GRT in Guatemala

The first project GRT implemented in Guatemala was about traditional medicine

With regard to health, GRT has been working with traditional healers validating the positive practices and correcting those at risk, with particular attention to mothers and children's health.

The training provided to traditional health workers took place through the "search - action" tool, which provided qualitative data to learn about the traditional support system. The creation of traditional healers groups has been encouraged in a path of confrontation between the traditional healers themselves.

Over the course of the project seminars and conferences have been organised in order to inform the medical and paramedical staff on good traditional medicine practices and as a result a final document on the research has been drafted, highlighting the results of the research.  

Anyone wishing to better tackle the subject of traditional medicine in Guatemala can read "The illicit knowledge of miscegenation - Medical and nursing traditions among the Maya - K'iche ' of Guatemala" by Rosalba Piazza. This book , which was released in November 2006, was written by GRT project coordinator in Guatemala.

Concerning ethnic minorities, GRT carried out some participatory research with the local community and identified the main difficulties that needed to be addressed in order to promote the Community's development by respecting its culture. 

The project has identified those that were the basic needs by focusing on the three main themes proposed: health, understood as the integration of traditional medicine and Western one, education understood as the enhancement and growth of bilingualism and biculturalism in primary schools to ensure a serene cultural identity of children and communities and the production, understood as the realization of productive activities entirely chosen and carried out by women's groups, in order to promote the empowerment of indigenous women, highlighting their leading role in the productive and social development of the community. The project ended in 1996.



The beneficiaries of this project have been the members of the Maya K'Iche community, in Totonicapan.



The main result achieved by this project in the field of health has been the delivery of training to local doctors/nurses, in order for them to be able to recognise when the traditional medicine is not enough anymore and there is need for different treatments. About 70 local doctors have been trained. 


Concerning education instead, the group of 5 bilingual teachers of the project, together with the GRT linguist, have produced 3 reading exercise book in K'Iche, a monolingual dictionary and the recontruction of the numbering in K'Iche. Also, 7 new bilingual teachers have been trained through two 3-weeks seminars. 

With regard to the production sphere, five groups of women (about 20 women per group) have received training on general topics, such as women's rights and sexual and reproductive health, and on how to set up little project to empower themselves. To this end, the jam factory "Dona Flor" of the ladies group "Nueva Estrella" has considerably strenghtened its manufactoring organisation. 



mental health - traditional medicine


The incredible strenght of mentally ill people and their disconcerting fragility have made it possible for GRT to be involved in mental health projects to support these people and their families in South America and in the Horn of Africa, particularly in Somalia. 

With regard to traditional medicine instead, GRT aims at finding effective methods of support for a way of thinking and a therapeutic practice which are different from the Western one. 



According to the Maya way of thinking, which can still be found when talking about traditional medicine in Guatemala, human diseases can be distinguished in "natural", "supernatural", diseases caused by "Gods of the Earth" or diseases from the "lower world". The "curandero" is the person who takes care of these diseases and generally a person become a "curandero" after he had a particular dream and the more he dreams the more he become wise. 

In such a context, in 1988, GRT started to work in Guatemala, initially by carring out a research on traditional medicine funded by the European Union and implemented in a Maya K'Iche' community in Totonicapan and afterwards through the implementation of different projects concerning traditional medicine and ethnic minorities. 

The organisation has achieved important results also in the health sector and in the education one as well as in the local production through microcredit loans.