Reaching out to Guatemala

Amidst the countless number of Haiti relief projects being organized worldwide, Canes International Outreach is continuing their service efforts for another nearby impoverished country who is also constantly in need of help.

Canes International Outreach (CIO) is a University of Miami service organization that raises funds and provides volunteers for a mission in the rural town of San Lucas Tolimán in Guatemala.

With the help of faculty advisor Dr. Michelle Maldonado, senior Marissa Orenstein, the chair of the organization, founded CIO last year as her global commitment as a participant in the Clinton Global Initiative University, a conference where students meet to discuss pressing global issues.

“Dr. Maldonado and her husband have a strong tie to this community in Guatemala based on the fact that he grew up near the mission site itself,” Orenstein said. “In order to make my commitment sustainable, I formed an organization with an executive committee that could work hard with fundraising and education about the mission site, which emphasizes the dignity of each individual, the common good, solidarity and subsidiarity.”

CIO’s purpose overall is to spread awareness of their cause throughout the entire UM community, historian senior Cathy Evancho said. The participants themselves even spend time learning about the Guatemalan and Mayan culture that is present in San Lucas.

“By providing service to an international community, our goal is to develop an appreciation for different cultures and at the same time foster an understanding that people across the world can be united in a common effort to help one another,” said sophomore Sumit Mehta, the cultural liaison of the organization.

The efforts by CIO for San Lucas Tolimán are focused within a Christian mission created in the 16th century which has implemented several new initiatives and projects to improve the standard of living of its people over the years. Today, the mission houses a coffee plantation, the source of many families’ income and way of life; a women’s center, a site for women in the community to take a break from their traditional family roles in a social atmosphere and a medical clinic for the city’s inhabitants. CIO plays a major role in financially supporting the mission’s projects.

“Our goal is to raise as much money for this community as possible before our trip [to San Lucas] this summer,” Mehta said.

CIO’s fundraising endeavors include selling coffee from the city and ‘Go Canes’ bracelets made by women from San Lucas, bake sales and volunteering at the BankUnited Center and Sun Life Stadium. This Thursday, Feb. 18, CIO will be hosting a fundraising event in conjunction with Patio Jams where they will be selling plates of food for $5, as well as holding a silent auction. The event will take place on the UC Patio during Patio James starting at 11:30 a.m., through 2:30 p.m.

Alexa Lopez may be contacted at