Our Community Health Program was initially launched in 1997 to support our artisans with mobile clinics focusing on preventative healthcare. Over the years, the Program shifted focus to center on the preservation and promotion of traditional Maya medicine and knowledge, and the use of medicinal plants to treat common illnesses.
Traditional medicine is an important facet of Maya culture. In rural indigenous communities, traditional medicine is more accessible, affordable, and recommended by trusted and respected Ajq’omanela’, or Maya healers. However, while laws and policies exist to recognize, value, and support the right to incorporate Maya medicine into the public health system, Maya healers are often excluded from the public sphere. Furthermore, with the increase in availability of Western medicine, many people are turning away from the use of medicinal plants and traditional Maya medicine, and instead using Western methods, often improperly, with devastating results.
Inclusion of traditional Maya medicine in Guatemala's public healthcare system would both increase access for non-indigenous Guatemalans and also allow for the integration of Maya and Western medicine to adequately meet the health needs of Guatemala’s population as a whole. While traditional Maya medicine has the strong potential to improve the country’s health standards—this potential isn’t being realized.
Our Community Health Program addresses the exclusion of traditional Maya medicine from the indigenous population by promoting the visibility of our collaborating partner, the Atitlan Ajq’omanela’ Association, a group of Maya healers from the Lake Atitlán region of Guatemala. We first began working with the Ajq’omanela’ in 2009—providing workshops and clinics to local communities. We supported the network in 2012 with achieving legal status in Guatemala as a formal Association. In 2013, the Ajq’omanela’ Richin Tz’olojya was officially founded, promoting indigenous Maya medicine and access to knowledge about ancestral practices.
Through our partnership, we focus on revitalizing traditional Maya knowledge and the use of medicinal plants for preventative and curative health. By restoring respect for the importance of these traditional Maya practices, we work to preserve and promote Maya culture as a means of economic development for the indigenous communities we support.
In collaboration with the Association, we implement:
- Workshops in schools for youth about medicinal plants & Maya cosmovision
- Day clinics attended by traditional healers in community healthcare centers
- Participation in national conferences
- Workshops on uses of medicinal plants, permaculture, and organic composting
- Establishment of community gardens
- Distribution of low-cost medicinal plants and plant-based products
- Educational tours of our medicinal plant garden for groups of artisan women and students
Maya Traditions Foundation prioritizes the importance of preserving our culture—we grow medicinal plants in the garden and we distribute tinctures, salves, teas, and herbs to the communities, we work to preserve the wisdom of our ancestors.
The work of the midwife is essential in our communities. We leverage our natural resources, including medicinal plants, and recognize the values that our ancestors have passed on to us. We work with the gift that our creator has given us. We are the first people to treat women in our community.