Julio has been with the organization since the very beginning when FundaMaya was just an idea. He continues his work with FundaMaya to support children and families of the region. Julio grew up in San Jorge and Panajachel, son of a single mother, and he experienced firsthand the devastating effects of extreme poverty. Julio started working at the very young age of 7 years old. He was fortunate to be sponsored to go to school and he graduated with a degree in Accounting. Julio is indigenous Maya and speaks Kaqchikel, Spanish and basic English.
Co-Founder & Program Administrator
Gloria’s deep-rooted knowledge, experience and connection in the communities where FundaMaya works is vital to the success of our programs. Gloria is a Kaqchikel-speaking indigenous Maya woman who grew up in a low income family of 8 children. She understands the daily struggles of families we work with to provide food, education, and medical care for their children. Gloria strongly believes in working hard each day to help families move forward. This became the basis for the work of FundaMaya. Gloria met co-founder Sharon Smart in 1989 through her textile work, and together Sharon and Gloria began to help women and families around the lake.
Co-Founder & Assistant Director
Sandra believes education truly can change a person’s life. At the age of five, she was one of the first students sponsored by the founders of FundaMaya before the organization was even officially founded. Sandra is a mother of 2 children. Thanks to her hard work and a sponsorship from FundaMaya, she obtained a Masters in Social Work in 2013. Sandra is an indigenous Maya woman, and speaks Kaqchikel, Spanish and basic English.
Community Aid coordinator
Lety started working with FundaMaya in 2005. She is a social worker with her Master's degree and manages the Family Aid program. She became the Family Aid Director in 2009, and under her management, the Community Aid program has grown to include the additional programs: Elderly care, Medical Care, Children in Critical Need. She is also responsible for the distribution of food, clothing, furniture, and many other items donated by sponsors. These extra items help the children to succeed in school. Lety is a Kaqchikel-speaking indigenous Maya woman.
Education Program Director
Erika Bocel represents our Education program, she speaks Kaqchikel which is the indigenous language. She believes that Education opens opportunities for young people and it can help change communities. Erika is a Social Worker and is almost finishing her Masters Degree, She says that " The Education program helps students with school sponsorships promoting equality and equity of opportunities since there initial education till their superior level so they can be successful professionals".
Director of Preschools
Luqui is responsible for the creation of the Preschool Nutrition Centers of FundaMaya. She saw the need to help the youngest get ready for public school by providing a place for them to begin to learn Spanish (most speak a Mayan dialect at home), learn the basics of hygiene and self-care, and receive a nutritious meal daily. The creation of these nutrition centers has made a positive impact on the success of the students as they have moved into the public school system.
Zoe Mara Smart
Donor Relations & Translator
Zoe was born in Guatemala and was adopted at birth by Sharon and Dwight. Zoe grew up in both Australia and the United States and moved back to Guatemala when she was 10. She grew up with FundaMaya from a very young age. Zoe speaks Spanish and English She has graduated with a degree in teaching English.
Zoe Mara also has spearheaded our support of the Volunteer Firefighters (Bomberos Voluntarios). Over the last 4 years she, along with American Firefighters, has done firefighting training with the bomberos; providing them with certain tools like hoses, birthing kits, medical supplies, and other important items for them to care for their communities. The bomberos aren't only firefighters but are also the local Paramedics/Emergency Medical Technician (EMT's). They work with the supplies they have and often improvise to serve and protect the people. Currently, we have over 15 stations who we have been supplying, with the help of Chief Scott Magness from Clearwater Florida, Chief Jim Jones, and the Rotary Club in Florida. We are very fortunate to have 4 fire trucks from the US which they were given to stations. We are so excited to have more come down.
Dwight began traveling through Central America in 1987, backpacking through the Darien Gap in southern Panama into northern Colombia before heading back north and becoming enamored with the country of Guatemala in 1988. It was in Guatemala that he met his future wife, Sharon Smart, and in 2005 they co-founded their first organizations, Mayan Families (U.S. based) and two years later, FundaMaya (Guatemala based). This structure allowed them to accept donations with tax deductible benefits in the U.S. as well as work legally on the ground in Guatemala. The two organizations parted ways in 2018 and in 2019 FundaMaya partnered with the U.S. based organization, Action Alliance International, Inc.
“Years ago, this began as a dream of ours. We just wanted to help. We saw the suffering, we saw the great need, and we could not ignore it. We knew that we could make a positive difference – a generational difference – and that is how we started.”
Co-Founder & Director
Sharon came to Guatemala in 1986 as a buyer for a Canadian ethnic shop. She fell in love with the textiles, the colors, and the people of Guatemala. Eventually, she opened her own business exporting handcrafts to Australia. Working closely with indigenous people, she saw the incredible hardships they faced.
After major devastation in the Sololá area from Hurricane Stan in 2005, she joined forces with her husband, Dwight, and good friend, Patti Mort, to provide as much help to the local people as they could, but it was obvious that there was much more needed. They formed their first non-profit, Mayan Families/FundaMaya. In December 2018 Sharon and Dwight left Mayan Families in the hands of the U.S. board and put their energies into the on-the-ground work of FundaMaya. In 2019 they partnered with the U.S. non-profit organization, Action Alliance International, Inc, a registered 501.c.3 non-profit.
Sharon and Dwight are the proud parents of two beautiful, Guatemala-born daughters Zoe and Aleeya.
Empowerment and Artisan program
Fredy has a University degree in business administration.
He strongly believes that every human being has enormous capacities for self-improvement, and loves the idea of promoting projects that provide opportunities for economic development in families, encouraging entrepreneurship. Motivate, learn and improve skills, but above all give respect and value to our people and the art of our different peoples.