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Timmy Global Health: Medical Service Trip to Ecuador
Timmy Global Health is a nonprofit organization dedicated to expanding access to healthcare and addressing global healthcare challenges. As members of the ISU chapter, Honors students have the opportunity to enroll in GH 301: Global Healthcare Challenges to learn about about healthcare disparities in developing countries and participate in a medical service trip to Ecuador.
Alternative Winter Break 2020: Guatemala
Looking out the plane window, cascading, vibrant mountains covered in brilliant green forestry rose above the white, animated clouds. The sight was breath taking and offered the grandest welcome I have ever received. The greatest part, the adventure was just beginning. We were greeted at the airport with typical Guatemalan hospitality, “Buenos Tardes! Bienviendo a Guatemala!” Which translates to good afternoon and welcome to Guatemala! The 12 of us, 10 Honors students and 2 Honors alumni, were then shuffled into a minivan and whisked up the crowded city roads that would eventually lead to San Miguel Escobar, a small town that rests an hour outside of Guatemala City.
San Miguel Escobar is a small farming community located within the valley of multiple mountains and volcanoes. Not only is San Miguel Escobar home to some of the greatest views, but also the location of De La Gente, the nonprofit we worked with for the week. De La Gente, which translate to “From the People,” works with a cooperative of coffee farmers and offers “opportunity in every bean.” They ensure the fair trading of coffee amongst the farming community, offer financial resources and global shipment of product, as well as the opportunity to educate the outside world of what it takes to go from bean to cup. Our first opportunity was to experience just that!
On our first day of our 8 day adventure, we started off our morning in a local farmer’s coffee field picking coffee as farmers do every day in Guatemala. A typical day of the farmer starts between 4 and 6am and ends at 3pm with a small break for lunch. By the end of this day, a typical farmer can pick 100 plus pounds of beans. We started much later than the typical farmer, and we did not exactly reach the quota. We were given a basket that the farmers generally use to hold the picked beans. In a half hour, farmers usually fill their basket to the top. Most of our baskets were not even half filled, but collectively we filled one basket and were able to process it just like the farmers. Picking the beans was followed by placing them in a processor to pull the beans from the “cherry” casing. The beans then were placed on a drying bed and would be dried for about 3 weeks. We then had the opportunity to grind, brew, and taste coffee along with the farmers.
The rest of the week we would have the opportunity to work side by side with farmers to work on projects that would benefit their coffee production. We primarily worked with the president of the coffee cooperative, Timo, and under his direction we were able to build a rainwater collection tank. The tank we built out of cinderblock and cement will benefit multiple farmers in the area by allowing them to water their coffee crops without having to haul gallons of water up the steep volcano where their farms are located. Farmers typically walk up to two hours to arrive at their farms, often times carrying their crops down the hill after their work day is over. During our time working with Timo on the volcano, it was not uncommon to see farmers tracking back down the rough terrain with their crops loaded on their back. Seeing that we were on a time crunch, we got to take a safari-type truck ride up the one lane dirt path to reach our worksite.
Our rainwater collection tank took about 2 days to complete, and the following day we built 10 drying beds for a farmer in the cooperative. Again under the direction of Timo, we were able to build what the farmer would use to dry his coffee beans out of 4 by 4 boards, black fabric, and tubing. With the new drying beds, the farmer would no longer be required to dry his coffee beans on his roof. The service we were able to complete while we were there would not have been possible without the people of the coffee community. De La Gente ensures that people who dedicate their time to service with their farmers are not working for them, but with them. It was ensured that a sense of community and team support would be implemented in order to make all parties feel valued. Hence, the service we completed was more geared towards learning the ways of the life of the farmer in order to gain a higher respect for the work that goes into a single cup of coffee.
While our trip was overflowing with coffee, we also had the opportunity to explore and better come to embrace the beautiful country of Guatemala. We were able to tour the historical city of Antigua, visit the ancient Mayan ceremonial grounds, and spend a sunny afternoon at Lake Atitlan, a beautiful, blue lake surrounded by volcanoes. The major gem of Guatemala that we were able to encounter, however, had to be the numerous community members that offered us places at their tables. Every night we were welcomed into the home of a farmer for a delicious, traditional Guatemalan dinner. We were able to hear the stories of farmers, meet their families, and feel as if we were part of their community. From attempting to make tortillas, to trying to navigate the language barrier and trying new foods, each person we encountered simply encouraged us to enjoy their beautiful country and culture much as they did. It was odd to be over 2,000 miles away and yet feel so at home.
Working with De La Gente in Guatemala offered so many new experiences, as well as new perspective on what it means to be a conscious consumer. Right before we left for our flight, our tour guide Ronald left us with inspiring words on how we first have to bring change to ourselves before we can bring change to the world. He said that we are the present and to bring change, we need to be aware of the choices we make and, more importantly, how our decisions impact others. Being a conscious consumer is the first step to being aware of the impact that we are leaving. Buying goods and services fair trade, understanding where your products are coming from, and what the companies you are purchasing from are supporting will not only impact you, but will even impact the many new friends I made in Guatemala. Being a conscious consumer might mean spending a few extra dollars, but what you will be supporting cannot be limited to a monetary value. Through being aware of our decisions, we can bring change. This change can begin with the simple act of buying a fair trade cup of coffee because I know some amazing farmers who would thank you.
-Jenna Ford, English Teaching major
Study Abroad Spotlight: Alethia Marrero
"Alethia Marrero studied abroad in India and fell in love with their culture and all that it taught her about globalization and social justice. This opportunity opened her eyes to seeing the connection between business, politics, social justice and technology. Indiana State is where she feels she became an intellectual and is grateful for the experience and knowledge she gained in her four years at State." READ MORE
Greg Bierly, Dean
Pickerl Hall 110
Indiana State University
8:00 AM - 4:30 PM