Rancho Santa Fe-based foundation aims to improve the quality of life for Maya families in Guatemala


By Kristina Houck

One hour. That’s all the time it takes for the Maya Relief Foundation to improve the quality of life for Maya families in Guatemala.

The Rancho Santa Fe-based nonprofit organization provides stoves and water filters to indigenous families in the highlands of the Central American country’s rural Alta Verapaz.

“In one hour, we go into their home and their lives are changed forever,” said Rancho Santa Fe resident Randie Reinhart, who launched the foundation with her husband, Leon Reinhart, in 2002. “You see it with your own eyes.”

After living abroad in mostly developing countries for 30 years, the Reinharts relocated to San Diego in 1996. About 12 years ago, the family established the Reinhart Family Foundation, later renamed the Maya Relief Foundation, to improve the health and well being of the Maya people by providing them with fuel-efficient stoves and portable water filters.

Maya women cook food with fires built on a wooden pallet called a polleton. Because the open cooking fires are inside the home, families breathe in toxic fumes, which cause eye irritations and respiratory problems.

In addition to the health benefits of the foundation’s Eko-Stoves, the wood-burning stoves use 70 percent less firewood, which saves families money and time.

“The women catch on immediately that this is a blessing beyond a blessing to them,” said Reinhart. “With that, they’re up and going. They become self-sufficient.”

In addition to the stove and water filter, which are both made in Guatemala, the foundation helps every family organize their home and plant their own garden. The foundation also supplies women with multi-nutritional prenatal vitamins donated by the Kirk Humanitarian Foundation.

Lastly, the foundation hires local social workers to help families maintain their new equipment for a year.

“Our program helps them at the core of what they need the most,” Reinhart said. “From there, they can organize themselves and do so much more. Now they get three to five days back from not having to go get wood or earn the money to pay for the wood. It’s so empowering to them.”

Maya Relief Foundation is hosting its inaugural fashion show and silent auction April 26 to raise money to purchase the stoves and water filters. FLOW begins at 5:30 p.m. at the Rancho Santa Fe Community Center, located at 5970 La Sendita.

Standing room tickets are $35 and cover the cost of one water filter. General seating tickets are $70 and cover the cost of two water filters. VIP front row seating is $110 and covers the cost of a stove.

“We’re trying to do one thing and do it well — create a model that can be used throughout the world,” Reinhart said. “A family’s life is changed forever if we can get these into their homes.”

For more information about the Maya Relief Foundation, visit