Recently Dr. Masahiro Morikawa and five residents from the Case Medical Center in Cleveland, Ohio traveled to Panajachel, Guatemala to organize the first of many community health assessment projects. Dr. Mori, as he is nicknamed, is internationally renowned and has worked on six continents, in multiple war zones, and in many refugee camps. He is an associate professor at the Department of Family Medicine and runs an elective course on international health.

As part of the doctors’ project, they visited two of Mercado Global’s partner communities, spending two days at each one. The first day was spent discussing two issues: "What is health?” and, “How can you make your health better?” Afterwards they held a discussion and went over each participant's answers accordingly.


The second day, of which I was lucky enough to tag along on, involved the cooperative members presenting their medications to the physicians, and the physicians responding with the proper usage and amount of medication to take. Following this, the physicians advised the cooperative members on home remedies that could easily be concocted to relieve simple but serious public health issues. The doctors finished by allowing the community members to inquire about specific health problems they have been experiencing.

This was an amazing experience for me because it exposed me to the dramatic differences between the life of the average person in the United States and the day-to-day life of a Mercado Global cooperative member.  For example, growing up in Colorado, I visited a general physician all of my life, and attended health education classes every year from the age of 10. These artisans have had almost no health education, and most importantly do not have access to the same level of healthcare or infrastructure, but you would have never known it from the tremendous smiles that each one of them proudly flouted.

It was obvious when I met these strong women how much hard work they must endure each and every day. The simplest things, which we take for granted, these women and their families have to work so hard to obtain.  It seemed to me that they enjoy every little aspect of life that much more in spite of this hard work. Throughout my day in the community there was never a moment without laughter or a huge smile. Even when the most serious of topics would come up, the community members would listen and take everything in, but also joke, laugh, and smile.

Even though Mercado Global and the Case Western Medical Hospital are helping to provide income, business, and health education to their partner artisans, I believe that anyone who is lucky enough to experience one of these ladies’ radiant smiles is the one who is receiving an education on how to truly appreciate one’s life. Those smiles and laughter are why I’m grateful to be in Panajachel, Guatemala and interning for Mercado Global.