Juanito Ramírez is one of our favorite people in Quiché— he has been helping the GHF team with logistics and Spanish-K’iche’ Mayan interpretation since our first jornada (medical mission). He’s incredibly dependable, hard-working and his affable nature puts all people at ease, ensuring that our volunteer clinicians are able to provide the best treatment possible and patients are open to receiving it. Read all about his story with Global Healthworks Foundation below.
A Man of Few Words, But Lots of Heart, Juan “Juanito” Ramírez Dedicates Himself to Helping the People of Guatemala
The heat index climbs higher and higher as the sun beats down onthe black sand beaches of Monterrico, Guatemala, where Global Healthworks Foundation (GHF) staff and volunteers are enjoying a three-day retreat after an intensive week of treatments. Juan “Juanito” César Ramírez and his fellow Quiché residents—the Guatemalan-based team—yearn for the crisp mountain air of their home state. The coolness of the ocean and pool at the house at which the group is staying calls to them. The only problem: not everyone knows how to swim.
One of the more seasoned Guatemalan swimmers in the group, Juanito, offers to teach the others some swimming basics. He watches patiently as his friend Joel splashes around in the shallow end of the pool, offering words of encouragement in between Joel’s efforts to learn a freestyle stroke. “Un poco más despacio (A little slower),” Juanito says. “Toma tu tiempo. (Take your time).”
The gentle manner in which Juanito assists his friend is reminiscent of his work just a few days earlier during GHF’s biannual jornada (medical mission) in Santa Cruz del Quiché. “A mí me encanta ayudar a la gente de Guatemala (I really love to help the people of Guatemala),” he explains. “No tenía esa oportunidad en el pasado—la oportunidad de dar mi tiempo y ofrecer algo más a la gente. (I didn’t have this opportunity in the past—the opportunity to give my time and offer something more to people).”
He brings a sense of hope and joy to others, gently brightening the world around him.
Five years ago, Juanito, a native of Chicabracán, began working in Santa Cruz with GHF’s primary Guatemalan partner, the Centro de Paz Bárbara Ford. Starting out as a gardener, Juanito is now responsible for a variety of jobs and assignments, including assisting with logistics and Spanish-K’iche’ interpretation during GHF’s integrative health jornadas. “Juanito has been involved since our first jornada,” says Dan Wunderlich, GHF’s Founder and Executive Director. “It has been fun watching him grow as a contributor. He’s incredibly dependable and hard-working and completes his various tasks without ever complaining.”
In addition to interpreting and helping with logistics, Juanito assists with the team’s yoga classes throughout the jornada day. Though his primary responsibility is to translate Spanish instructions into K’iche Mayan, he’s learned some poses over the years and begun to appreciate yoga’s benefits. “El yoga es divertido (Yoga is fun),” he says. “Antes yo no sabía de estos tratamientos—ni de Reiki, ni de yoga, nada. Pero aprendí todo y a mi me gustó. Ayuda mucho con el estrés, y eso es muy importante para nuestra gente. (Before I didn’t know anything about these treatments—not of Reiki, not of yoga, nothing. But I learned everything and liked it. It helps a lot with stress, and that’s very important for our people.)”
Though a man of few words, Juanito’s affable nature puts all people—regardless of age or background—at ease, ensuring that volunteer clinicians are able to provide the best treatment possible and patients are open to receiving it. “Juanito is always smiling,” Dan says. “I especially love watching him assist the elderly community members. He treats them as if they were his own abuelos (grandparents). It’s beautiful to watch.”
It’s also beautiful to watch Juanito’s growth as both a staff member and person, says Luciano Laynez, Administrator for the Centro de Paz. “Ha avanzado mucho (He’s advanced a lot),” Luciano says. “Es muy responsable y muy comprometido a ayudar a los demás. Respresenta lo que estamos haciendo con el Centro y la fundación de Dan: enseñar y capacitar a los empleados y los voluntarios para que mejoren y ganen más experiencia. (He is very responsible and very committed to helping others. He represents what we are doing with the Center and Dan’s foundation: to teach and train employees and volunteers so that they improve and gain more experience.)”
In addition to gaining experience, working with the GHF and Centro teams, Juanito says, has inspired him to return to school and continue working to improve the lives of Guatemalans. “Sólo terminé el tercero básico (I only finished third grade),” he explains. “Pero recientemente empecé estudiando de nuevo. Quiero trabajar en una oficina como contador, pero también en una manera que ayudar a las personas. (But recently I began studying again. I want to work in an office as an accountant, but also in a way that helps people.)”
While Juanito has a few years to go before he can become an accountant, it’s clear that he’s already accomplishing his goal of helping others. Whether speaking to a patient during an acupuncture treatment, reciting instructions during a yoga class, or holding an impromptu swimming lesson with a friend, he brings a sense of hope and joy to others, gently brightening the world around him.