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Our Story: Looking Back On Over 30 Years

Our mission traces its roots back to the early 1980's when our Executive Director, Father Frank O’Loughlin*, encountered a community of refugees forced to flee their homeland in the highlands of Guatemala. During this time period known as the “Silent Genocide,” Guatemala’s military-led government sanctioned the massacre of more than 200,000 indigenous Mayans. Millions more were displaced, tortured, kidnapped, or worse.

While many people come to the US seeking the “American dream” - this first wave of Mayan refugees were merely fleeing for their lives. To this day, ethnic abuses continue throughout Central America causing many Mayans to seek asylum in the hopes of escaping daily violence, environmental collapse and persecution. These are the people we serve.

At The Guatemalan-Maya Center, we create a nurturing and stable environment with programs designed to foster community. We focus our efforts on early-childhood education, parent education/assistance and advocacy as we work to accompany over 1,000 families each month - from more than 28 countries.

Thanks to funding from the Early Learning Coalition of Palm Beach County and generous supporters like you, our Escuelita Maya early learning programs serves over 300 children in our community each year! These crucial programs promote academic success - giving our kids a chance at a better life.

This year during the Great Give (a 24-hour day of giving), we raised enough funding to add 38 MORE kids to our after school care program! On behalf of all of the children’s lives that have changed - thank you, thank you, thank you!

Despite over 30 years of success, there is still more work to be done. We see a critical need to grow, and with your help we must:

  • Expand our aftercare and student services, to help older children perform well in school and in society. We know at least 100 more students who would benefit from our help, if we had the funding to reach them.

  • Partner with more elementary, middle and high schools, to ensure children in our community do not fall behind grade level.

  • Grow our own preschool programs to accommodate more 3- to 5-year-olds, because the best way to thrive in school is to start early.

  • Work with more parents, so they can become their children’s first and best teachers.

  • Serve more individuals and families; our goal is to assist 1,500 people per month.

We’re grateful to our community partners and to everyone who supports our work. Every gift helps someone build a new life. You help us change the lives of hundreds of children, advocate for their families, and respond to urgent needs. Still, there is so much more to be done. Because when we help our neighbors in need, we’re helping our whole Palm Beach County community to be stronger and better.


*The Guatemalan-Maya Center was formally founded in 1992 thanks to the hard work of community leaders including Father Frank O’ Loughlin. However, Father Frank’s story begins over 50 years ago - during the Harvest of Shame era - when he began his vocation as a priest in Indiantown working with migrant farm workers.

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