Refuge International

Improving lives through healthcare, nutrition, clean water, and education.


Where We Serve

The Plight of Guatemala's Indigenous Population

Register for a Mission Trip

Guatemala mapGuatemala suffered a 36-year civil war that ended with the 1996 Peace Accords. It was one of the most violent wars in history. Over 200,000 people were killed, 80% of which were of Mayan or other indigenous decent.

There are 21 different indigenous groups in Guatemala and 26 recognized, unique languages. In a majority of Guatemala’s population, Spanish is not the native language.

Indigenous populations have been marginalized in Guatemala for decades, often through government policy. Prejudice openly exists against these people and it shows in their lower socio-economic status and inability to obtain quality health care and education. School lessons are taught only in Spanish and for the most part, the medical community only speaks Spanish. And language isn’t the only barrier to health care. Cultural barriers exist as well. For example, Mayan women traditionally give birth in a kneeling position, but if a Mayan woman is brought to a national hospital she must give birth in the Western position, lying down. Very few doctors recognize the traditional use of natural medicines and remedies that the Mayan population more readily understands and trusts. Many indigeneous people try to combine both types of medicine which can further complicate the health of the individual.

In Guatemala, there exists a significant imbalance in the country’s wealth and the indigenous comprise the largest segment of the country’s poor. Empowering the indigenous population to break the current cycle of poverty comes by building education and health care systems that they can better use. Years after the war has ended, many in Guatemala still search for justice and are yet unable to find peace. The need is great and with your help, we can make a difference.

Refuge International currently serves local groups in three very different areas of Guatemala: San Raymundo, Sarstún and Petén.

Click on the area name to learn more about the unique characteristics of each.

Be a Mission Trip Volunteer

Visit our Mission Trip Volunteer page to learn more about what it means (and what it takes) to be a medical mission volunteer.

It will be a life-changing experience, we guarantee it!

Upcoming Trips

Women’s Health Jornada - POSTPONED
(New date TBA; was May 16-23, 2020)
San Raymundo Medical Mission

August 1-8, 2020
San Raymundo Medical & Dental Mission

August 15-22, 2020
Sarstun Medical Mission

October 17-24, 2020
San Raymundo Medical Mission

November 7-14, 2020
Location TBD

UMU Village Clinic Week
Nov 29 - Dec 6, 2020
Sarstun Medical Mission

December 4-11, 2020
Sarstun Medical Mission