Natün (formerly Mayan Families)
Natün Guatemala works in the Lake Atitlán region of Guatemala to implement community-led programs that address systemic barriers and build cultural strength and resilience. Our work is driven by the expertise of Mayan staff and community leaders towards long-term, meaningful change in the areas of education, nutrition & health, and economic development.
Natün Guatemala, a registered US 501(c)3 organization in the US, works in partnership with our legally-registered Guatemalan partner association (Asociación Natün) to implement our programs on the ground.
Advancing education, nutrition & health and economic development, through community-led initiatives which build on existing resources and knowledge.
Our vision is to ensure that Maya communities in the Lake Atitlán region of Guatemala are strong, vibrant and self-sufficient.
We sell artisan products made with traditional techniques, and crafted wooden carpentry products.
We have a medical clinic and offer medical brigades in rural communities, focused on malnutrition and vulnerable populations.
- Education: We run 4 high-impact bilingual Preschool Nutrition Centers, bring community-led tutoring to students who are struggling, provide a conditional cash transfer scholarship to over 1000 students who would not be able to access public education without it, and work directly with school communities to address locally-specific needs from curriculum development, to technology and teacher training.
- Nutrition and Health: Partnering with the Ministry of Public Health and the Secretariat of Food and Nutrition Security, we do direct service provision where no other services exist, including mobile health clinics and critical nutrition and health care during the first 1000 days, as well as run an innovative Intergenerational Center for the elderly. We build community knowledge through participatory workshops on nutrition, community gardens and sexual and reproductive health. We build local health prevention and response capacity through installing improved filters and training the community in their management as well as through providing support, resources to and coordination with Maya medical practitioners, creating unique spaces between traditional Maya medical practitioners and the public medical system and facilitating a community-wide health governance system. We respond to emergencies, providing short-term, culturally appropriate food support to families experiencing extreme food insecurity.
- Economic Development: We work directly with rural, indigenous women artisans to cultivate international markets for their ancestral products, ensure fair wages and on-time payments and build their management and sales skills for production independence; we have over 160 artisans on our registers. We also run a Trade School which provides certificate programs in carpentry, sewing and embroidery. We also offer an in-depth Entrepreneurship Program and business development support of Maya-run micro businesses, with access to very-low interest microcredit.
We focus on community development in three key areas: education, nutrition and health, and economic development, which targets the overall aim of reducing poverty and increasing well-being in Maya communities. We base our three pillars and all of our programmatic decisions on evidence from four sources: expertise of local Indigenous staff, a formal community needs assessment, research, and direct communication and collaboration with community leaders.
In 2021 we reached over 12,000 individuals with our work, planting and supporting 40 family and community gardens, providing 1105 students with scholarships and educational support, training 60 older students as tutors and mentors within their communities, providing high-quality early childhood education to 151 3-5 year olds in 4 communities, increasing the income of artisans in our program by an average of $488, for example.
Our Nutrition and Health programs have provided many families at risk of malnutrition and health problems with monthly food support, access to tailored medical care, safe stoves and clean water filters, and sexual health education. All of this has helped families to stay healthy and increase their immune systems, reducing the risk of malnutrition and chronic health issues.
Through our Economic Development programs, we have provided vocational training opportunities and access to markets for products to many young people and artisan women, which has given them a stable income and allowed them to increase their job opportunities.
In 2019, we supported 1497 students’ education in our sponsorship program, provided 14,220 healthy meals to our preschool students, delivered 1133 food baskets to families at risk of malnutrition and gave work to 190 artisan women through selling their products.
Through a combination of qualitative and quantitative sources, pre- and post survey data collected through each program, participant stories and socio-economic surveys.
Our previous organization was impacted by findings of misappropriation and so we undertook a complete organizational overhaul with the hiring of a new administration in 2019. Our budget and staff have shrunk by about 50% since the height of organizational mismanagement in 2015-2017, and we shifted from having over 30 programs to honing in on the three, interconnected pillars (education, nutrition, and economic development). Our mission/vision and values have all changed significantly, centering Indigenous leadership, expertise and solutions and shifting from an individual focus (student sponsorship) to a community-led, community development focus (improving quality of public schools for all students, for example). Our funding was almost completely individual donations in the past (and our work was structured to be donor-driven and top-down), and we have shifted towards more grant funding and community-driven and led programs and decision making. We center collaboration, community solutions and leadership, and building transparent partnerships for the long haul.
Not focused on growing in terms of budget or staff, only deepening impact and expanding collaborations for more effective work.
Continue to evaluate and make constant improvement, continue to support staff professional development and leadership development within the communities where we work.
Continue to hone and deepen impact of our work.
Expand our food security, community agriculture, and leadership work.
Constant learning and improvement of programs and staff, improved M&E.
Continue to measure and improve.