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Quiché-Based Health Promoters Play Essential Role in Providing Integrative Healthcare

Global Healthworks Foundation thinks beyond delivering healthcare services to communities in need – we plan for the sustainability of our programs. We train local health promoters and involve youth and young adults in all aspects of our Quiché-based services to ensure the prolonged impact of our work. Read about how GHF health promoters have become respected healthcare practitioners in their communities.


Quiché-Based Health Promoters Play Essential Role in Providing Integrative Healthcare

It’s 8:00 p.m., six days into the trip. An exhausted team of acupuncturists, massage therapists, interpreters, and logistics volunteers sits around the dinner table, reflecting on the the nearly four hundred patients seen earlier that day. In between questions and comments about triage and morning start times, Norva Bennett raises her hand. “Can I just say something?” she asks. “The only way we made it through today was because of the promotores (health promoters). They did everything—massage, ear needles, Reiki, cleaning treatment tables. Everything.” The group applauds. “And,” she continues, “While we were taking breaks, they were still working! They worked from 8:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. and they were still smiling by the end!”

As their title implies, Global Healthworks Foundation’s health promoters are responsible for promoting, or advancing, health and wellbeing in their native Quiché, a majority indigenous state in the mountains of Guatemala. Originally twelve, the number of promoters has grown to forty, with twenty five new men and women joining the group in the past two years. In addition to participating in the Foundation’s biannual jornadas, or medical missions, promoters also help coordinate and assist in the Foundation’s weekly mobile clinics. “They’ve become an integral part of what we do,” Peter Caron, clinic program manager says. “They’ve really come a long way in just a short amount of time.”

Promoters receive hands-on training during each jornada and participate in educational seminars throughout the year, bringing the skills they learn back to their communities and educating others about integrative health. “He aprendido mucho (I have learned a lot),” says María, a young promoter from Santa Cruz. “Y he enseñado a los otros jóvenes de mi comunidad. Hemos ayudado a aún más gente como promotores. (And I have taught the other young people from my community. We’ve helped even more people in our community as promoters.)”

As Dan Wunderlich, Foundation Founder and Executive Director explains, “Our integrative health jornadas are set up in such a way that we not only provide treatments for trauma-healing, pain management, digestive disorders and a wide range of other disease, but we also train local health promoters to provide health services in their communities. We serve to empower them with tools for sustainable health.” “Es una bendición (It is a blessing),” Maruca, one of the original twelve promoters says of the opportunity. “Nos capacitaron, y estamos enseñando a otros. (They trained us, and we are teaching others.)”

Since their first jornada in 2012, experienced promoters like Maruca and María have learned how to insert and remove acupuncture needles into the ears for anti-stress treatments; give moxibustion heat therapy treatments; give abdominal, shoulder/back, and head massage; practice Reiki, an energy healing work similar to Mayan traditions; lead body movement and exercise classes; assist in the Foundation’s supervised mobile clinics throughout Quiché; and educate others—including the new promoters—about good nutrition and integrative health practices. For María, learning and practicing Reiki has been especially meaningful. “La perdimos un poco: la medicina integral y medicina ancestral (We lost it a little: the integral medicine and ancestral medicine),” she says. “Pero la hemos recuperado y más y más gente la está usando. (But we have recovered it and more and more people are using it.)


Bright, focused, compassionate, and nearly always smiling, the health promoters have become respected healthcare practitioners in their communities.


When one watches the manner in which María and her fellow promoters work during the jornada and mobile clinics, it is obvious that the treatment they are providing and supporting has a deeper connection. Their relationship to the patient and ease with which they practice bodywork and Reiki feels completely natural. “Se conecta consigo mismo al interno (It connects oneself to the inner self),” María explains. “Eso es importante para nuestra cultura maya. (That is important for our Mayan culture.)” For María and others, the job of health promoter is more than offering and educating others about integrative health; it’s a way to strengthen their communities’ connection with nature, their history, and themselves.

And, as volunteers have expressed, their job is an essential part of the success of both the jornadas and mobile clinics. “Over the course of three years carrying-out medical missions and ongoing mobile clinics in Guatemala, GHF has reached over eighteen thousand people.  We couldn’t do it without them,” Peter says. Bright, focused, compassionate, and nearly always smiling, the promoters have become respected healthcare practitioners in their communities and are helping to heal their country one treatment at a time.