Youth Development


Changing Lives through Education since 1992

Wellfleet, MA


The Maya Educational Foundation (MEF) supports programs dedicated to the educational and professional advancement of Maya people.

Ruling Year


Executive Director

Ms Elisabeth S. Nicholson

President of the Board of the Maya Educational Foundation

Dr. Pablo Chavajay

Main Address

PO Box 1483

Wellfleet, MA 02667 USA


Educational opportunities for Maya students in Guatemala, Mexico and Belize





Cause Area (NTEE Code)

Youth Development Programs (O50)

Public Foundations (T30)

Alliance/Advocacy Organizations (O01)

IRS Filing Requirement

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Social Media

Programs + Results

What we aim to solve

The Maya people in Central America and southern Mexico face daunting obstacles: abject poverty, racial discrimination, and very limited access to education, health care, and gainful employment. Since 1992 the Maya Educational Foundation (MEF) has worked to increase access to education for the Maya people of Guatemala, Mexico and Belize. We work with nonprofits in the countries and foster scholarship programs for Maya students especially at university and high-school levels. With professional degrees, many of our scholarship students have graduated and are making a difference in their communities as teachers, physicians, lawyers, architects, engineers, nurses and more.

Our programs

What are the organization's current programs, how do they measure success, and who do the programs serve?

SOURCE: Self-reported by organization

University scholarship programs

Scholarship programs

Women empowerment programs


Where we work

Our Results

How does this organization measure their results? It's a hard question but an important one. These quantitative program results are self-reported by the organization, illustrating their committment to transparency, learning, and interest in helping the whole sector learn and grow.

SOURCE: Self-reported by organization

Number of groups/individuals benefiting from tools/resources/education materials provided

Population(s) served


Adolescents (13-19 years),


Related program

Scholarship programs

Type of Metric

Output - describing our activities and reach

Direction of Success


Context notes

Maya students and adults. Figures approximate since workshops have fluctuating participant numbers. Workshops include indigenous language learning to read and write (in Chiapas) and more.

Charting Impact

Five powerful questions that require reflection about what really matters - results.

SOURCE: Self-reported by organization

What is the organization aiming to accomplish?

What are the organization's key strategies for making this happen?

What are the organization's capabilities for doing this?

How will they know if they are making progress?

What have they accomplished so far and what's next?

MEF's aim is to promote educational opportunities for the Maya people in the countries we serve. There is a great hunger in the young Maya people to better their fates and to become successful in their societies. We support the students' heritage and culture while giving them the opportunity to have access to higher education. We are convinced that with a good education, the Maya students and graduates will be better equipped to make good lives for themselves right in their home countries. Long-term, these efforts will combat poverty, malnutrition and other ills that still plague the indigenous communities in the countries we serve. MEF has a special interest in helping girls and women and students from rural areas. We support workshops that bring informal education to rural areas where many women have never had any or just a few years of formal education. Topics may include marketing their woven products, collaborating in groups to be stronger, cultural and medical knowledge. MEF also believes in fostering Maya cultural and historical awareness and respecting the Maya languages, traditions and values. MEF supports the cultural institution CIRMA in Antigua, Guatemala in their preservation efforts of Central American heritage.

Our main strategy to success is that we partner with local Maya project leaders in the region we serve and put them and other qualified community members in charge of the criteria of the scholarship programs and for running them locally, with MEF site visits and regular contacts and reports from the leaders and the students. We raise funds and regularly appeal to the US and international public for donations. We receive support from organizations and individual donors who know the region we work in and understand that the Mayas as a whole still face many obstacles on their way to becoming equal citizens in their countries, with equal opportunities. We connect to our audience by sharing students' stories with the public and by showing graduates. We have steadily and greatly improved our outreach via Facebook and e-Bulletins. See We've helped to bring groups and students to the US who gave theater performances and talks, which were very well received. We'll do more of that as we can find the funding for such cultural exchange activities.

With a very small, mostly still donated, staff we work with our volunteer Board of Directors, our project supervisors in the countries we serve, an assistant in Guatemala, a consultant, and other volunteers to get work done that other organizations have more staff for. Through direct fundraising efforts - grant applications and public outreach (Bulletins, Newsletters, Social Media), we receive grants and donations. We also receive major funding each year from our supporting organization, the Plumsock Fund if they approve our application. Our Board members actively work on moving us forward by helping with fundraising and strategic planning. They all are familiar with the region, several have worked there, and almost all of them speak Spanish. They help by making site visits and speaking about us at conferences, esp. the Guatemala Scholars Network. The board also works on long-term tasks in committees, together with the Executive Director. We hire extra specialized help as needed for website, secure donation processing (Network for Good) and more.

-We do financial comparisons each year and have in-depth budget and allocation discussions. Fundraising progress and donor base increases are easy to determine through these discussions and Quickbooks analyses for each of the projects we support. -Harder to measure are the intangible success indicators in educational outreach projects, for example: Each workshop the women empowerment projects provide to women in rural areas of Guatemala benefits them. Many of the Maya women never went to school and are so eager to learn and so grateful for the information they learn. We rely on feedback from the women and supervisors. -Each visitor to MEF partner CIRMA in Antigua, Guatemala comes away enriched by finding documentary and visual information about Central America, the Mayas, and more. Researchers and students leave comments about how helpful they find the archives. Recently, in the Guatemala's daily, Prensa Libre, CIRMA was called "The Guardian of Our History." -Each student graduating in MEF-supported programs is progress. We have rich data about students and graduates from our programs that await our longitudinal data committee's sorting and interpreting and seeing if we can't follow the graduates for a few years after graduation. This is a work in progress.

Hundreds of graduates: from basico and high schools, including vocational high schools (accountants and teachers), and from universities in Mexico, Guatemala, and Belize. Thousands of graduates from six-month indigenous language workshops in Chiapas, Mexico and from vocational training courses at partners FOMMA and Sna. Hundreds of students learning English in yearly two-week courses US volunteers bring to Antigua, Guatemala. -We are increasingly developing partnerships with other US nonprofits to boost our goal of providing university scholarships to Maya students. -Each graduate in our programs is a great accomplishment. We have rich data about students and graduates from our programs that await our longitudinal data committee's sorting and interpreting and seeing if we can't follow the graduates for a few years after graduation. This is a work in progress. We are currently modernizing our website, which was homemade with the help of a talented colleague in Guatemala who is not a web designer. It has served us well and gives donors a button to click for an easy way to donate safely on the site (via Network for Good). It also gives information to people interested in particular areas of our work. It also invites you there to our Facebook page. It is projected to be ready by mid-2019.

How We Listen

Seeking feedback from people served makes programs more responsive and effective. Here’s how this organization is listening.

Source: Self-reported by organization

the feedback loop
check_box We shared information about our current feedback practices.
How is the organization collecting feedback?
We regularly collect feedback through: electronic surveys (by email, tablet, etc.), focus groups or interviews (by phone or in person), case management notes, suggestion box/email.
How is the organization using feedback?
We use feedback to: to identify and remedy poor client service experiences, to identify bright spots and enhance positive service experiences, to make fundamental changes to our programs and/or operations, to inform the development of new programs/projects, to strengthen relationships with the people we serve.
With whom is the organization sharing feedback?
We share feedback with: the people we serve, our staff, our board, our funders, our community partners.
What challenges does the organization face when collecting feedback?
It is difficult to: we don't have any major challenges to collecting feedback.
What significant change resulted from feedback
Auditing a partner nonprofit, following unsatisfactory narrative and financial reports. Making it, at our expense, an annual custom going forward, thus stabilizing their and our understanding of how things should be done in the bookkeeping realm and beyond. Staff shortages in our own and their organization were roadblocks but are getting better with increased scrutiny and more contact with them. Feedback from our partners --supervisors and scholarship students-- is absolutely critical and we can easily adjust to new conditions, often brought about by staff changes at the partner organizations. New board member feedback is paramount and often leads to new views and more critical analysis of existing projects.

External Reviews




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The people, governance practices, and partners that make the organization tick.

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  • A Pro report is also available for this organization.

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Board Leadership Practices

GuideStar worked with BoardSource, the national leader in nonprofit board leadership and governance, to create this section, which enables organizations and donors to transparently share information about essential board leadership practices.

SOURCE: Self-reported by organization


Does the board conduct a formal orientation for new board members and require all board members to sign a written agreement regarding their roles, responsibilities, and expectations?



Has the board conducted a formal, written assessment of the chief executive within the past year?



Have the board and senior staff reviewed the conflict-of-interest policy and completed and signed disclosure statements in the past year?



Does the board ensure an inclusive board member recruitment process that results in diversity of thought and leadership?



Has the board conducted a formal, written self-assessment of its performance within the past three years?


Organizational Demographics

Who works and leads organizations that serve our diverse communities? This organization has voluntarily shared information to answer this important question and to support sector-wide learning. GuideStar partnered on this section with CHANGE Philanthropy and Equity in the Center.

SOURCE: Self-reported; last updated 11/20/2019


No data

The organization's co-leader identifies as:

No data

Race & Ethnicity

Gender Identity

Sexual Orientation

No data


No data

Equity Strategies

Last updated: 11/20/2019

Policies and practices developed in partnership with Equity in the Center, a project that works to shift mindsets, practices, and systems within the social sector to increase racial equity. Learn more


We ask team members to identify racial disparities in their programs and / or portfolios.
We employ non-traditional ways of gathering feedback on programs and trainings, which may include interviews, roundtables, and external reviews with/by community stakeholders.

Policies and processes

We seek individuals from various race backgrounds for board and executive director/CEO positions within our organization.
We engage everyone, from the board to staff levels of the organization, in race equity work and ensure that individuals understand their roles in creating culture such that one’s race identity has no influence on how they fare within the organization.