Terése Wunderlich shares her array of talents in a way that provides balance and consistency to the GHF jornada team. Whether she’s teaching self-defense to women, practicing yoga with the elderly, or giving belly massages to children, her generous and fun-loving heart brings laughter and joy to both patients and fellow volunteers alike. Read all about Terése’s story with Global Healthworks Foundation below.
Talented, Kind, and Empowering: Terése Wunderlich Shares Her Range of Talents to Better the Lives of Others
A young Mayan woman, no more than five feet tall, stands timidly in front of Terése Wunderlich, women’s self defense instructor, and Danny Martinez, the class’s volunteer “bad guy”— or male test dummy. “Ready?” Terése asks her. As the group’s first female volunteer, the woman is understandably nervous. She nods slowly. “You can do it!” Terése tells her, brightening the room with her welcoming smile. The woman grabs Danny by the arm and flips him over her right shoulder onto a mattress on the floor. “You did great!” Terése yells, embracing the woman as if she were a childhood friend. The twenty-plus women seated around the teacher and student laugh and clap excitedly as the young woman—standing a tad bit taller now—walks back to her seat to watch the remainder of the class.
“Terése es una persona de gran apoyo que ayuda con creer en uno mismo (Terése is a person of great support who helps [one] believe in oneself),” explains Eva Carrillo, a Guatemalan native who has worked with Global Healthworks Foundation (GHF) and known Terése for more than two years. “Durante mi primera clase de defensa personal, yo no confiaba en mi misma. Pero Terése me dijo que sí, que yo podía hacerlo, y que tengo una fuerza poderosa. ¡Y lo hice! (During my first self-defense class, I didn’t have confidence in myself. But Terése told me that I could do it, and that I have a powerful strength. And I did it!)”
Teaching self-defense—and empowering her female students—are just two of Terése’s many talents.
Teaching self-defense—and empowering her female students—are just two of Terése’s many talents. A New York-based wholistic health consultant, Terése is a licensed massage therapist with a background in Amma Therapy—a type of specialized massage rooted in oriental medicine— who also specializes in the treatment of trauma-related wounds and conditions. Though her primary role during the first jornada in 2012 was to teach and perform massage, Terése noticed very early on that the team needed to “do something more” for the women in Quiché. “Knowing the history about violence against women in Guatemala, I thought of a female self-defense class,” she says. “We’ve been doing it ever since.”
Terese is exceptionally skilled in treating and teaching children and the elderly.
In addition to working directly with women, Terése also practices and teaches various forms of fitness including yoga and Tai Chi, and is exceptionally skilled in treating and teaching children and the elderly. “When Terése works with the elderly, their faces instantly light up,” says Julie Stern, an acupuncturist who has volunteered with Terése on medical mission trips six times. “Her positive energy really makes the old folks open up and have fun. I don't think I’ve ever known anyone else who’s that good with the elderly.” Part of Terése’s skill in working with older people lies in her ability to educate them about the importance of movement and self-care. “Many people, especially the seniors,” she says, “have conditions that can be alleviated with simple things like exercise. So we developed a special set of movement exercises that help the conditions we commonly see in Quiché, and now include them as an activity before treatment as a way to start patients’ healing process.”
The yoga classes have been so successful that they have also been incorporated into GHF’s weekly mobile clinics. In addition to participating in the classes themselves, local health promoters and staff receive yoga and movement training and take their knowledge back to their home communities where they often lead their own exercise circles. “Gracias a Terése (Thanks to Terése),” Eva says, “yo puedo dirigir una clase de yoga y dar masajes. (I can lead a yoga class and give massages.) He aprendido mucho de Ella. Para mí, es una persona muy fuerte—no sólo físicamente, pero emocionalmente también. (I have learned a lot from her. To me, she is a very strong person—not just physically, but also emotionally.)”
It is because of that emotional strength, Julie says, as well as her intuition and natural ability to care for others, that makes Terése such a successful clinician. “She’s just so compassionate. She really feels for the folks we’re working with. When she puts her hands on someone, she can tell what’s going on pretty quickly. Even though there’s a language barrier, she’s able to treat on an intuitive level, which is pretty remarkable.”
And she’s able to treat on a level that’s effective. During the team’s October 2014 visit, a middle-aged man arrived at the jornada complaining of chronic headaches. “I remember him well,” Terése recalls. “He had recently had surgery for a brain tumor. But, even though he was in pain, he was really attentive in yoga. After the class, the acupuncturist asked if he had a headache at that very moment, while he was on the treatment table. He said no; the yoga class helped him get rid of it completely. Just twenty minutes of yoga did that! Isn’t that great? That’s why we do this—why we keep coming back for the jornadas. It’s for people like him.”
As Terése tells this story, it is obvious that her twice yearly trips to Guatemala are more than just part of her annual routine or a favor to her brother, Dan Wunderlich, GHF Founder and Executive Director. They are part of who she is as a health professional and person. Simultaneously tough, yet gentle—energetic, yet calm—Terése shares her array of talents in a way that provides balance and consistency to the jornada team. Whether she’s teaching self-defense to women, practicing yoga with the elderly, or giving belly massages to children, her generous and fun-loving heart brings laughter and joy to both patients and fellow volunteers alike.