This is discussion about Quality of life for Mayan locals, Quality of geo-tourism experience.
Thanks for your kind support and words, our work hopes to impact in a positive and productive way, the live of the Maya families within the region we are actively supporting with health, nutrition, education and human values programs that include to honor the Maya cultural traditions and legacy. We encourage pride in Maya cultural heritage to many rural indigenous adults to remind them that their cultural traditions define them in a positive manner and are not the reason behind their poverty. One of the most alarming cultural values that is being lost, is the Maya language! which is no longer encouraged to be spoken to the young generations; parents avoid teaching it to their offspring at a rate that is alarming. We began to notice that such lack of pride in their native language was an attempt to help the new generations blend in socially in urban areas in an attempt to have more opportunities come into their lives; such erroneous idea places little value to the Maya language and causes a great lost to the Maya rural people and the world. Same root has given many rural Maya people little desire to learn about their ancestral Mayan herbal healing traditions and other important cultural values.Our social work encourages Maya rural people to have pride in their language, herbal medicine, rituals, and other cultural traditions by placing great respect and value to the use of such traditions as part of the sustainable tourism practices and experiences offered to visitors and guests at Hacienda Chichen and Yaxkin Spa, both active donors and supporters of our social work and the Maya culture.
Thanks for your comments; indeed our goals are a two way dream! We call it: eco-cultural tourism, but it is nowadays referred as GeoTourism or Sustainable Tourism. No matter how it is label, blending regional indigenous values, rituals, and other cultural traditions with tourist endeavors create great opportunities to explore innovating ideas and activities that enrich both the local people and the people that visit us. We hope to help rural Maya people remember that the Maya cultural values, traditions, and heritage are unique and should be valued as a truly important part of our history and civilization. Rural Maya people need to feel pride and honor their ancestral cultural legacy because it has so much to teach us all, and so much wisdom that can be shared with other cultures of our planet.
Our vision and active commitment in one hand works to help Maya rural people find pride in their cultural traditions and hope for a better future; on the other hand, we wish to help tourists have a meaningful rich cultural experience when visiting our region and the Maya temples at Chichen Itza, Yucatan, Mexico.
We find that our innovating eco-cultural care and experimental Geotourism approach and practices have enriched us all, workers, guests, community, volunteers, our planet and the Hacienda Chichen were we have found the perfect space to blend both: social care and tourist eco-cultural activities that bring travelers the opportunity to intimately explore the Maya world.
Thanks for your words of encouragement to our vision and actions. We have a volunteer Geo-Travel Guide online: Yucatan Adventure www.yucatanadventure.com.mx with plenty of information about our foundation, social work, Maya culture, eco-cultural travel opportunities, and other articles including one about our private Maya Jungle Reserve, flora and fauna, the Hacienda Chichen ecotourism practices and Yaxkin Spa Eco-Wellness Mayan Holistic Center. We suggest all future guests of Hacienda Chichen to check this informative and attractive website in the hopes to help them learn about the Maya culture, Maya people and what to expect when visiting us.
We have found a great joy creating opportunities to promote the Maya cultural traditions to both travelers and rural Maya people who were losing their intimate connection with their own cultural values in the hope to become more equal to the city workers and have opportunities to find a life away from their village poverty. Great results started to manifest as we develop an innovating approach to our tourist ventures, developed an eco-cultural hotel mission for the Hacienda Chichen, that included social volunteer programs dedicated to support rural Maya communities.
We are very pleased with the first results of our GeoTourism actions and will continue contributing to develop relationships across the Maya people and other cultures.
Much needs to be done and we are encouraged by the respond of guests that have stayed at Hacienda Chichen and return to support us with unexpected gifts of their time, care, and vision. Indeed, we want to develop relationships with national and international universities in the near future. Another goal of ours is to establish a Maya Eco-Cultural Reserve, where tourism ventures will inter-relate directly with social care and enrichment to both workers and travelers alike; helping us all to learn from each other’s cultural heritage while enjoying Mother Nature’s amazing flora and fauna, protecting the environment and practicing human values than empower us all.
Our education efforts are yielding amazing results among young Mayan adults who approach our hotel with no formal education or skills in hospitality business or any other related jobs. We have developed a human resource practice that requires new workers to bring an senior worker recommendation (criteria for hiring is not based on professional skills or experience, since such luxury is not available among many Maya rural people until they have spend time working at a hotel in the nearby region. The new worker undergoes a training period of six months with a senior staff reunion to review his or her performance; if the young adult had shown ethic responsible values and cooperating attitudes during such period, the executive staff will give a particular position permission (say laundry assistant) for another six months before the new worker is allowed to request a new training to develop work skills that will bring him to the area of work comforts he envisions to have in the near future. Such practice allows experience to develop and responsible goals can be met successfully. You may learn about our successful workers stories in our online article Maya people successful personal stories at: www.yucatanadventure.com.mx/inlaakeech.htm
Some of our executive staff show abilities and desires to continue their higher education and we support them economically with extensive grants and with flexible job hours. Certifications such as CPA (accounting) are available only at urban universities and we provide such workers the needed support to continue their education, changing job hours to make room for their class schedules, allowing days off during final exams, and other supportive actions until the end of their careers. This practice has proven to be very successful so far.
As for the children education programs, we leave their school curriculum in the hands of public schools. We do support teachers with volunteer ESL teachers, school materials, and remodeling unsatisfactory school facilities such as public bathrooms and installing eco-friendly septic systems.
Thanks for your comments, indeed we wish we could include additional information but text space is limited and we did our best in our application to this wonderful opportunity Ashoka's Changemakers and National Geographic have provided to projects like ours. There is much more to the Maya Foundation In Laakeech vision, mission, and goals that the information given in our entry's main text. We work to preserve the "pride" in indigenous Maya for their rich Maya Cultural heritage including their language, so they continue teaching it to their children and grand-children, at the same time we work with a volunteer program that allows people to share their own skills and professional knowledge to build practical job and work related alternative income opportunities to rural families living near Chichen Itza which is a strong tourist oriented site in Yucatan. It is our hope to build a "Taller de Oficios" or an institute of job related skills that focus in practical job related studies mainly in the hospitality industry where technical certifications could benefit us all. We are hoping to have more volunteers involved in helping build new ways to reach our goals and create new ways to enrich our sustainable tourism, environment protection programs and social work.
We thank all the volunteers that like you have help us help, we can change in a positive way how we act, live, and choose to interact with one another, and when we do so, the fruit of our work is a beautiful gift of joy. Hacienda Chichen and the Maya Foundation In Laakeech are working to create a positive impact in people's lives and we welcome volunteers support and commitment to develop a better world for all of us to share. Yes, it is possible to change and develop actions that ensure our prosperity; personal habits that ensure a moral, respectful, caring, and supportive relationship with each other, our work and actions do not support co-dependency but bring self worth in those we help. Our sustainable social work and volunteer programs are gear to empower people, we do not believe in traditional charity work. The foundation's main team and temporary volunteers are here to help our neighbors to acquire the skills and opportunities needed to better their lives and to help them reach their personal goals, work with a guided plan of action to achive their short-term, mid-term, and long-term goals; our social work teaches those we help that change comes from within, that faith, responsible choices, and commitment are key to manifest our dreams into reality.
It is really exciting to see a business take genuine interest in the local community. The work the Maya Foundation In Laakeech is doing really has immediate and long-term impacts that help various facets of the local indigenous population's lives. I commend the work they are doing by creating and fostering an environment where the indigenous people can feel empowered to see the benefits of caring for their natural resources, particularly the endangered hardwoods of the are such as zapote, through the bird-watching guide program. Keep it up!
This program is both innovative and far reaching. Not only does it empower the Mayan locals by helping them learn and develop methods of sustainable tourism, it also encourages pride in their own cultural heritage by affording them the opportunity to become teachers of their own ancient wisdom.
And beyond helping the Mayans reach financial independence, this program serves another indispensible purpose. Today many tourists are seeking more than mere travel. They are seeking to expand their perspectives beyond their own world. The Mayan people's warmth, generosity, and profound love of nature are contagious. Having an opportunity to engage in authentic Mayan rituals, take a bird walking tour, or learn about the medicinal use of healing plants cannot help but instill in others a greater awareness of the urgent need to protect our planet.
I think this is an ideal sustainable program. It is so great to have a solid foundation and value system. The waste management program, energy efficient lighting fixtures, and environmental preservation will do wonders for the community. It is also so valuable to teach the community about the importance of human values over financial gain. I think anytime you can empower a community with such a rich cultural history it contributes something to the country and to the world. Also, it is more and more important to develop relationships across cultures. I think it is admirable that the visitors are encouraged to take advantage of their time there to learn and experience the local customs. It looks like there are clear goals established as well, for the future of this foundation. I would be curious to learn more about what opportunities are available for the visitors and more detail about what they can expect. How do you see the foundation expanding? How do you plan to develop relationships with the universities?
It sounds like your foundation does great work for the Mayan locals. The work to follow sustainable tourism practices is very impressive, and the reforestation efforts are so important, and also a good way to draw tourists. I also think it’s very good the way you have the locals earn money for themselves by interacting with tourists and offering activities for them. The activities you have there sound very appealing as well. And I think it’s great that you have tourists stay on and teach English to the local community. The results you are seeing are impressive, and it’s also wonderful to have a re-emerging sense of pride in the local heritage. It’s great to make such a difference in children’s lives, and to have your results spread so wide that a European school is using the hacienda as a model of geotourism. One thing I am still curious about is how successful are your education efforts? Since there is no partnership with a university, where does the children’s education cease? And until you are able to create a partnership, can you create something else, like a program at the hacienda to train future employees? Your work sounds great so far, good luck in the future.
This sounds like a really wonderful organization. I think it would be wonderful if your application included some additional information about the fledgling volunteer program you have set up and how this is creating a good footprint in the community with every volunteer and visitor. I feel like by stressing this, it will show how much potential for growth the Mayan Foundation has.
The first time that I visited Hacienda Chichen, the sister organization for the Maya Foundation, I did not want to leave. I wasn’t sure what it was exactly that was acting like a magnet on me—was it the personality of Beatriz, who runs the Mayan spa, and who acts as a kind of mother to staff and visitors; was it the gentle friendliness and openness of the staff; was it the magic of its natural surroundings; was it the spiritual energy emanating from the ruins of Chichen Itza?
Last year I returned as a volunteer to teach English, and it was then that I began to gain some understanding of the magic I had felt. The Maya Foundation does not shout its achievements, though they are many. But the more time I spent there, and listened to people, and looked, the more I came to see that its commitment to supporting the local Mayan communities and their environment is absolutely integral to its operations—and that this spirit of support and respect is part of what makes the atmosphere so magical.
Living in New York and working in communications, I felt an urge to say—you should advertise this! Put a sign here! Make a big fuss about this initiative!!!
But of course that is part of the magic. The owners and staff do what they do because this is who they are and what they believe in, not because they want to make a public show of it. Which is why I am so happy that they have been nominated in this competition—so that more people can learn from them and perhaps take away something they can integrate into their own lives, as I did.
I learned about how the hacienda uses green waste disposal and water supply systems, with waste water used to water the organic garden, how it uses green cleaning products to make sure there is minimal impact on the earth. And all of this is quietly managed by Bruce, whose passion to protect, preserve, and reforest the small and beautiful part of the planet under his guardianship is palpable.
I learned that the beautiful crafts in the store are bought from local producers who Belisa visits in their workshops, homes, and communities—and that all of the profits go to the foundation. One afternoon, I saw how some of those profits are used. I accompanied Jose on a trip to take a donation of food to one of two village clinics that receive enough food from the Maya Foundation to provide a daily meal year-round to the village’s children, some of whom had shown worrying signs of malnutrition.
I learned that 99% of staff are Maya, from managers to groundskeepers to cooks to waiters to cleaners. That they are guaranteed year-round employment, and receive health benefits as well as financial assistance with higher education and professional development. That this sense of community and family translates into practical and pragmatic support for each other.
I heard a story of how Belisa and Bruce drove a very sick child to the local hospital three hours away one New Year’s Eve, pulling every string they could to ensure he received the right treatment. I came to realize that this was not an isolated act of kindness but representative of the core values of Hacienda Chichen and the Maya Foundation: love, respect, community. As Belisa once wrote to me in an email:
“We all feel that if humans will only treat their neighbors as they wish to be treated the world will be a better place to live… so we developed this way of life in the hopes that maybe our little ways may attract others to do the same.”
I was fortunate to spend just a short time as part of this community. I wish I could have volunteered in some of the various community-based initiatives that you can read about on their website.
I am delighted to write these few words in support of the Maya Foundation whose commitment, ethics, modesty, innovation, passion, and contribution to all of us to see different ways of interacting with people, the planet, its animals and ecology, deserve to be recognized.
In April, 1996, I brought my family and a group of students for a tour of Yucatan's ruins and eco- parks. Our brief stay at the Hacienda Chichen was one of the highlights of our visit: peaceful, lovely surroundings allowed us to acclimate to the unique environment that is Yucatan. It remains a most special memory for all of us.
On July 1, 2009 the judges reviewed the entries for the Changemakers “Geotourism Challenge 2009: Power of Place Sustaining the Future of Destinations” competition and would like to pass on the following feedback (listed below) for your entry. Thank you for applying and for your hard work in the field. We are excited to archive your entry to serve as a leading solution for the worldwide community of innovators. If possible, please take the time to respond to some of the provocative questions and issues that were raised by the judges. We wish you continued luck with your innovative, sustainable, and socially impactful initiatives.
All the best, The Changemakers Team.
“Great project! This project was definitely within the focus of cultural heritage and I LOVED the Mayan eco-spa!! I thought the social impact commitment was strong. There was a great tie in of travel, culture, wildlife and accommodation in the Yucatan. Great entry, I look forward to seeing more development on this project!”
- Changemakers “Geotourism Challenge 2009: Power of Place Sustaining the Future of Destinations” Judges: National Geographic Society, United Nations Foundation, Tribe Wanted, The Green Belt Movement, Lonely Planet, Southwest Forestry University.