by Allegra Mangione, GoPhil Development & Fundraising Coordinator

When you give to GoPhil, you are not just contributing to an individual’s life. You provide a lifeline to essential community organizations and the people behind them.

We often share about participants in GoPhil partner programs. We are now taking the time to share about heroic staff members who make sacrifices every day to keep their communities safe, healthy, and thriving. These stories are truly inspirational, and we are grateful for their work in making this world a better place.

Centro Maya is a leading organization in care, education, and social inclusion for people with disabilities in Guatemala. Located in San Juan La Laguna, Centro Maya serves a primarily indigenous community with otherwise nonexistent, comprehensive disability services. Over the next few weeks, we are profiling three incredible Centro Maya staff members, giving you an inside look into their daily challenges in their professional and personal lives.

Leticia Mendoza, Director

Leticia has been working as Centro Maya’s Director for 13 years. Outside of work, she is pursuing a degree in Political Sciences and is a mother to two sons, Ajkan and Oxmaq. Throughout the pandemic, Leticia has balanced caring for her family with caring for her community and the children Centro Maya serves. Leticia’s younger son, Oxmaq, has 5p- Syndrome, an intellectual and physical disability that delays development. Here is an update in Leticia’s words, intimately describing her experience during the pandemic.

Leticia with son Oxmaq

I am passionate about my job because Centro Maya’s actions have a direct impact on people and we get to see how they advance over time. We get to make that change. My favorite part of my job is having contact with the families, feeling their trust, and visiting the communities. I interact with other families who experience what my family experiences every day (as we have a family member with a disability). I haven’t had much direct contact with the families since we closed the Center in March. 

The most significant change was moving my work home and juggling several Zoom calls per day, home chores, dealing with my adolescent son and homeschool, and Oxmaq, who needs ongoing support to cover his basic needs.

Leticia at work with Edgar, Centro Maya’s Music Teacher

One of our biggest challenges as an organization was the loss of funding due to the pandemic and the passing of two long-standing friends and supporters. That, plus the lack of tourism, put us in a very complicated financial situation. I had to make difficult decisions such as reducing the team’s salaries and restructuring some programs. Also, knowing that the families were experiencing shortages of food and that their economic situation was critical kept me worried. All of this had an emotional toll on me.

Suspending services at the center, however, allowed us to focus on developing a medium-term strategic plan with a focus on sustainability and moving our work to a Community Based Rehabilitation model. This is an excellent opportunity for Centro Maya’s Future.

Centro Maya Community Outreach & Rehabilitation During Covid-19

We are a family of four: my sons Ajmak and Oxmaq, my husband Salvador, and myself. My son Ajmak started attending a new school in January this year and had to stop due to COVID. This affected him emotionally and homeschool has been very difficult. My other son, Oxmaq is a participant at Centro Maya, where he receives special education and therapy in the mornings. Normally, in the afternoon, a caregiver would support his needs while I am working at Centro Maya. Social distancing measures made it impossible for his caregiver to come to our house. After several months of lockdown, I have noticed how much this has affected my son. He is now afraid to go out and wants to spend most of his time at home. Not receiving his usual therapy has stalled his rehabilitation process. 

Same as families all over the world, our financial situation was affected by the pandemic. My salary was reduced. My father was diagnosed with COVID and was hospitalized. Not being able to see him during that time was difficult.

An Uplifting Video of Dance Class at Centro Maya

Please stay tuned for stories about Centro Maya’s other heroes, including Maria, Nurse & Health Services Coordinator, and Edgar, Centro Maya’s Music teacher. 

The best way to support everyday heroes is to join GoImpact – a global community of monthly donors who help us sustain our support for our partners. Community leaders like Leticia go through hardships every day and count on committed donors like you to consistently give each month.