate to reach out to education@mayanfamilies.org or studentsponsorship@mayanfamilies.org at anytime! 


Mayan Families is an accredited 501(c)(3) non-governmental organization.

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