How It Began
In 1991, Kay Sweeney ("Cata") went to Guatemala to volunteer in a religious community started by a San Francisco Presentation Sister. While she was there, Kay met Carmela Paz Bal. Carmela felt discouraged by her lack of resources to move her life forward. She wanted to study at the university for a degree in anthropology.
Kay realized that she could help Carmela with a very small financial commitment, but she did not want Carmela to think of her as her “patron”, a dirty word in Guatemala. Kay created a scholarship fund and asked Carmela to apply. That first application started the Kateri Tekakwitha Fund. The Fund grew as Kay met other young women who wanted to study and Kay’s friends and family joined her as sponsors.
Kay also admired the beautiful weavings that the Guatemalan Indigenous women made. They couldn't sell them in Guatemala, so Kay started taking them to the U.S. when she went home on vacation to sell. This became Mission: Guatemala. Kay’s friends also helped with this project. Kay and her friends tried all kinds of venues, but over the years, it became clear that the best venues were churches in California.
In 1997, the two projects were incorporated as the Kateri Tekakwitha Mission Fund Inc. and became a 501(c) 3 nonprofit.
In 2001, Kay returned to the U.S. to sell for Mission: Guatemala and solicit donations to support the organization.
This international organization is now run from its U.S. office in Pacifica, California by a Board of Directors with Kay as Managing Director. Kay visits Guatemala regularly and meets with the organization’s local staff members who continue the organization’s work in Guatemala.