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Hands, Cups, and Surfboards: Shannon Gilmartin’s Diverse, Yet Effective Healing Modalities

In October 2015, Shannon Gilmartin helped introduce suction cupping therapy to our GHF health promoters in Quiché, Guatemala – and they simply LOVE using this special treatment modality!  Besides being an excellent practitioner and educator, Shannon is incredibly kind and compassionate; And she has one of the biggest and most giving hearts!  We are so glad she has joined our GHF team! Read all about Shannon’s story with Global Healthworks Foundation below.

Hands, Cups, and Surfboards: Shannon Gilmartin’s Diverse, Yet Effective Healing Modalities

Shannon Gilmartin has been overcoming fears—and inspiring others to do the same—throughout her adult life. Her love for people and passion for outreach work become obvious within just moments of speaking with her. “It’s humbling and awe-inspiring,” the massage cupping therapist describes, when asked why she dedicates so much time and energy to helping others. “I feel fortunate that I can offer my services in this way.”

While she is especially drawn to programs that empower women and girls, there are three young people in particular who motivate her more than any other: her two nephews, Jacob and Evan, and one “non-blood nephew,” Ethan, the eleven-year-old son of her late best friend. “My friend and I had planned to travel all over the world together,” Shannon says. “But she got very sick. When she passed, she told me, ‘You go see those places for me. And tell Ethan all about them.’ I promised to take him with me once he was old enough.”

Though Ethan and her two “blood nephews” aren’t quite old enough to travel with Shannon, they are some of the first people she sees upon her return home and often the first people she contacts once she’s arrived at her destination. “It’s as if I’m talking to my friend in a little boy,” she says of Ethan. “We Skype. We journal. The day my friend died—literally, that day—I was on my way to Thailand and Laos. I told Ethan all the stories about my trip. Through our relationship, she remains with me.”

A first-time Global Healthworks Foundation (GHF) volunteer in October of 2015, Shannon practices and teaches her healing modalities—therapeutic massage and suction cupping therapy—across the United States and the globe. She also volunteers regularly with Surfers Healing in Virginia Beach, VA, and Homes of Hope India, two nonprofit organizations, which believe in the power of water therapy and use surfing as a form of empowerment. “I grew up scared of the water,” Shannon describes. “But I learned that water is an awesome avenue for healing and began paddle boarding. In India, I volunteer with the Homes of Hope orphanage system for two weeks each April to teach over one hundred girls surfing skills. We provide them with food, shelter, and lots of love. It’s the most beautiful thing I’ve ever seen when a girl who is scared to look you in the eye is hugging you at the end of the trip.”

Shannon describes a similar experience when discussing her first GHF jornada (medical mission) in Quiché, Guatemala last year. In addition to treating hundreds of patients during the week-long event, she also taught two massage cupping classes to more than thirty GHF health promoters. “I was pretty intimidated,” she says. “I was using a translator and had less time than I normally do. I typically teach for nine hours! But once the promoters saw the suction cups, they got so excited—like kids on Christmas! A couple of them already use cups in their own healing practices. That was pretty cool to hear.”


Fellow GHF volunteer and acupuncturist, Felipa López, who worked alongside Shannon at the October 2015 jornada, describes a similar reaction to the suction cup experience. “I loved using those cups!” she says. “I met Shannon for the first time at the last jornada and helped her with the promoter training. Not only is she super knowledgeable about treatment with both massage and suction cups, but she’s also compassionate and kind.”

Shannon first learned about GHF’s outreach in Guatemala when a mutual friend introduced her to Dan Wunderlich, GHF Founder and Executive Director, in Toronto in February of 2015. Both Dan and Shannon were teaching courses in Canada at the time. “I knew Shannon would be a great fit with the team,” Dan says. “She is incredibly kind and compassionate and an excellent practitioner and educator. She has one of the biggest and most giving hearts. I’m so happy she’s part of the GHF family.”


“She is incredibly kind and compassionate and an excellent practitioner and educator.”


One of her favorite experiences with her newfound family occurred during a jornada teaching session with GHF’s health promoters. As she describes, “Many women in Guatemala, like in India, are very closed off emotionally. They’re very introverted, and some of them are afraid of needles. To watch as they relaxed and breathed more deeply because of the suction cups was so moving. You can hear their breathing change rhythm in just five minutes. Some of these women experienced really powerful emotional releases.”

Whenever Ethan asks “Auntie Shannon” why she travels all over the world volunteering and teaching others, she recalls stories about the impact of her work on others—about those who felt better, stronger, or more empowered after a massage treatment, cupping therapy session, or afternoon surfing out on the water. “I tell him, ‘This world has so many different people that do so many different things,’” she says. “‘Sometimes they aren’t always the nicest things. That’s why it’s important to be a good person and do good work because it starts a change.’”

In addition to being one of her regular patients—“He loves when I put suction cups on him!” Shannon says—Ethan looks forward to the day when he can join his aunt on one of her adventures. “He told me recently, ‘I love that you do that—that you help people. I can’t wait to come with you.’” Shannon can’t wait either.