Kate opens up about the biggest lesson she learned being here with us.
Leaving isn’t easy. It is saying “see you later” (not goodbye, because Guatemala and WK have captured my heart and I can’t leave forever) to all the friends I have made in work and in town. It is leaving the now-normal lack of routine that has kept my interest and captured my attention every day at work for the past year. But as hard as it is, I wouldn’t change a thing. I came down to explore global health, to get “on-the-ground” experience before I began down the career path of global medicine that I thought I wanted to pursue. And while I am still firmly fixed on that route, my experience has taught and shaped me so much that it doesn’t feel the same.
The biggest lesson I’ve learned? Coming down to work in Guatemala is a learning experience. That is one thing WK emphasizes and that I believe with my whole heart.
Our staff know more than I could ever hope to understand about the challenges at the core of global health, and the best ways to approach these, because they live them. No one is more an expert on the ways to navigate the national health care system and its flaws than Merida, who is in the capital every day with patients, doing just that. Our nutrition team members not only can teach mothers the best foods to nourish their young children, but also work with them to find solutions to the barriers that exist: poor water, food insecurity, lack of resources. And I’ve never met two nurses who better counsel patients on feasible lifestyle changes to manage diabetes than Sandy and Carol.
I am so grateful I came down as an “intern,” a student, because the staff and patients of WK have become the best teachers I have had in my life. Each day I learn more about Guatemala, about global issues, about high-quality health care. Each day I realize how much more I have gained from this experience than I could possibly give. Perhaps in some small way I was able to contribute and make the work of our team a little easier, a little better. That is my hope. But the hard fact is that the team of WK humbles me every day, with their passion, dedication, and knowledge. They have taught me, and formed and changed the way I look at global health, medicine, and the world. It is an experience that never in my dreams would I have expected to have.
I guess what I want to say is: coming in with open eyes, as a student first and foremost, was the best choice I could have made. I’m leaving with sadness, but also with a heart and mind full of what I had the incredible opportunity to learn in a year with WK.