ECHOcommunity Conversations

Arrival on Location in Guatemala

I am writing you from the town of Tecpan in Chimaltengango, Guatemala. I am happy to share that I have been received with hospitality and warmth by my host family and colleagues at Maya Health Alliance / Wuqu’ Kawoq. The warmth of my new community is in sharp contrast with the climate, however, as we are about 6,500 feet above sea level. Once I put on my coat in the morning I don’t take it off again until I crawl into bed!

As you may remember, I will be here in Guatemala for six months as part of my post internship field experience with ECHO ( I spent the past year living and working at ECHO’s Global Farm as the Community Garden Intern, gaining experience and training in small scale tropical agriculture and community development. Now that my internship in Florida has ended, I have extended my work with ECHO to join the Regional Impact Team for Latin America and the Caribbean in their collaboration with a partner organization, Maya Health Alliance / Wuqu’ Kawoq ( MHA is a public health organization that seeks to eliminate barriers to high quality health care among indigenous Maya people in predominantly Kaqchikel speaking communities. One of their areas of work is in nutrition, as Guatemala has the highest rate of chronic malnutrition in Latin America the fourth highest in the world. MHA’s nutrition program is beginning a new home gardens initiative in hope that home gardens and agricultural training will increase families’ diet diversity and meal frequency to ultimately improve their overall nutrition. I am working jointly with ECHO and MHA to collaborate on this project and the study that will monitor and evaluate its results. This is exciting work, and I am looking forward to updating you about what we learn in the next few months!

I will leave you with a few photos of our trip to my host family’s land to harvest beans.

Again, I thank you! Gracias! And in Kaqchikel, Matyox!


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From what I have read, Maya Health Alliance appears to be an excellent example of a multi-disciplinary organization engaged in community development. I assume that you will be working alongside engineers, nurses, school teachers and anthropologists. That cross-disciplinary team approach will help ensure that your gardening initiative makes sense to the local Mayan communities where you serve. You will have the opportunity to see firsthand the ways that indigenous Mayan communities function, and I am looking forward to hearing of your successes, what you are learning about Mayan culture and how that shapes your approach to nutrition and gardening, and of course gardening failures, all of which are part and parcel of the community development learning process. I hope you will have time to focus on friendship building, since that is sure to be one of the keys to success.
J. Matthews