Desarrolla Health Blog
The Health project in Guatemala was a two-year process. The first team went two summers ago, to gather baseline data on the sanitary tendencies practiced by the people in Guatemala. The goal was to attack the malnutrition and disease from the source and see what hygienic practices families in Guatemala were passing down to their children. They worked closely with a hospital that had a group of women that gave “charlas” to the community about proper sanitation. The second summer after having analyzed the data, they came up with a curriculum to present to the women in an attempt to improve the advice they were giving to the community.
The cultural clash made this a difficult but enjoyable process. Colleen recalls that when they wrote in the curriculum that children should sign the alphabet song while they brushed their teeth the women were terribly confused. They had nothing like that in Guatemala, and it was moments like this that really helped our teams truly embrace cultural differences. These are the best situations because they help both our students and the people they are working with learn something completely different from a culture they would have rarely come into contact with. This project was very helpful for her Global Health minor and she felt like it truly gave a purpose to the material she learned in class. “Seeing so many intelligent and hardworking people that have very little concept of basic health principles due to lack of exposure was shocking. It is something that you hear about but don’t understand until you see it.” Daniel was able to see in the San Juan and San Pablo area a very strong family structure. He was extremely impressed because he was able to relate to this with his South Korean background. Growing up he was always taught the importance of having a tight knit family with powerful values. It is always amazing to see the similarities you share with people that may seem very different from you at first.
The dynamic of the teams made it very easy for someone to join with very little experience. Colleen and Ricardo went the first year with Ricardo’s help as a native Spanish speaker. After the first summer, they gained so much experience about the culture, and built several relationships with the women at the hospital. This made it easy for Daniel to come the next summer and have the mentorship of two students already comfortable in the field. Now this coming summer Daniel is in a great position to go back and lead other students. These transitions ensure that the project will continue to progress fluidly. Spanish fluency was not an issue for the trip. As long as you have a basic level of Spanish and the desire to work at it, the structure of the team will help you thrive.