Nutritional Classes Begin with the Arrival of AMA’s New Health Team

Since August 2012 AMA’s Health Team has begun to implement a number of integrated health projects: health classes, cataloguing Mayan medicinal practices, bolstering organizational infrastructure, and promoting “traditional” medicine. The aim behind the projects is to improve communities’ health by facilitating basic health education with a focus on children’s, women’s and maternal health. AMA’s Health Program is also incorporated into HSP’s Partners In Service Program which involves a reforestation project as well as a program for building “estufas mejoradas.” These are fuel-efficient, improved stoves that take the place of open-fire cooking, channeling smoke away from the cooking areas with the objective of decreasing upper respiratory infections.  They also decrease the amount of time needed to cook meals, giving women the opportunity to leave the kitchen during the day and participate in AMA-related activities.

The health classes began in September with the arrival of Catarina, AMA’s new Community Health Organizer. They are held in ten communities outside of Quetzaltenango, and cover a variety of themes with an emphasis on women’s and children’s health.  The first theme, “The Human Body,” was chosen unanimously as a starting point by each group. One reason for this was a question asked in the classes’ introduction: “Can you put your hand over your heart?”  Many of them could not, and decided that basic knowledge such as this was important to learn before focusing on more complex topics.

The “Human Body” unit included classes on the, circulatory, digestive, excretory and reproductive systems. Small group learning activities and questions about what had just been presented were incorporated into each class to help women feel comfortable and to encourage active participation. When the unit was over, a number of the women expressed gratitude: “Thank you for helping us know what makes up our bodies,” said one. “We know that we are born and develop and change but we often do not know what is inside of us.  It gives me great pleasure to understand what is inside of me and how I use it.”

AMA’s Health Team is also working hard to strengthen organizational infrastructure by applying the “milpa” agricultural system used throughout Guatemala. In this system, many different types of crops are planted near each other and because of this form interdependent, beneficial relationships. While “milpa” literally translates as “field,” the concept has also been applied to sociocultural relationships for many years.  Within AMA, we are using the milpa system to maximize our programs’ effectiveness and complimentarily to each other. On a larger scale, AMA works to encourage collaboration between health actors in the Quetzaltenango area such as the Red Cross of Guatemala to ensure the long-term continued improvement of health care in Guatemala.

AMA’s Health Team looks forward to continuing its work in the coming months, combining western and traditional Mayan health principles to help women, their families and their communities address regular health issues.

Written by Christa Doerwaldt. Christa has been interning with HSP as part of AMA’s Sustainable Health Team since August of 2012. To find out more about the health programming or interning opportunities facilitated by HSP please contact