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Wuqu' Kawoq - Maya Health Alliance

Rating: 5 stars   70 reviews 5,213

Nonprofit Issues:

Health, Human Services


PO Box 91 % Russell Rohloff Bethel VT 05032 USA


The NGO Wuqu’ Kawoq is committed to facilitating excellence and linguistic competence in medical care delivery in the indigenous highlands of Guatemala. There are currently few medical programs in Guatemala that provide care or educational in indigenous Mayan languages. We believe that the provision of first language services is the first step toward excellent care. We cultivate partnerships and fund targeted projects at the intersection of indigenous language rights, literacy, and the provision of medical care. Such projects include: primary care systems development, support for indigenous community health workers, dissemination of written medical resources in indigenous Mayan languages, and literacy and continuing-education training for community health practioners.


We have especially developed expertise in the areas of child malnutrition treatment and prevention, maternal-child health programs, diabetes and chronic disease management,

Target demographics:

Kaqchikel and K'ichee' speaking indigenous communities in Guatemala.

Direct beneficiaries per year:


Geographic areas served:



Child Nutrition Clean Water Diabetes Language Revitalization Rural Health Services Women's Health Prenatal Care Publishing

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Reviews for Wuqu' Kawoq - Maya Health Alliance

Rating: 5 stars   Featured Review

I am a repeat donor to Wuqu' Kawoq, and I could not be happier with the organization. Over the past few years I have seen first-hand how effective their programs are. Unlike some other Guatemalan NGOs, Wuqu' Kawoq is widely respected in the communities they serve, and for good reason: they offer high quality medical services in a linguistically and culturally responsible way.

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Rating: 5 stars  

I am a pediatrician from San Francisco that spent 7 weeks with WK this summer--two weeks studying Kaqchikel and 5 weeks working with their malnutrition and complex pediatric patient care coordination. I have never been more impressed with an organization--especially the dedication, skill, and diversity of their staff. WK is carrying out some of the most innovative, culturally progressive, and comprehensive healthcare outreach that I believe exists in global health today.

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Rating: 5 stars  

As you can see with all the other glowing reviews, WK does terrific medical and public health work in some of the neediest areas of Guatemala by placing a high value on linguistic competence and respect for the patients they serve. These reviews also show one of their other great strengths-- building a coalition of smart people who care deeply about providing quality care to poor, indigenous, and marginalized Guatemalans. The staff, volunteers, and interns work tirelessly at tasks that can seem Sisyphean in this context, whether that be reversing the effects of chronic malnutrition, managing complex diabetes, or accompanying cancer patients through a sea of red tape. And they're able to achieve amazing results. I am constantly impressed and inspired by WK's work and plan to continue to support them forever.

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Rating: 5 stars  

I am continually humbled and inspired by the work of Wuqu' Kawoq, an organization that places high value on respect and compassion for everyone involved. They speak the language of their patients and they treat them as humans who deserve the best care.

I had the pleasure of interning with WK for close to a year, and during my experience, there was always something new that impressed me, whether it was the amazing dedication each staff member exhibited in their mission to providing the best health care to their communities, or the gratitude and sincerity each patient demonstrated for the concept of care - a concept that is so simple, yet is often more of a privilege than it is a priority.

I watched as a staff member would get up at 4 AM so that she could help her patients arrive at the public hospital in Guatemala City for complicated surgeries, waiting with them in the lobby, and accompanying them as she could, so that she could act as a mediator and translator between the patients and the doctors, whom often don't speak the same language.

I watched as another staff member would visit her patients in their homes to check up on them, to educate them, and overall to just care for them as human beings. I watched as she spent time understanding the needs of her patients, often spending hours at a time with each one. I walked with her for an hour to get from one house visit to the next, in a rural community where people have to walk two hours just to reach the nearest grocery store.

I listened as patients would tell me the difficulties they have navigating their own health care system, the ways in which they face discrimination, and their simple wishes to be able to live happy and healthy. Often, these patients are indigenous and come from rural communities, where they are not able to access health care resources easily. More than that, they are not able to access these resources in their own native language. They feel uncared for and unheard in their own country. The sad matter of fact is that the word "indigenous" could be the difference between receiving health care and not.

On behalf of the patients, I'd like to say thank you to WK. Thank you for caring for them, and thank you for making their voices heard. There aren't enough people in the world who understand how important that really is.

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Rating: 5 stars  

As an intern with Wuqu' Kawoq over the past few weeks, I am left most impressed by the level of dedication and compassion that the team members have for their patients. With high expectations for every role, whether someone was responsible for leading group classes, providing services for patients, or following up with patient home visits, I saw competence in both the services provided, as well as the approach that they were done. At the same time, this organization establishes relationships with other organizations and community leaders in every place they put their roots. As a medical student, I have learned so much on how to not allow yourself to compromise on the quality of services provided in a low-resource area. Neither heart nor skills were sacrificed.

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Rating: 5 stars  

I have served on the board for two years and am deeply impressed by how Wuqu Kawoq has clearly identified its mission, and delivers help that targets fundamental causes of health problems for the communities it serves. Donations are incredibly well used by this group, with its low overhead and smart approach to building healthier communities.

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Rating: 5 stars  

1 person found this review helpful

I interned with Wuqu' Kawoq over the summer and had a fantastic experience. From start to finish, Wuqu' Kawoq was extremely organized and every single staff member touched my heart. They are an extremely dedicated, compassionate group of people. I admire the work that they do in Guatemala and would recommend this organization to anyone.

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Rating: 5 stars  

I have been a Board member for Wuqu'Kawoq for several years and wish to say how incredibly and continually impressed I am with this organization, its leadership, and the work it does. There are literally thousands of NGOs in Guatemala, many of them focusing on health, but only a small handful address important health issues in ways that are sustainable and sensitive to the culture and language of the people they serve. Wuqu'Kawoq is one of these. It take anthropology and linguistics as serious as it does medicine. Let me give you just one example. One big problem in rural Guatemala is diabetes. A bigger problem than access to meds, however, is education: most people do not really understand the disease, what it is or how medication and diet can help them combat its effects. These things can be explained in Spanish, sure, but most rural Guatemalans do not speak Spanish, they speak a Mayan language. Wuqu'Kawoq staff speak these languages; moreover, to address the problem, they consulted with local Mayan linguists. In the end, they actually created a new word for 'diabetes' in the Kaqchikel language to replace the Spanish borrowing that was in use. The word they used translates directly to 'sweet blood.' This word has now allowed them to explain clearly to diabetics what is wrong with them (they have 'sweet blood') and how to make their blood 'less sweet!' People who have had the disease for years are finally understanding it! And that is allowing them to address their own illness! There are dozens of other examples of WK's amazing and unique effectiveness in addressing such issues (including many women's health issues, child malnutrition, complex surgical procedures, etc.). It is why I have given thousands of dollars and hundreds of hours of my time over the years to this organization and will continue to do so as long as I am able.

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Rating: 5 stars  

I am a current research intern with Wuqu' Kawoq in Tecpan, Guatemala where I am completing my thesis research. The longer I work for WK, the more proud I become of this organization. In fact, I am always so glad when someone asks me about WK because it gives me the opportunity to share about their wonderful work, dedication to ethical practices, and heart to reach those who often slip through the cracks.

Reasons why I am impressed with WK:

1. Dedication to understanding the communities in which we work: Interns are asked to study history, literature, and a Mayan language. In my experience, this context has allowed me to understand the why the communities face the problems that they face and by learning Kaqchikel, I have shown the community that I am here to learn, not to bulldoze my way into the community. We also are able to communicate with patients who may speak "trade Spanish" but may not be able to communicate about a complex health issue. As I have talked with other NGOs in Guatemala, I have learned that this type of in-depth preparation is rare and I have seen that it limits the effectiveness of their intervention programs.

2. Exceptional staff: I am proud that the vast majority of WK staff are Guatemalans who speak indigenous languages and that all staff members are exceptional teachers and team-players. I have been warmly welcomed into the WK family where I continue to learn every day from my co-workers. My experience with WK has allowed me to be independent, but also well supported by the staff.

3. Collaboration with communities and other NGOs: WK actively engages community leaders and women's groups as well as seeks partnerships with other NGOs so that we can be the most effective as possible and not duplicate services. In a country with over 15,000 NGOs (and unfortunately many are poor managed), WK takes the most challenging cases that other NGOs are not equipped to provide services.

I am thrilled that I was referred to WK by a professor and I plan to continue to work with WK.

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Rating: 5 stars  

I am a family physician practicing in rural Vermont. After 30 plus years, I wanted to give my time to a third world country that needed help. My wife, who is a neonatal resuscitation instructor as part of her job as an Obstetrical nurse, accompanied me for a week with Peter Rohloff, MD, PhD and his fabulous team in Guatemala. We worked hard giving instruction to the midwives and seeing patients in Diabetic, Pediatric and general Medical care clinics. After the week was over and we had a chance to breath, we both could not believe how wonderful Wuqu Kawoq is with it's group of caring and dedicated professionals. What separated them from many NGO's is continuity. I was warned that some NGO's will just see patients and leave for 6 months. Wuqu Kawoq had the organization on the ground to be there on a daily basis for the folks that used them for their medical care. In addition, they were involved with nutrition and clean water. The Noble peace prizes were just announced and the two recipients deserved it. But, I would not be surprised if Wuqu Kawoq gets it some day.

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