When I traveled to Guatemala last summer on a medical service trip I had little idea of what to expect. I knew we were going to learn about global health issues and serve others to the best of our ability, but what I found was a community facing health disparities much larger than anything we could handle as first year medical students. The people we got to know in those Mayan communities were so welcoming and open to sharing their lives with us, and I knew I wanted to do more for them once I returned home. Being involved in Maya Medical Project is a wonderful way to reduce these health disparities and make a difference in so many peoples lives. I couldn’t be more excited to be a part of the development team and this amazing cause!
Emily Lowry, Scholarship Program Director
One of my first experiences with Mayan healthcare access in Guatemala occurred in a small village of about 250 families with a sparsely staffed two-room “clinic” and some local midwives. A woman had gone into labor and the village midwives had been taking shifts with her for nearly 24 hours. Finally, the visiting nurse arrived (who came to the village on average once per week) and made the decision to send the woman to the hospital. Unlike in the United States, this did not include an ambulance ride or a visit to the next town over. This meant that she was to lay in the back of a pickup truck, exposed to the world, on winding gravel roads and mountain turns, for upwards of five hours until they reached Huehuetenango, home to the nearest hospital. I was saddened, outraged, and inspired all at once. Many women in that tiny town were having children almost every year and I could not imagine how frequently stories like the one I witnessed occurred here, some with possibly devastating endings.
If that village along Rio Quisíl had a resident nurse, a primitive ultrasound machine or someone trained to use it, the decision to send that poor mother to the hospital could have been made hours sooner and these crises could be avoided if there were adequate prenatal screening and care. When I heard about Maya Medical Project and its mission to not only provide supplies and amenities but also to make sustainable changes to the healthcare landscape for the Mayan people, I knew I had to be involved. By providing an education for the children that could grow up to be community leaders, nurses, and physicians, there is no doubt that positive changes will follow. I am excited to be involved in the effort to make these changes and hope that my story and those of our team will inspire others with a desire to help. Yujwal Dios! (Thank you!)
Karen Lehan, Medical Relief Program Director
In the summer of 2015, I traveled to Guatemala on a medical mission trip. I wanted to use this opportunity to learn about the culture and make a difference, however, I didn't realize how much of an impact it would make on my life. I didn't know what to expect, but I was ready to take on this new journey. When we first arrived, I immediately noticed the beauty and lively culture of Guatemala. During our stay in Santa Eulalia, we met a group of amazing people who welcomed us into their community and taught us so much about their rich Mayan culture and way of life. I immediately felt a connection to them despite the language and cultural differences. They truly touched my heart and I wanted to do whatever I could to help. Unfortunately, the medical and economic problems in these rural areas in Guatemala were far worse than I had anticipated. It was hard to see the extreme poverty and lack of resources in these communities, but it was even harder to think that there wasn't much I could do to help at the time. As a group, we did what little we could but it did not take long for me to realize that a mere 5-week stay wouldn’t be enough to truly help these communities in the long run. Being part of Maya Medical Project has given me the opportunity to continue helping the country I fell in love with in a more sustainable way. I am so excited to be part of the development team so that I can do my part in providing aid, spreading awareness, and helping these communities thrive!
Jasmine Jou, Scholarship Program Director
Between my first and second year of medical school, I ventured out to the villages of Guatemala with my five friends. Our purpose was to immerse ourselves into the Mayan culture that is deeply seeded in the country and to provide a bit of relief to the indigenous people by donating medical supplies. I had agreed to go on this adventure for selfish reasons. In my mind, I thought a service trip like this would surely augment my application for residency later on. Once I got to Santa Eulalia, the first Mayan village we visited, I quickly learned that the purpose of the trip was much bigger than my personal motivations. Witnessing the Mayans’ destitute living conditions and the deteriorating health of most individuals over the age of 30, I realized that as an aspiring physician, I can do something for them. More importantly, I need to do something for them.
As we presented the medical supplies to the only medical clinic in Santa Eulalia, the director and her four sisters began to tear up. This happened at every village we frequented. Nurses, midwives, and the village elders told us how much of a difference the supplies made. These places were always in need of medical equipment, medication, and even simple prenatal vitamins. They would always ask us where were we able to get these items to donate. Our team would politely inform them that an organization known as the Maya Medical Project fundraises for every year to purchase medical supplies to donate.
Upon returning to my comfortable home in Connecticut, I reflected on the world wind journey I had just experienced. I realized that my life needs to be more than just building a competitive application for residency. There are people in Guatemala that do not medicine for life threatening infections; they do not have any means of measuring their blood sugar level when their diabetes gets out of hand; and most children are underweight because they are always malnourished. The Mayans taught me what is important in life, or what should be important to someone who wants to become a doctor. For that reason, I decided to join the Maya Medical Project and hope to give back to the people of Santa Eulalia and the other villages of Guatemala.
Margaret Siu, Medical Relief Program Director