MUNDO EXCHANGE MISSION STATEMENT
Mundo Exchange is an international non-profit cultural exchange organization (EIN#87-078132) officially designated in 2006. Current volunteers and local community-driven projects are found in Thailand and Guatemala.
Mundo was conceived in the early 1980s when it's two founders, Dalyn Simmons and Joan Williams, were traveling throughout Asia and Central and South America. They listened to community leaders and local members talk about their dreams for their children, families and community. Over and over again the directors were asked to share the skills they have because of their access to an excellent educational system. Community leaders also asked for monetary assistance to enhance local social services such as community health centers and schools; as well as scholarships to send their children to either the local school, or more often to schools in neighboring, larger cities where teachers are better trained and expectations for learning are higher. The two Mundo members did what they could, but realized that it is the power of many people working together that would sustain efforts to enhance the lives of those living in marginalized communities. "Demarginalization through solidarity and sharing of skills and resources," was their motto.
In the early 1990s Joan was completing her doctorate in clinical psychology. She had the great honor of accompanying a group of Maya women who lived in one of the highland communities most impacted by the 36 plus years of violence in Guatemala (see Mayan Women, 2002). These women, in concert with Brinton Lykes, PhD, a gracious community psychologist from Boston College, had been awarded a grant from the Soros foundation to complete a photo voice project. This project focused on enhanced voice and empowerment for the Maya women, as well as an opportunity for them to design strategies and projects that would make the world better for their families. Joan assisted with the on-the-ground activities, which included many opportunities to walk to small communities where the civil war had wreaked havoc. People living in these small communities had survived massacres of up to 250 people (mostly women and children). On several occasions the director was asked to be the community psychologist on international forensic teams that accompanied community members as they recounted the stories of horror and survival. Together, they painstakingly dug up mass graves where the bodies of their loved ones had been quickly buried during the 1980s. Often an impossible task, the members hoped to identify the remains of each loved one so they could bring the body home to the ancestral graveyard. The work changed the director's world-view and solidified the importance of humanitarian aid through international volunteerism and social service support.
When the Sumatra–Andaman earthquake and subsequent tsunami hit South Eastern Asia, Dalyn flew to Thailand to help students, orphans and other survivors in the tsunami area. She learned much about Thai ways and life by volunteering with for-profit companies throughout the region. Eventually it was decided that nonprofit assistance was the best way to help to keep all of the donations in the countries that needed the funds.
Cementing our desire to run our own organization, we completed the complicated paperwork necessary to become an official non-profit organization in the eyes of the United States Government. We also agreed that no Mundo founder or CEO could financially benefit from our small nonprofit.
Since that time, Mundo Exchange has grown in membership, but it still remains a small organization, dedicated to providing high quality, personalized volunteer opportunities and services in coordination with local partners. Mundo has hosted numerous international and local volunteers and interns in Thailand, Guatemala and, briefly, in the Dominican Republic. We are committed to cultural exchange and humanitarian aid that is driven by local voices and that is culturally specific and respectful. In Thailand we partner with Laekplean Lokgatat, a charity organization in Isaan, NE Thailand. In Guatemala we partner with ACEFOMI, a Mayan Guatemalan NGO. Both organizations focus on bettering the lives of their local citizens through education and enhanced community social services (e.g., education, health, sanitation, legal, etc.).
Volunteers and sponsors can participate in a multitude of ways, including sponsoring individuals who are pursuing educational dreams and locally driven community development projects and/or through volunteering and interning on site in Thailand. In Guatemala, sponsoring students and projects or visiting and volunteering on a Mundo group volunteer trip is available. (Currently we do not have individual volunteering opportunities in Guatemala due to the high sensitivity of the community and the need for a team guide who has extensive knowledge of Maya culture and language.) As stated, we work to match your skills with the needs of our local communities. Included in the experience is an opportunity to learn about local culture, history, natural resources and language.
As a volunteer, typically you will work at your site Monday through Friday. Weekends are for exploring, visiting with local friends, relaxing or you can choose from a variety of excursions, including visitations of temples and historical sites, hiking in local parks, bicycle touring of agricultural areas, etc. We are always happy to arrange travel to specific sites. Please see our site to learn more about possible outings and cross cultural excursions.