Making a difference in the lives of Guatemala’s Mayan people
In addition to his career as a plastic surgeon, Dr. Alan Messinger, of Bronson Plastic Surgery Specialists, is also very committed to helping the Mayan people of Guatemala. He has made several volunteer trips to the Lake Atitlan area, bringing along fellow volunteers who offer their time and labor to local communities and aid groups. Over the years he’s even fine-tuned these trips to make sure that the projects that they work on are of optimum importance to the citizens of that area.
“The more I make these trips, the more I’m able to optimize the time we have to help and focus on what’s most helpful to the lives and wellness of the Mayan people that we are there to help,” stated Dr. Messinger. “We partner with local organizations that know these people and know what they need most.” He mentioned that it’s important to him that he not waste the group’s time or that of the Mayan people they are there to assist. The groups generally number around a dozen.
Over the years the various groups have assisted with many different projects including farming, nutrition, infrastructure and educational assistance which are chronicled at TransformationalConnections.org. “The Mayans are working shoulder to shoulder with us,” shared Messinger. “They aren’t expecting a handout, but they are so appreciative for our help.”
Messinger noted that the needs of the Mayans are endless, as the Guatemalan government does not have a history of lending aid to the Mayans. “They are basically left to fend for themselves,” he said. “Still, they have managed to create culturally rich lives focused around family and community.”
With so little to give, those in the Mayan community always make sure to take care of the volunteers. “They insist on providing food and water as we work alongside them,” marveled Messinger. “We’re quite aware that this is a stretch for them, but something they give willingly. They are a deeply kind, sharing and proud people.”
Dr. Messinger mused that we could all learn something from the Mayans. “I am constantly in awe of their spirit of happiness and deep contentment,” he shared. “Even though they have little as far as material possessions,” he added, “the Mayans garner joy from their family, the community and the land.”
As is generally the case, Messinger noted that the benefits of volunteerism are a two-way street. “It is absolutely gratifying that we are there contributing, even in a small way, to the lives of the Mayan people,” said Messinger. “But, in the end, I can’t help but feel that I get so much more in return. It feeds my soul.”