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InnovativeCommunities.Org Foundation

Friends Building Global Community

San Antonio

The San Antonio Palopó Community, Lake Atitlán, located in the highlands of Guatemala, is a place of incredible beauty, edged by volcanoes and surrounded by small picturesque Mayan villages. Enter one of these villages, however, and you find communities of people trying to eke out a living in very difficult circumstances. For the past several years, the ICO San Antonio team has been working in San Antonio Palopó, on the west side of the lake, and in neighbouring villages and hamlets--in particular, Santa Catarina Palopó.



A Bit of Background:

Almost 20 years ago, artist Jacqueline Mealing started working with a small group of traditional women weavers, helping them to adapt their weaving techniques to create beautiful scarves that they could sell to tourists. Since then, Jacqueline has returned to San Antonio almost every year, and others of us have joined her.

In 2007, we became part of  InnovativeCommunities.Org Foundation (ICO); we are delighted to be able to work with like-minded folk and share our experiences with those working in other world communities. Because we receive administrative assistance from ICO, and because those of us who go to Guatemala to work as volunteers pay our own fare and living expenses, every penny that is donated goes straight to the communities in Guatemala.

Our Mission Statement:

To support and work with indigenous leaders in Mayan communities around Lake Atitlán, Guatemala, in particular San Antonio Palopó and Santa Catarina Palopó, to improve the quality of life in the areas of health, education, and economic, social and environmental development.

What’s Happening in San Antonio?

Our approach is to work very closely with community groups–women’s groups, teachers, health clinic workers, the Municipality–to help identify the initiatives that would most benefit the community. Below is a video highlighting the current initiatives in the San Antonio community:





Traditionally, Mayans cook over unventilated open hearths in their one-room adobe homes. This cooking method causes health problems — respiratory illnesses, eye infections, and burns to children — and massive deforestation. The Onil stove (which costs approximately $125 US), developed and produced in Guatemala, is vented, smoke-free, and uses 70% less wood than open-hearth fires. We have installed almost 1,000 Onil stoves in just over 5 years, and there is a great need for more. Already, we are hearing from the health workers in these communities that health is improving dramatically.

We work with the elementary schools in the region to provide school supplies and equipment. We try to ensure that every child will have the opportunity to attend school, and that the schools will have the equipment and supplies they need.

Our scholarship program, which started small, is growing each year. Although most children can make it through the primary grades, education becomes increasingly expensive as students reach middle and high school, which involve student fees, uniforms, and long bus trips every day, as there is no senior high school in the villages. 

The small community centre, which we helped establish in 2010, has become a place of healing in the aftermath of the disasters. Directed by a local board and staffed by two talented young women, it offers a range of programs that support families: after-school help for students, women’s groups covering everything from Spanish to family planning and nutrition, programs for teens, and a group for elderly women.


Over the years, we have brought in much-needed medical supplies for the local clinic. Early in 2011, Dr. John Snively started a program of dental education and basic dental treatment. In early 2012, Dr. John and his team of dental workers will return, this time with a complete mobile dental unit bought with the help of Rotary International. Based in San Antonio, this unit will serve small communities around Lake Atitlán-–communities that currently have no dental care.

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ICO Initiatives

September 17, 2014
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