The Maya of the Guatemalan Highlands
When she was only 13 years old, Yeny (pronounced Jenny) began to go door to door to teach the children of her small highland village how to brush their teeth. Now 17, she still goes door to door, providing fluoride treatments, handing out tooth brushes and still teaching how to brush on a comical pair of false teeth that draw laughter from the children. She has a box she keeps in her families home with a bottle of aspirin that she distributes to people who show up at her door in pain. Her dream is to be a doctor, and a few days a week she walks down a long trail to the village at the base of the mountain where she studies medicine. If all goes according to plan she will graduate this summer with a degree in nursing, and she will be allowed to administer medicine to the people of her village. Although for the time being her box only contains aspirin, she hopes that she will receive donated medications from a local NGO. Yeny, still a child, yet already a leader in her community, makes her mother proud. When I asked her how she felt about Yeny's unique ambition to help the people of her village, she smiled wide as she warmed a tall stack of tortillas for me over the wood fired stove in the family kitchen. When I asked Yeny if she was proud of herself, she did not understand the concept, she did not see herself as separate from her neighbors, and she expressed no pride. She was simply a human doing what humans are suppose to do, care for one another.