Skip to main content

Robin Pawliuk with a family in in Guatemala

The Donor: Robin Pawliuk

The Gift: Mayan Families Canada

The Cause: Helping families in Guatemala

Story continues below advertisement

Seven years ago Robin Pawliuk and her family went to Guatemala for a few weeks to volunteer at a clinic.

During the trip, Ms. Pawliuk and her teenaged daughter, Leigh, talked about doing something long term to help people in the impoverished region around Lake Atitlan, about 140 kilometres west of Guatemala City. "We saw the need for what was happening down there and that's when Leigh said, 'We've got to do it,' " recalled Ms. Pawliuk, a teacher in Parksville, B.C., north of Nanaimo.

Shortly after the family returned home, Ms. Pawliuk made a presentation to students and teachers at her school, Springwood Middle School. She talked about the region and how the school could help. "There was just an overwhelming support," she recalled.

Ms. Pawliuk and Leigh soon formed Mayan Families Canada and began raising money and collecting shoes, toiletries, blankets and clothes. They packed everything in suitcases and headed back to Guatemala to distribute the donated goods.

They've been going back every summer since and today Mayan Families raises about $50,000 annually. Along with distributing household items, the charity has sponsored education for 28 students, built five houses and helped build a community centre. This summer 16 people from across Canada will accompany the Pawliuks to Guatemala, each loaded down with donated supplies.

The charity has become a total family endeavour. Ms. Pawliuk's husband, David, and son, Nick, are involved along with Leigh, now 21, who is planning a career in international development.

Ms. Pawliuk said the charity's biggest accomplishment has been engaging students at Springwood and a dozen other schools across Canada who raise money. She recalled one young boy who was reluctant to get involved at first. "He came up to me three weeks later and said 'I never knew that helping somebody else could make you feel so good.' " she said. "That said it all to me."

Story continues below advertisement



pwaldie@globeandmail.com

Report an error Licensing Options
About the Author
European Correspondent

Paul Waldie has been an award-winning journalist with The Globe and Mail for more than 10 years. He has won three National Newspaper Awards for business coverage and been nominated for a Michener Award for meritorious public service journalism. He has also won a Sports Media Canada award for sports writing and authored a best-selling biography of the McCain family. More

Comments are closed

We have closed comments on this story for legal reasons. For more information on our commenting policies and how our community-based moderation works, please read our Community Guidelines and our Terms and Conditions.

Combined Shape Created with Sketch.

Combined Shape Created with Sketch.

Thank you!

You are now subscribed to the newsletter at

You can unsubscribe from this newsletter or Globe promotions at any time by clicking the link at the bottom of the newsletter, or by emailing us at privacy@globeandmail.com.