Guatemalan Baby Shower and Service Project

Ten reasons to attend the Feb. 1 fundraiser event and provide support

A group of Regis students will travel to Guatemala Feb. 29 to March 8 to assist local healthcare workers and provide healthcare education in the town of Cobán. The project, led by Regis alumna Lauri Pramuk, M.D., and a team of healthcare providers, empowers Regis students to serve and learn from marginalized communities. 

The Spring Break trip, Regis’ first within a planned 5-to-10-year partnership, will allow 12 students in pre-healthcare areas of study to run a primary care clinic, rotate through triage and shadow physicians. The group also will provide eyeglasses to Cobán townspeople and a year’s worth of pharmacy supplies to a local clinic. 

A Guatemalan Baby Shower information session and fundraiser at 7:30 p.m., Saturday, Feb. 1, at the Regis Chapel will provide the Regis community with an opportunity to give supplies and monetary donations for the project. You may purchase needed items on Amazon by using the linked QR code, or you may donate directly here. Here are 10 reasons to attend.

1. The Guatemalan government does not recognize some socio-economic groups in Cobán, which means many do not have access to healthcare, education or legal rights.

Largely composed of indigenous Mayans, members of this group in Cobán are so low in the local caste system that they are essentially forgotten, Pramuk says. “Their kids couldn’t go to school, they couldn’t get health services. They were basically just cast aside.”

2. Some in Cobán — including single mothers — survive by scavenging and selling items from the town dump.

“Cobán is probably the most impoverished community that I’ve been in in Guatemala, and that’s saying a lot,” Pramuk says. “[Some] literally live in the dump.

3. The team’s goal is not to drop into Cobán as “saviors” but to create a long-term partnership aimed at self-sufficiency in healthcare.

“We call it Santa Claus medicine — [groups] just drop in and do a bunch of stuff and think they’re doing good. It’s that white savior mentality,” Pramuk says. “That’s not going to change anybody’s life in the long run. We focus mostly on prevention and education, and partnering long-term with the community until they can become self-sufficient. We’re really trying to build capacity within that community to be able to take care of themselves.”

4. Pramuk and her team have a track record of success with helping Guatemalans toward self-sufficiency in healthcare.

Years ago, Pramuk and her leadership team partnered with students from Xavier University in Cincinnati to become the first physicians to enter the Guatemalan community of Patanatic. After six years of a fruitful partnership, Pramuk said, there were leaders and health systems in place that helped Patanatic become virtually independent in meeting its healthcare needs. 

5. The team partners with an innovative Guatemalan company called Ecofiltro that provides low-cost and life-changing water filters to Cobán. 

“If you’re not drinking clean water, you’re not going to have health, especially in the pediatric population … [mothers] see how much of a difference [it makes], especially in their kids’ health, when the diarrhea goes away and stays away, and kids can actually eat and gain weight,” Pramuk says.

6. The Feb. 1 fundraiser will help the group provide the essentials that young mothers in Cobán desperately need. 

Many mothers — some raising multiple young children by themselves — don’t have any of the basic supplies provided in Regis’ baby kits, such as cloth diapers, Vitamin D drops, infant Tylenol and thermometers.

7. Giving Regis students this service opportunity in their early 20s is the best way to encourage lifelong habits of service. 

“There’s an African proverb [that says], ‘Bend the tree while it is young,’ Pramuk said. “I think that’s exactly why this trip needs to happen. When people are in their early 20s, their brain development is still in a way that if you have an experience like this, the whole rest of your life you’re going to want to have experiences like this. It’s really going to change the trajectory of your medical career."

8. The trip creates space for students to pray with patients and learn about faith traditions in Christianity, Islam, Judaism and more. 

Rabbi Abie Ingber, a celebrated faith leader in Cincinnati, will serve as the trip’s interfaith leader, and the group ends each day with a discussion that reflects the Jesuit examen. “Rabbi Abie understands that healing and faith can’t be separated,” Pramuk said. 

9. By bringing your old glasses to the Feb. 1 event, you can give sight to the (legally) blind. 

The team brings donated glasses for vision-impaired residents of Cobán, and Pramuk has witnessed life-changing moments when patients can see clearly for the first time. “These people live on the side of a mountain that’s very precarious, and if you can’t even see three feet in front of you, how is your life going to proceed with any kind of quality?” Pramuk said. 

10. This experience offers a way for Regis students to gain the perspective that can only come through intercultural connection. 

“We hear about Guatemala on our TV screens, through our news feeds, and at the border — all the Guatemalans coming [to the United States],” says Chris Pramuk, Lauri’s husband and Regis’ Chair of Ignatian Thought and Imagination. “But this trip gives students a glimpse of the reality behind that, on the other side.”

See photos of a previous trip to Cobán made by Pramuk and a team from Xavier University.