We’re incredibly excited to be planning our next GROW trip !!! Today we (the new GROW team!) met for the second time to discuss how we can be most effective during our 4 week journey. We brainstormed questions and categorized them into categories such as ‘what can we learn from last year’s GROW team’, ‘what can we learn through pre-trip Skype calls’ and ‘what we must learn when we’re in Comitancillo’. This way we can be most prepared and avoid spending valuable onsite time learning things that we could have learned prior to the trip. We also started looking into plane tickets and planning exact dates! More to come; saludos!

For now, get to know our 2015 team:

Lexie Burton ’17 [GROW Coordinator]

1453242_321456231382704_6446980274313598960_nLexie is a sophomore from the San Francisco Bay Area, double majoring in Biology & Society and English. She is interested in human thought both from the scientific perspective and from the perspective of literature, but she is unsure of future plans. She has been involved in GlobeMed at Cornell since the first semester of her freshman year and became the GROW Internship Coordinator at the start of her sophomore year. She is very excited to visit Comitancillo and learn more about their culture and foster the relationship between AMMID and GlobeMed at Cornell; furthermore, she is excited to expand her travel experience, and to learn about cross-cultural communication and education. In her spare time, Alexandra enjoys spending time with her friends, running, rock climbing, hiking, reading, and listening to music.

Diana Litsas ’17

unnamed-2Diana is a sophomore who thoroughly enjoys her major in Human Biology, Health and Society, as it lets her study health from both scientific and social perspectives. After participating in an eye-opening trip to Rosarita, Mexico for a house-building project, she was instantly attracted to GlobeMed and the GROW internship’s model of partnership and sustainability. GlobeMed at Cornell is everything she hoped it would be and more, with club members offering inspiring insight at meetings, and showing incredible enthusiasm at fundraisers. She can’t wait to work with AMMID and contribute to the full cycle of GlobeMed, from raising awareness and funds on campus, and turning those efforts to improvements in the lives of the the San Marcos community. In addition to the water filtration project, Diana looks forward to being immersed in the Maya-Mam culture, particularly the aspects that involve food and dancing, as those are two of her favorite things.

Jessica Robinson ’16
Processed with VSCOcam with f2 presetJessica is a junior from Charlotte, North Carolina, and has been active with GlobeMed at Cornell since 2013, serving as a small group leader for weekly ghU sessions. Her goals for the GROW trip include fostering a closer connection with the youth of San Marcos so as to ensure that those of all ages may participate in our partnership with the community if they would like. She would also be thrilled to learn some Spanish. While at Cornell, she is trying to chart a course for future acceptance to a Physician’s Assistant program through the Human Biology, Health & Society major with minors in Health Policy and French. When she isn’t binge-watching Mad Men or trying to finish her goodread’s 2015 list in her spare time, she loves racking up frequent flyer miles, eventing (equestrian sport), and planning the next adventure.

Olivia Winokur ’15
1908858_10152158562684536_1368564335_oOlivia, a senior from Southern California, has been involved with GlobeMed at Cornell since 2011 and has since held various positions such as Director of Communications and External Co-President. Although she is graduating in May, Olivia wants to make sure that GlobeMed at Cornell and AMMID maintain a close relationship in order to be most effective in narrowing the gap in global health inequities for the Maya-Mam in San Marcos. Her major goals for the GROW trip include documenting the partnership in the form of a video and surveying in order to analyze the effectiveness of the existing water filtration project and potential future projects. At Cornell, Olivia studies the intersection of the environment and human health through a self-designed Interdisciplinary Studies major. After Cornell and post-GROW Olivia hopes to attend graduate school to study disease ecology, specifically focusing on pathogen/human or pathogen/arthropod immunological interactions. In her free time, Olivia enjoys traveling, backpacking, skiing, reading and watching Jeopardy.



By Lea Kassa

One thing I’ve noticed after living in Comitancillo, Guatemala for two weeks is how people greet each other. There are three basic greetings, according to the time of day: “Buenos dias” for morning, “Buenas tardes” for afternoon, and “Buenas noches” for evening. Saying these greetings to people you personally know isn’t out of the ordinary for me – I would expect to greet people that I’m familiar with. And these greetings are used for familiar people, but what has intrigued me is that these greetings are also used for people you’ve never met before, people with whom your only connection is that you happened to pass by them on the street.

At first, I was taken aback when random people on the street greeted me and my coworkers with a friendly smile and a few words of acknowledgement. This is a completely unfamiliar concept to me – although my parents are immigrants from Ethiopia, I’ve grown up in Los Angeles for my entire life, and where I’m from, people would probably think you’re crazy if you greeted someone you didn’t know. Maybe it’s the bustle of a larger-than-life city like Los Angeles that numbs its inhabitants from connecting with people around them, or maybe that’s just the American way of getting by. I’m  not quite sure. I do know that I experience the same lack of connection to unfamiliar people around me at Cornell – no one really ever greets each other unless they already know them. There is a similar high concentration of people in Cornell as there is back home in Los Angeles, so maybe that plays some part in it. All I know is that, because of my past experiences, greeting and being greeted by unfamiliar people was a shock to me. Not in a bad way, though – in fact, I think this is how things should be. I think people should be able to feel a connection to those in their community regardless of whether or not they personally know them. A simple greeting like “Buenos dias” from so many different people out on the streets of Comitancillo has gone a long way to making me feel comfortable in this city, and making me feel like people acknowledge my existence, if not enjoy it. It’s wonderful that people here have such a strong sense of community that they greet strangers, regardless of whether or not they are foreigners like myself.

I’m sure people from countries other than the United States, or even people from smaller communities within the states, would have a different reaction to these greetings than myself. I’m sure it’s more normal to greet random people in places other than where I’ve grown up and where I now study. This particular experience wouldn’t affect people who are used to this sort of interaction as much as it has affected me. But for me, someone who has never experienced anything like that before, it was a welcome surprise and a gentle awakening.

by Rie Seu

The first community I visited in Comitancillo, San Marcos, Guatemala was called San Jose de La Frontera. From where I live in Los Bujes, it was about an hour and a half bus ride. We went on a large bus with about 60 or more teachers heading towards different schools to teach. It was a packed and sweltering ride.

When we arrived, I was awed by the beautiful view and expansive land. Here, people have a lot of land to grow crops and raise livestock, unlike where I am staying (which is closer to the center of the town).

Osbely, one of the organization AMMID’s workers, explained that people get water from a freshwater source farther down the hill. I was surprised to see that the small body of water was contaminated and dirtied by trash, such as pieces of plastic, paper and so on.

It was here that I learned that recycling or throwing out trash in a garbage bin was a foreign concept to the people of Comitancillo. Here (and perhaps in other rural areas of GUatemala), people throw out trash wherever they wished, for example in the bushes, farmland, down the hill, in rivers, etc. I was astounded that they didn’t think about the consequences of their actions and the effect it had on the nature and their town.

Osbely mentioned that although AMMID has workshops to inform the children to not litter, the action is already ingrained in their minds and the culture. Therefore, it continues to be a problem that I ponder about. I try to think about another method to stop this action.

The weekend after the visit to San Jose, my group of volunteers and I decided to hike to La Gruta, a river and waterfall down the mountain where I live. I was devastated to see the dump where everyone throws out their trash. A part of the hill was covered with garbage, ranging from clothes to cans to pet bottles to scraps of food.

As a student who strongly believes in the importance of prevention, I questioned whether installing water filters should be prioritized over cleaning all the trash. Osbely taught me that the primary reason that the water is contaminated is trash. How can the issue of contaminated water be solved if people continue to dirty the water?

This problem is extremely overwhelming, in such an underdeveloped country and town. Recycling and garbage collection is more of a governmental project. It is not for a small organization like AMMID with only twelve employees. There needs to be a governmental sector that is responsible for garbage collection and separation for recycling.

Perhaps this topic is so important to me, as I come from a culture that values cleanliness and recycling. In Japan, people carry around their own trash, until they find a trash can. They have strict recycling regulations and are efficient in how it is done. Children are taught from elementary school and onwards on the concept of recycling and environmental science.

The first method to solve this problem is to address AMMID on how big the problem is. Together, perhaps we can brainstorm solutions. Students should learn about trash and what it does to the environment from a young age. It should not be a single workshop. Garbage boxes should be placed throughout the town to prevent littering. AMMID should inform the mayor about the problem and that he should take leadership in proactively solving it. This way, the problem of contaminated water and gastrointestinal diseases can be solved from the core.

Although I do understand the importance of proper elimination of trash and recycling, I must learn more about how it is done successfully in other countries. It is important to do this prior to enforcing this concept and pressing issue. I also have to look into what the most effective way of teaching is. Is it through schools, families, workshops or presentations? How can I turn my ideas into action in the most effective and efficient method?

The girls have arrived safely in Comitancillo!

We quickly caught up with Michelle regarding AMMID and the internship

What part of your GROW internship are you most looking forward to?
I’m looking forward to immersing myself into a completely new and different culture. I can’t wait to share our knowledge and help the people of San Marcos, but also learn as much as possible from them and their way of life.

What’s your favorite aspect of AMMID?
My favorite aspect of AMMID is that it emphasizes the improvement of the health and nutrition of the communities in San Marcos.

What is one thing you hope to learn/accomplish on the trip?
I hope that during the trip our team can strengthen our relationship with our new organization and create a foundation for other Cornell students to build on GROW trips to Guatemala in the future.

Here are a few photos they sent along- we’re all so excited to hear ALL about it!

Hi! I’m Rie, a rising sophomore in Cornell University’s College of Arts and Sciences studying Biology and Society. I am one of this year’s GROW interns, and am super excited to visit Comitancillo, San Marcos, Guatemala this summer to find out more about AMMID’s community and needs.

GlobeMed has been more than an organization. It has become one of my deepest passions in my freshman year. I have dedicated my time to learning aspects of public health and medicine. Through GlobeMed, I am able to proactively improve health inequalities and communities through small steps and efforts. As a team, we work together to provide health care to those who need it the most. This organization has provided me the opportunity to connect with students not only at Cornell, but also around the country, through conferences and social media.

I decided to be a GROW intern, as I wanted to get more involved in the organization and find out toward what goals this partnership is aiming. So far, I know that AMMID is a community-encompassing and proactive organization that focuses on maintaining its Maya Mam culture through sustainable improvements in health, empowerment, agriculture, politics and economics. What I want to do is change these words into understanding. I want to create friendships with people in the community and immerse myself in the culture that we are trying to maintain and support. I want to communicate with them and understand what we can do to help them.

My main aims for this trip are to:

  1. Connect with the AMMID-community
  2. Discuss possible projects we can do at Cornell
  3. Discuss projects AMMID wants to do and how we can support it
  4. Understand the culture and the necessities of the community
  5. Immerse myself in the culture of Comitancillo

Continue to read our blog to find out about our travels and experiences 🙂

These four lovely ladies are off to AMMID in two weeks, get to know them before the trip!
Click on a team member’s name to view her short bio:
Jodie Smith ’16
Lea Kassa ’16
Michelle Valentin ’16
Rie Seu ’17

GlobeMed at Cornell is pleased to announce our inaugural GROW trip to our partner organization AMMID in Comitancillo, San Marcos, Guatemala!

What is GROW? The GrassRoots Onsite Work (GROW) internship program is crucial to the GlobeMed model. Every year, 3-5 students from each chapter intern on the ground for 3-8 weeks with their partner organization. The GROW internship is vital in order to learn more about each other, to understand the different cultures and how to overcome the barriers to make the greatest and most sustainable positive change through our projects. Our GROW team is headed to AMMID May 24th- June 21st! Safe travels, Jodie, Lea, Michelle, and Rie; we can’t wait to be updated during your trip and hear about it upon your return!

For more information about GlobeMed at Cornell, please visit our website.