Sebastiana Pol Suy is unlike any other. A gifted medicine woman, Sebastiana serves from the heart, however she can, to help heal her local community and the global community. Alongside Guatemalan and North American Global Healthworks Foundation (GHF) team members, she works to create the most uplifting and empowering treatment experience possible for each patient she meets. We are honored to have her as part of our team. Read Sebastiana’s GHF story below.
GHF’s Partnership with Mayan Spiritual Guide Sebastiana Pol Suy
Shaman. Spiritual guide. Maya Medicine woman. Healer. Teacher. Friend. Sebastiana Pol Suy is referred to by many names, nicknames, and titles in her home of Chichicastenango, Guatemala and in various places across the globe. But if you were to ask the fifty-something-year-old Guatemalan to describe her work, she’ll tell you quite simply: “Ayudo a la gente. Nada más que eso. (I help people. Nothing more than that.)”
Humble, warm, and eternally gracious, Sebastiana seeks to be of service to others whenever possible. Her work “helping people” has taken her all over the world—to countries as far as Belgium and France, throughout Latin America, and to several U.S. states, including her favorite place to visit: Ohio. A lead health promoter for Global Healthworks Foundation (GHF), Sebastiana has been working with Dan Wunderlich, GHF Founder and Executive Director, since the organization first began its outreach efforts in Quiché, Guatemala in 2012. As a seasoned health promoter who assists GHF’s practitioners at its bi-annual jornadas (medical missions) and weekly mobile clinics, Sebastiana offers Reiki energy healing, therapeutic massage, suction cupping therapy, Emotional Freedom Techniques (EFT), a form of counseling intervention, and moxa heat therapy treatments.
But more than that, says Greg Radicone, former Central American Program Manager and lead mobile clinic acupuncturist, “she’s a partner”—one who shares information about local plant and herbal medicines, collaborates on patient treatment plans, and helps to coordinate clinic and jornada logistics. “Sebastiana is a master of everything,” Greg describes. “She’s a Maya medicine woman who seeks to help everyone who comes her way. She has this special quality that attracts people and helps to heal them on a deep level. We actually adjusted this year’s spring jornada to include her community because she’s so well-respected.”
Sebastiana has her own community-based practice along with her mother Doña Tomasa, a medicine woman in her own right, who has received awards from the Guatemalan government for the preservation of traditional Maya medicine. The wide range of services they offer include: educational seminars and workshops; herbal and plant-based teas and therapies; psychological counseling; treatments for physical ailments; spiritual guidance; Mayan ceremonies; and readings of nahuales or Maya day signs. Sebastiana is also considered a community leader in Chichicastenango and provides mediation and negotiation services designed at achieving reconciliation among family members, neighbors, and communities.
When speaking of Sebastiana, fellow GHF team members like Greg and acupuncturist Felipa López can’t help but rave about her home treatment space and garden: “Have you seen all her plants and herbal remedies?” Greg asks. “It’s incredible! We sometimes ask if she has something we can use in our clinics if we run out or aren’t sure how to treat someone in the most culturally-relevant way. She always helps us out.” Adds Felipa: “Sebastiana is this person we can always turn to and ask, ‘Do you have something to treat this issue or that issue? Can you help us?’ She always says yes. Sometimes she’ll just walk outside, locate the exact plant we need, and make a tea from it. It’s amazing.”
Also amazing is Sebastiana’s willingness to try almost any approach to help treat a patient. In October 2015, Guatemala suffered a massive mudslide in El Cambray, Guatemala. A few weeks after the natural disaster, Dan and the GHF team, including Sebastiana, held a special recovery clinic to treat victims affected by it. Though Dan was aware of Sebastiana’s wide range of skills and special ability to connect with patients of all ages, her help with the treatment of one young boy during the recovery effort “left me breathless.” “I’d never seen anything like it,” Dan explains. “After witnessing unspeakable tragedies during the mudslide, this young boy became mute. He wouldn’t speak to anyone. I asked Sebastiana to help me with his treatment. Together, we gave him a special treatment using moxa and acupuncture to stimulate his cognitive abilities. To communicate with the young boy, Sebastiana began using hand signals, similar to sign language, and after several minutes, he began speaking again. Her part in that treatment plan was paramount. Sebastiana is truly an invaluable part of the GHF team.”
Sebastiana describes the experience as “un momento inexplicable (an indescribable moment).” “Es increíble como moxa puede ayudar (It’s incredible how moxa can help),” she says. “Pero fue muy sorprendente. La primera frase que dijo fue, ‘Juguete de mi hermanita.’ Estaba mirando a un juguete en el suelo. Y la mamá dijo, ‘¡Guau!’ Todos nosotros dijimos, ‘¡Guau!’ Fue increíble. (But it was very surprising. The first phrase he said was, ‘My little sister’s toy.’ He was looking at a toy on the floor. And his mother said, ‘Wow!’ We all said, ‘Wow!’ It was incredible.)”
For Juan José Mejía, fellow youth health promoter and one of GHF’s Mobile Clinic Coordinators, all of Sebastiana’s interactions with patients are similarly awe-inspiring. From their work together, he says, Juan José has learned to be more “paciente y tolerante (patient and tolerant)” not only with patients, but also with all those who cross his path. “Es una persona maravillosa (She is a wonderful person),” he describes. “Tiene algo muy especial. Ayuda a los pacientes mucho. Los hace sentir muy bien, y siempre hace su trabajo con una sonrisa. (She has something very special. She helps the patients a lot. She makes them feel really good, and always does her work with a smile.)”
Sebastiana sees her work with GHF as “una colaboración (a collaboration),” a team effort to help improve the health and wellbeing of those in her community and throughout Guatemala. “Los tratamientos de GHF nos ayudan bastante. Son muy efectivos (The GHF treatments help us a lot. They are very effective),” she says. “Cuando describen sus experiencias, los pacientes me dicen, ‘Me sentí muy relajada’ o ‘Estoy muy feliz’ o ‘No sé qué tienes en sus manos, pero son mágicas.’ Todo es una linda experiencia. (When they describe their experiences, the patients tell me, ‘I felt very relaxed,’ or ‘I am very happy,’ or ‘I don’t know what you have in your hands, but they are magic.’ It’s all a beautiful experience.)”
It’s also an experience, Greg notes, that would be quite different without Sebastiana’s support and guidance. “I can’t imagine working in Guatemala without her,” he says. “Sebastiana is more than just a co-worker to me. She’s a teacher and friend.” And like a teacher and friend, Sebastiana only wants the best for those in her life. With patience and respect, she embraces patients, practitioners, and health promoters as if they were part of her own family, seeking to treat and serve in the most loving and heartfelt manner possible in her own practice and with GHF.