Previously, the GlobeMed at UT Austin chapter was partnered with Clinica Ana Manganaro in Guarjila, El Salvador for six years, and as bittersweet as it is to see that partnership end, it makes us beyond happy to know that CAM is getting more recognition from donors and their government, and that our past projects have left and continue to leave positive, tangible impacts on their community. Currently, our chapter is building a relationship with Wuqu’ Kawoq—a health organization in Guatemala that strives to better the health and quality of life of the Mayan peoples through linguistic and cultural understanding—and we are excited to embrace all the rewards and challenges that come with a new partnership. We believe in empowering communities and learning from them, and the work that Wuqu’ Kawoq does truly aligns with this idea. We are eager to gain a deeper understanding of Wuqu’ Kawoq’s model and see how we fit into the picture, and we are even more eager to work closely with the talented and passionate individuals here.
Two weeks ago, four of our members (that’s us!) traveled to meet and work with our partner in Tecpan, Guatemala for the first time. Leading the team is Jimena Gamboa, our GROW Coordinator and momma for the month. She is currently a rising junior studying Supply Chain Management, and wants to be involved in social entrepreneurship in the future. Valeria Mejia is a rising junior studying Public Health on a pre-med track. Michelle Zhang is a rising senior Neuroscience major who also aspires to become a physician, but one that is devoted to resolving disparities and ensuring the health of communities, not just individuals. Sri Navuluri is a rising senior studying Health and Society, with an interest in the sociological and cultural determinants of healthcare.
“A new year, a new team, a new partner. Being GROW Coordinator for two years with UT Austin has given me the opportunity to travel twice to meet and connect with our partners. Every time during GROW, I take the “Mom” role and pretty much become overly protective over the rest of the interns here with me, the usual.
Being part of the GROW team is a constant learning experience and it isn’t easy setting up expectations. Everything comes and goes as it should. The usual questions of “What are you looking for? What goals do you hope to accomplish?” don’t have easy answers for me. Yes, we have our water filtration project and that is a priority. But there shouldn’t be a list of things I’m looking for. We are constantly meeting incredibly devoted people who take their communities’ needs as a priority, there are no words to describe their passion. There is no “quota.”
What makes me admire Wuqu’ Kawoq is their commitment to bridge the communities in need with the existing health care system of Guatemala. They work tirelessly to put in reach the health care that each citizen is entitled to. Wuqu’ Kawoq is also an admirable example of how to effectively fight racism and preserve the Mayan culture and language, something that is often taken for granted and ignored. This organization inspires me to become a stronger advocate for health and teaches me to dig a little deeper. The biggest theme of this internship is: “Why do I do the things I do? Why do I choose one path over the other?” I don’t have any of these answers (I’m not even close). But I’m overly excited to just fall in love with this magical country and its lovely people.” –
“I want to participate in this internship for two main reasons. Firstly, I want to learn about the world of non-profits because I want to work for a non-profit organization at some point in my life. I wish to see what Wuqu’ Kawoq does both behind the scenes and in the field. Additionally, I want to understand what barriers Wuqu’ has faced in implementing their programs in the community and how they overcame them. Currently, I only know some of the logistics of nonprofits and what it takes to make projects successful, but there are many more elements – especially cultural and ethical ones – that I want to explore further. To me, those are the most important aspects of a successful organization. Secondly, I was motivated to go on GROW because this project and our partner are amazing. Wuqu’ Kawoq creates sustainable projects that answer to the needs of the community and THAT is what creates real change. I’m excited to learn from the team because I consider them credible and extremely knowledgeable. And of course, I am on GROW to learn about and appreciate the beautiful Mayan culture.” – Valeria
“Culture is something that has always had a strong influence on my life. Wuqu’ Kawoq’s mission is one that I can identify with and support with as equal resolve and passion as that which drives me to strive for GlobeMed’s own mission. What Wuqu’ Kawoq is doing is incredible – to preserve a culture, to provide honest respect, to spend time, money, and resources on learning the ancient languages needed to communicate with the indigenous locals, and to provide the highest quality healthcare to a people who, for as long as 500 years, have not had access to adequate health care and have not been properly accounted for in their own health care system is inspiring to say the very least. My personal and professional goals align very closely with the mission of our partner. I have a lot to learn, and I believe that our partner and the Mayan people have a lot to teach us about bridging the gap between culture and healthcare.” – Sri
“My main motivation for going on GROW is to gain a deeper understanding of Wuqu’ Kawoq’s programs and the communities they serve, and to see how our partnership fits into the picture. Wuqu’ is a much larger organization than our previous partner, but I am excited at the prospect of forming personal relationships with the diverse, talented people that work here. Just as CAM has its own unique model of sustainability, Wuqu’ is successful in its own way. Furthermore, I’d like to engage in global health work as a physician, and witnessing our partner’s model in action is invaluable because it gives me a better idea of how physicians can partake in global health work in a manner that respects and empowers communities.” – Michelle
This year, our GlobeMed members fundraised $5,000 for Wuqu’ Kawoq’s Unlocking H2O project. Our goal is to provide 44 new filters—1 per household—to the Chiaj community, providing them with 1,800 liters of clean drinking water every day. As we have learned from Wuqu’ Kawoq’s early childhood nutrition outreach program, Salvando Cerebros, it is crucial to target malnutrition between birth and the age of two years old—that way, children’s brains are able to develop healthily, allowing them to reach their full potential in the future. Without clean water, nutrition programs cannot be entirely successful or sustainable, and our GlobeMed team hopes to fill this gap in the Chiaj community.
Besides the water filtration project, Wuqu’ has been keeping us quite busy (the way we like it!). Between thinking of creative material for their social media sites, accompanying the nurses and health promoters of various programs out on the field, and helping with fundraising logistics, we are learning volumes about the nuts and bolts of how nonprofits are run. Behind the ambitious, overarching vision of Wuqu’ are many hardworking individuals who contribute their unique talents and skills to make this vision a reality. Seeing and contributing to this daily grind has been both inspiring and humbling. Meanwhile, meeting these health promoters, physicians, nurses, pharmacists, nutritionists, and researchers and seeing firsthand the work they do closes the distance of hundreds of miles between our team back home and the beautiful people of Guatemala. Every time we break bread together, sing together, and walk through the community together, our partnership is strengthened. We will be blogging about our experiences in the following weeks. Meanwhile, be sure to follow Wuqu’ on social media to get a glimpse of these moments!
Here’s to new beginnings.
The UT Austin GROW Team
Jimena, Valeria, Sri, and Michelle