Our Story

Alarmed by the high rates of child malnutrition and hunger, and the low rates of primary school completion she found during several volunteer sabbaticals at a school for child workers in Panajachel, Sololá, Margaret Blood was determined to help.  Community leaders told her that if she wanted to help, she should feed the children. Margaret raised funds to launch a breakfast program for the 160 children at the school and based on the impact of that effort, founded Mil Milagros in 2007 with the pro-bono assistance of the Goulston and Storrs law firm in Boston.

The organization was named “Mil Milagros” with “Mil” representing the United Nations’ Millennium Development Goals and “Milagros” meaning “miracles” – essential to achieving big visions. The goals of Mil Milagros are aligned with two of the United Nations’ eight Millennium Development Goals: the eradication of extreme poverty and hunger; and universal primary education.  In 2008, Mil Milagros launched its pilot nutrition program serving 200 children in two schools.  Since then, Mil Milagros has served more than 3,500 children with early childhood development, nutrition, hygiene, and education programs in predominantly rural, indigenous Maya communities in the department of Sololá. Mil Milagros builds the capacity of mothers, grandmothers, and teachers to implement and sustain changes in their children’s schools and in their communities.

To leverage its impact, Mil Milagros partners with other organizations to address additional pressing needs in its partner communities including health care, housing and school construction, and clean water projects.

Why Guatemala

“The effects of malnutrition on child development are like a ‘life sentence’ because it compromises (children’s) health, their ability to learn, and their growth.” – UNICEF

Guatemala, which means “country of many trees,” is the most populous country in Central America with an estimated population of 15.47 million. A combination of historical and contextual factors has profoundly influenced Guatemala’s performance in key human development areas such as education, health, and nutrition. The effects of the civil war that lasted nearly four decades (1960-1996) continue to be felt today.

Guatemala has the fourth highest rate of chronic child malnutrition in the world – and the highest rate in Latin America and the Caribbean – with 50% of the children chronically malnourished. The rate of chronic malnutrition among Maya children in rural communities is 72.3%. Guatemala also has the highest birthrate in Latin America with nearly four births per woman. In the department of Sololá, 96% of the population is Maya and 94% of the population lives on less than $3.00 per day.

Guatemala has the lowest primary school completion rate in Central America, and education indicators continue to lag far behind nearly every other country in the hemisphere. Only 66% of children graduate from primary school – and the percentages are estimated to be much lower in rural communities like those where Mil Milagros works. The average number of years of schooling completed is just four.

Our Approach

Some 600+ mothers and grandmothers are the keys to Mil Milagros’ success. We work with our partner schools to organize Boards of Mother and Grandmother leaders in each community. We train these leaders, and they, in turn, train their peers.

The mothers and grandmothers take turns to prepare nourishing hot meals every day at school, and the children bring their own dishes and utensils to school, and firewood for the stoves.

Mother volunteers also give monthly health and hygiene talks in each classroom to help the children develop good hygiene practices.

The meals and workshops, along with access to clean drinking water and deworming medications, have significantly helped to increase student attendance and performance. Children who attend school regularly are more likely to graduate. In fact, 97% of Mil Milagros’s sixth graders have graduated since 2010.

Primary school graduation increases earning potential and also opens opportunities for continued studies. Each year of primary school education increases a boy’s future earning potential by 5-15% and a girl’s by 10-20%.

 

Our Team

Lucy Aj
Program Director

Lucy is a college educated health promoter from Santa Lucía Utatlán, where several of MM’s partner schools/communities are located.
Lucy has extensive experience in health, hygiene, and nutrition and has worked in various communities throughout Guatemala to improve health, hygiene, and nutrition at the individual, family, and community levels. Fluent in the Maya languages spoken in the area MM serves, as well as Spanish, Lucy leads our program coordinators to implement quality programs in each of our partner communities.

Margaret Blood
Founder and Executive Director

Margaret is Mil Milagros’ founder and serves as the organization’s Executive Director, responsible for working with the Board to shape the organization’s strategic goals and direction, for fund raising, building and managing partnerships with other organizations to help MM achieve its goals, and supporting the In-Country staff team in Guatemala.
Margaret is the founder, past President, and current Board member of Strategies for Children, an award-winning children’s policy and advocacy organization based in Boston.
Margaret holds a Master in Public Administration degree from the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University and a Bachelor’s degree in Spanish and business from Skidmore College.

Carolyn Daly
In-Country Director

Carolyn is responsible for managing the day-to-day operations for MM’s programs in all of our partner communities as well as strategic alliances with other organizations.
Before joining Mil Milagros, Carolyn was a Peace Corps volunteer in Sololá and worked with a soy association, a socially responsible microfinance institution, and various other groups in Sololá in marketing, finance and nutrition. Carolyn is fluent in Spanish and conversant in Kaqchikel, the local Maya language.
Carolyn grew up in Central New York and graduated from Colgate University.

Dora Martínez- Accountant and Administrative Assistant
Dora Martínez
Accountant and Administrative Assistant

Dora is the accountant and administrative assistant at the Mil Milagros’ office in Guatemala. Dora manages the finances and bookkeeping to make sure that MM is in compliance with Guatemalan tax requirements. She is also responsible for ordering food for the nutrition program, managing databases, and managing the administrative duties of the office.
Dora has over ten years of experience working with non-profit organizations in the Lake Atitlan region. She is currently finishing her last year in university, where she is earning a degree in Public Accounting and Auditing.

Kristie Simonó
Director of Boston Operations

Kristie is the director of operations for Mil Milagros’ Boston office. She is responsible for managing administrative and financial functions, and assisting Mil Milagros’ fundraising and communications efforts.
Prior to joining Mil Milagros, Kristie worked and volunteered for various non-profit organizations whose missions focused on serving vulnerable populations. Kristie’s extensive experience working with under-served communities, from at-risk youth to patients with varying psychological disorders, has instilled in her a desire to address social justice issues, locally and internationally.
Kristie graduated from the College of the Holy Cross, where she double majored in Psychology and Spanish with a concentration in Latin American and Latino Studies.

Veronica Sosa
Health and Hygiene Coordinator

Veronica is from Santa Maria Visitación, Sololá and has her Bachelor’s Degree in Clinical Psychology and Mental Health at the University Mariano Gálvez in Guatemala.
Veronica previously worked as a health educator with a community health center, and as a trainer with World Vision. Veronica is coordinating our health and hygiene training and activities in all of our partner communities.

Cristina Vicente
Early Childhood Program Coordinator

Cristina is from the city of Sololá and speaks both Spanish and Maya Kaqchikel. She coordinates MM’s interventions for children ages 0-8, including training mothers on nutrition, health and hygiene, and child development.
Cristina studied to become a teacher in Guatemala and has worked in customer service, office administration, and translating for another local nonprofit organization.

Yesenia Zavala
Nutrition Coordinator

Yesenia is from Santa Lucía Utatlán, where three of our partner communities are located. She speaks K’iche and Spanish and has experience has a health and nutrition educator in a community health center. Yesenia is training mothers in healthy nutrition and hygiene practices in the kitchens.

Board of Directors

Rob Hoyt
Chair

Rob serves as Chair of the Mil Milagros Board and is the founder of Excelar LLC, a firm focused on developing and implementing innovative models in the health care industry. Prior to founding Excelar, Rob was a Senior Executive with health care start up Accretive Health, and a Partner with Accenture, a global management consulting firm. Rob received his MBA from The Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth and his undergraduate degree from Harvard College. Rob and his wife Molly, a Mil Milagros volunteer leader, are the proud parents of a daughter born in Guatemala.

Steve Cadwell
Vice Chair

Steve, Clerk of the the Mil Milagros Board, is a clinical social worker in private practice in Boston. He has degrees from Amherst College and the University of Texas at Austin and earned his Ph.D. in clinical social work at the Smith College School for Social Work. He teaches group therapy at Boston University and Harvard. Steve is also an accomplished performance artist. He
and his husband are the proud parents of a son born in Guatemala who is currently a college senior.

Heidi Spear
Treasurer

Heidi has served as the Chair of the Mil Milagros Board and is the current Treasurer. She is Director of Sales for Axonify, Inc., a Waterloo, Ontario-based technology start up. She is also Board Chair for Fayston Elementary School in Vermont and a graduate of Middlebury College. Heidi has helped launch a series of technology companies in the Boston area over the course of her career. She and her husband are the proud parents of a son from Kazakhstan and a daughter from Guatemala.

Barbara Doe
Clerk

Barbara is a retired social worker who earned her master’s degree in social work at Boston University. She is an active Mil Milagros volunteer leader and the proud mother of a son and daughter both born in Guatemala.

Margaret Blood
Founder and Executive Director
Juan Antonio Gil

Juan Antonio is a retired bilingual teacher and Spanish literacy specialist who was born in Guatemala and taught in the public schools there before coming to the U.S. where he had a distinguished career as a teacher in the Boston Public Schools, and did postgraduate work in special education at Cambridge College. Juan has actively worked to engage the Guatemalan immigrant community in support of Mil Milagros. Juan is also an award-winning painter.

Elvis Jocol

Elvis is an experienced marketing professional who serves as Director of Digital Media, Special Partnerships and Business Development at El Mundo Media. He is also the Founder and President of Casa Guatemala, a cultural and educational non-profit organization serving the Latino community in Waltham, MA. He earned his undergraduate degree at Boston College and has worked to mobilize members of the Guatemalan immigrant community in support of Mil Milagros.

Carolyn Lyons

Carolyn is a founding member of the Mil Milagros Board, and has served as Vice Chair and Treasurer. She works as a consultant to non-profits and previously served as President & CEO of Strategies for Children, an award-winning child policy and advocacy organization. She earned her MBA at the Darden Graduate School of Business Administration at the University of Virginia and her undergraduate degree at St. Joseph’s University.

Tom O’Brien

Tom is Vice Chair of the Mil Milagros Board and he and his wife, Patricia, serve as co-chairs of MM’s annual fundraising event. Tom is the Managing Director of the HYM Investment Group, LLC, which owns, develops, and manages mixed use commercial real estate projects. Tom is a graduate of Brown Universitty and Suffolk University Law School, and is admitted to the Massachusetts Bar. He and Patricia are the proud parents of five children, two of whom were born in Guatemala.

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