Maya Relief Foundation to hold fashion show and silent auction benefit in Rancho Santa Fe

By Stacey Phillips

Imagine making a difference in a family’s life in just an hour. That’s all the time it takes for the Maya Relief Foundation to improve the quality of lives for Maya families in Guatemala by providing a fuel-efficient stove and water filter. Randie Reinhart, who started the foundation with her husband Leon on July 4, 2002, said they hope to provide stoves to more than 100,000 families within the next five years.

“There are seven-and-a-half-million Maya families out there out of a population of 15 million,” she said. “We need to touch as many of these families as we can.”

Based in Rancho Santa Fe, the Maya Relief Foundation is holding a fashion show and silent auction to raise money to purchase the stoves and water filters that will benefit indigenous families in the highlands of rural Alta Verapaz, Guatemala. The show will be held April 26 at the Rancho Santa Fe Community Center starting at 5:30 p.m.

Standing room tickets are $35 and cover the cost of one water filter; general seating is $70 and will pay for two water filters; and VIP front row seating is $110 and will cover the cost of a fuel-efficient stove.

“One hundred percent of the ticket sales is going directly to help these people,” said Jenny Donaldson, a volunteer from the Maya Relief Foundation who is coordinating the fashion show called FLOW. Professionally directed by Gia Nina Bodarocco, the show features Harper’s Bazaar models presenting apparel from local boutiques. Hor d’oeuvres will be served prior to the fashion show beginning. There will be a silent auction and local accessories vendors with items to purchase, all contributing to the foundation. San Diego singer/songwriter Trevor Davis, who has released seven albums and was a recent contestant on the television show “The Voice,” will perform.

The Maya Relief Foundation was established as the Reinhart Family Foundation 12 years ago with the intent of serving the humanitarian needs of the poor in Latin America. Soon after, the Reinharts decided to focus on ways to assist the Maya with their health and well-being as well as help them become self-sustainable. After living abroad in mostly developing countries for 30 years, the family relocated to San Diego in 1996. They had lived in Iran, Panama, Ecuador, Puerto Rico, Bahrain, Dubai in the United Arab Emirates, and Mexico.

Reinhart said she always felt a special connection with the people in these countries and wanted to do something to help them. “Since day one we tried to come up with good solutions to the problems of the Maya indigenous people,” she said. “We could see what was the most beneficial thing for the most needy people.” The Reinharts and their son Rob work full-time for the foundation and other family members assist when they can.

Alex Ingersoll from the Maya Relief Foundation said that Maya women’s lives revolve around cooking and they usually stand in front of huge fires built on a wooden pallet called a polleton inside their homes. The families breathe in toxic fumes from the fires, which cause eye irritations and respiratory problems. In order to address this, the foundation replaces the Maya’s open cooking fires with a fuel-efficient EkoStove.

“It radically changes these people’s lives,” said Ingersoll.

The cleaner burning stove emits little smoke and allows the women to cook in substantially less time. In addition to having cleaner air, Reinhart said their respiratory illnesses decline dramatically due to the decreased amount of smoke. The stove also has a flue that carries any excess smoke or gases out of the house.

Because the stove uses 70 percent less firewood, the women do not have to spend as much time looking for wood but instead have time to make handicrafts they can sell in the marketplace, which is a source of income for them.

“The women like to have beauty around them and when you have a dirt floor you have to create beauty in a different way. They do that in their clothing and what they weave,” said Reinhart.

A portable Ektofiltro water filter is also given to the families by the foundation, which provides clean water. The families no longer have to collect wood to boil their water and intestinal illnesses due to poor water quality are substantially decreased.

Reinhart said, “It’s very moving, you feel a loving feeling that you have given a little kid a cold glass of water.”

In addition to the stove and water filter, both made in Guatemala, the foundation works with families in other ways to help improve their lives. They assist them with planting a garden so they learn to vary their diet. The garden provides them with cash crops the families can sell or barter with. The foundation also supplies the women with multi-nutritional vitamins donated by the Kirk Humanitarian Foundation.

Finally, the Maya Relief Foundation pays a local social worker from the village to help families maintain the stove and water filter for a year, as well as teaching them basic health lessons.

A year ago Reinhart formed a group in San Diego called Women 2 Women to help support the needs of the foundation. “It’s powerful for our ladies here to see the ladies there,” said Reinhart. “They really are kindred spirits.” There is a Teen 2 Teen component of this group that plans fundraisers like lip-syncing contests and a mother-daughter tea.

“There are great needs around the world and we, with an abundance, sharing just a modest amount can make such a difference in a family’s life in the Third World,” said Reinhart.

Ticket to FLOW can be purchased on-line

or at the event. More information about the Maya Relief Foundation is available on its web site: