Meet the Authors

Arden Vessie - Public Health Coordinator - Summer 2018

Hi, everyone! My name is Arden Vessie, and I am beyond excited to be serving as Pop Wuj’s Public Health Coordinator this summer. When I am home, I reside in Greenville, North Carolina, where I am pursuing an intended B.S. in Biochemistry with a minor in Hispanic Studies at East Carolina University. I have a strong interest in medicine and would like to attend medical school if possible after my undergraduate education.

I came to Xela for the first time two years ago on a medical brigade trip with Timmy Global Health, one of Pop Wuj’s partner organizations, and completely fell in love with the city and the people of Guatemala. Although my first experience here was short (2 weeks), the list of things it taught me certainly was not. I learned about global health disparities and methods for countering them first-hand, I met some of the kindest people I had ever known that became true role-models in my life, and I discovered a passion for working with underserved populations in medicine. I had always wanted to return, and when I heard that Pop Wuj was offering a medical internship this summer, I jumped at the opportunity to come back and learn even more. While here, I hope to gain experience in sustainable and responsible healthcare development, participate actively in patient health education, learn how I might apply some of Pop Wuj's and Timmy’s methods for countering healthcare disparities towards disparities present in my home state of NC, and, most of all, do anything and everything that I can to help people in and around Xela that suffer a lack of access to healthcare and other important resources.

Scott Walker - General Projects Coordinator, July - September 2018

I'm Scott Walker, recently (1 de julio 2018) as Project Coordinator at Pop Wuj. What an impressive organization: visionary, cost-conscious and careful, inspiring, and so active.

After a career in various media -- books (as editor and publisher), magazines (as editor and business/marketing), and the internet (in various positions over the years) -- I retired to dedicate myself to a bit of writing on my own and to learning Spanish, and then doing something useful with it.

I've worked with many nonprofit organizations as member of the board of director or as fundraiser/leader, so I was very curious about how all that is done in Guatemala! I see that the fundraising starts in the best possible place: doing a very good thing, and doing it well.

My three months here represent my third time in Guatemala, a country that fascinates for many reasons...

When I'm home, I'm in Portland, Oregon.

Emily Rempel - General Projects Coordinator, February - April 2017

Hola a todos!
I’m Emily Rempel and I’m from a little farming town in rural Manitoba, Canada. Currently I live in Winnipeg, Manitoba and am finishing up the final year of my Human Rights degree (with a minor in Spanish Studies) from the University of Winnipeg. As part of the
human rights program students are required to complete a relevant practicum, which brings me here to Xela! This week I began my internship with Pop Wuj as General Projects Coordinator and I couldn’t be more excited! I have already been with Pop Wuj for the past four weeks as a student in their regular immersion Spanish program, which was an excellent introduction into the social projects that Pop Wuj runs (as well as a much-needed refresher for my Spanish!).

In the past four weeks, I’ve fallen head-over-heels for Xela (we definitely don’t have mountains in Manitoba). I’ve also fallen in love with Pop Wuj and its ethical, sustainable approach to development. I’m thrilled for the opportunity to work with, and learn from, the experts here at Pop Wuj as well as the community members that participate in the projects.

Mary Gramiak - Environmental Projects Coordinator, January – April 2017

Hola todos! My name is Mary Gramiak and I am thrilled to be the new Environmental Projects Coordinator here at Pop Wuj in the beautiful city of Quetzaltenango, Guatemala. Though I have visited Guatemala twice before this is my first time in Xela, and I couldn’t be more thrilled to explore all of the beautiful sites the city and surrounding area have to offer. 

I’m originally from Winnipeg, Canada but have moved to Ottawa, Canada to pursue my undergraduate degree at Carleton University. I am currently in the third year of my Bachelor of Arts Honours with a major in Global Politics and a minor in Spanish, and I will be spending these next three months in Xela to fulfill the practical requirements of my degree. While the practical requirements can take place anywhere in the world, I settled on Guatemala because of its rich culture and history, and the warmth of its people. While I’m here I’m excited to learn as much as I can about different strategies for improving the environmental wellbeing of developing regions, and how those strategies can have long-term impacts on the physical, mental, and emotional wellbeing of the people living in these communities. I look forward to contributing my knowledge and skills where possible to the social and medical projects of Pop Wuj, and can’t wait to experience all of the things Guatemala, Xela, and Pop Wuj have to offer. 

Nadia Mondini - Environmental Projects Coordinator, June – July 2016

Hola! My name is Nadia and I’m looking forward to a wonderful experience as an Environmental Projects Coordinator at Pop Wuj. I have only spent little over two weeks in Guatemala, but already love this beautiful country and its absolutely lovely people.

I’m originally from a small town in Southern Switzerland, and completed my Bachelor in Environmental Science in Zurich in September of last year. After that, I decided to take a break from studies and took off to travel for a couple of months. I decided to settle in Guatemala for some time because I’m fascinated by its extraordinary culture, beauty, and variety, and because the internship at Pop Wuj offers me a wonderful opportunity  to contribute my knowledge to a range of fantastic projects whilst learning about life, customs, and traditions in Xela. I love how Pop Wuj serves both environmental and social purposes, and how it brings together people from so many different origins and backgrounds. I’m excited to spend an amazing time in this beautiful city and grateful for how much I will be able to learn from everything I do and everyone I meet!

Adam Wohlman - Scholarship & Education Coordinator, February - July 2016

Hola! My name is Adam and I'm extraordinarily grateful for the opportunity to serve as Pop Wuj's first formal Scholarship & Education Coordinator. I'm no stranger to Guatemala, as I recently completed 3.5 months of Spanish Language studies right here in Xela, though I never anticipated that I'd have the chance to return quite so soon.

Prior to my initial arrival in Quetzaltenango (Aug. 2015), I served as a United States Peace Corps Volunteer on the Eastern Caribbean island nation of Saint Lucia for 3.5+ years. In St. Lucia, I had the privilege of assisting several local development projects, most notably the implementation of the UNICEF backed Child Friendly Schools Initiative in a government special education center serving marginalized youth.

I look forward to learning from everyone here at Pop Wuj, improving my Spanish, and contributing my passion for service to this wonderful organization.

Amalyah Leader- General Projects Coordinator, February - May 2016

Hola! My name is Amalyah and I am really excited to be working as one of the new General Projects Coordinators. I'm very grateful for the opportunity to work alongside all the incredible people at Pop Wuj!

I'm currently finishing my Bachelor's Degree at Smith College, majoring in American Studies with a concentration on immigrants and refugees in the U.S. After deciding to take a year off from university, I came to Xela thinking I'd only be here for one month. But Xela has captured my heart and so three months later I am thrilled to be staying here longer as an intern at Pop Wuj!

Through its projects, Pop Wuj truly has a positive impact on the communities it serves through their founding philosophy of empowerment and ownership. It's an honor to be a part of an organization like this as I believe this is how sustainable change occurs. I look forward to committing my passion and energy towards serving Pop Wuj’s projects!

Robyn Nielsen - General Projects Coordinator, February - May 2016

Hola! My name is Robyn, hailing from Seattle, Washington, USA, and I'm extremely excited and honored to be serving as the new General Projects Coordinator here at Pop Wuj.

In the Spring of 2015, I received a Bachelors Degree in Social Sciences with concentrations in Sociology, Women's Studies and Community Health Education from Portland State University. The following October, I arrived in Guatemala without prior Spanish knowledge, only a strong desire to learn the language and immerse myself into a part of the world that had always been of interest to me. Little did I know, the culture, people and total atmosphere of Guatemala would capture my heart and inspire me to get involved within this community that I so respected and was intrigued by. This desire to be more than just an outsider led me to Pop Wuj. The social and environmental projects that they do are quientessential in the communities in which they work and collide with so many of my personal and professional interests. I look forward to improving my Spanish, watching the projects continue to improve the lives of others and settle into the beautiful community that is Pop Wuj. In addition, I enjoy searching for treasures at the many pacas around Xela and hot sauce. A lot of hot sauce.

Elizabeth Barnes - General Projects Coordinator, September 2015 - March 2016, Student Coordinator April 2016 - present

Hola! My name is Elizabeth, and after a fantastic experience serving as General Projects Coordinator alongside Albizael for three months in 2015, I decided to return to Pop Wuj in 2016 to continue volunteering. When Amy Scheuren stepped down in early April, I took over over as Student Coordinator.

I came to Pop Wuj after studying English and Plan II at the University of Texas at Austin in 2014 and serving an AmeriCorps term at the Texas nonprofit College Forward. Having visited Guatemala before, I'm so happy to be back in Xela supporting these crucial projects and getting to know the wonderful Pop Wuj community.

Albizael Del Valle - General Projects Coordinator, September - December 2015

Albizael Del Valle was born in Rio Piedras, Puerto Rico. Del Valle is a senior at Azusa Pacific University currently pursuing a bachelor's in Global Studies. As the practicum portion for his degree, Del Valle has reached out to Pop Wuj as an intern in order to support already existing projects within the community.

In the past, Del Valle has gained experience in both education and community organization within the city of Los Angeles, California. In the past two years, he has worked closely with undocumented workers, supporting them with English classes and supporting their role in our city. Del Valle has also been involved with the work done by two school districts for elementary schools in the area.

As a Latino who was born and raised in a Latin American country, Del Valle is committed in supporting Latinos in the United States as well as in Latin America. Del Valle has been part of student initiatives at his university in order to empower latino high school students to pursue higher education. While visiting Latin American countries Del Valle practices intentional listening, learns and immerses himself with people in order to better understand the global context of the Latin American reality and its relation with our struggles as Latinos in the U.S.

Albizael hopes to serve any Guatemalan/foreign compañer@s at Pop Wuj and at any of the communities benefitting from this Guatemalan organization. A comprehensive documentation of the work done by this institution will be recorded.

Jessica Franks - Assistant Coordinator of the Medical Projects - May 2015

Hola a todos! 

My name is Jessica Franks and I’m excited to be the new Assistant Coordinator of the Medical Projects. I came to Pop Wuj with a passion to help marginalized communities and improve access to health care around the world. 

I received my Master’s in Public Health in May 2014 from San Francisco State University. After living in California for eight years, I decided to start a new chapter in Xela for the next few months. I’m originally from Georgia and hold a BA in Spanish from Clemson University. I look forward to improving my Spanish language skills (as well as replacing futbol Americano with FUTBOL this season!). I first came to Guatemala in 2006 for a language study program in Antigua. The Guatemalan people were so friendly and kind and I immediately felt at home. I knew I would one day return…..and here I am! 

I want to create a positive impact within the communities I work with in and around Xela. I hope you enjoy my photos and posts to this blog over the next few months (and maybe feel inspired to come visit!). 

~ om shanti ~

Lily Bodinson - Family Support Center Coordinator - September 2014

Hello everyone! I´m Lily and I´ll be the Family Support Center Coordinator until the end of the year! I just recently graduated from McGill University up in Montreal, Canada with a degree in Political Science. I spent a large part of my Junior Year abroad studying in Buenos Aires, Argentina and traveling throughout South America. By the time graduation rolled around, I was more than ready to come back and explore all that Latin America has to offer. I chose Guatemala in particular for its rich cultural diversity, fascinating history, and abundance of corn tortillas. Above all else, I am thrilled to be working with Pop Wuj and hope to help them advance their social, medical, and environmental projects during my time here in the beautiful city of Xela.

Emma Gilbert-General Projects Coordinator - September 2014

 My name is Emma and I'll be the General Projects Coordinator from September through December 2014. I first heard about Pop Wuj while researching short-term opportunities that would align with my International Development degree from McGill University in Montreal, Quebec. As a recent graduate, I figured it would be the perfect time to go abroad before starting a more permanent position. Although I have traveled in Latin America, visiting over 8 countries in the last 4 years, this is my first time in Guatemala. Pop Wuj's commitment to service drew me to Xela and I can't wait to help continue providing necessary services to the local community.

Sharon Broadway- General Projects Coordinator- June 2014


My name is Sharon and I am the new General Projects Coordinator for Pop Wuj. I study Spanish and Latin American culture and literature. I lived abroad in Spain for a year, but coming here to Xela is my first experience in Latin America. Needless to say I am very excited to be here.

Aside from my studies, I have always felt the need to give back to the communities in which I live. Additionally, I am a strong advocate of women’s rights and health education. The projects here at Pop Wuj encompass my interests, seeing as the community is my main priority here in Xela.

To sum up my experience so far I must say I am already hooked into the programs by the lovely children we visit in the Family Support Center and by the grateful families for whom we build safe stoves in the nearby town of Llanos del Pinal. The “Safe Stoves” project is most incredible to me as we are helping to prevent respiratory illnesses within these families, decreasing a leading cause of death in Guatemala.

I have only been with Pop Wuj for a week now, but even this little time has made me excited for what the following months will bring.

Rain Schumacher- Enviromental Projects Coordinator- March 2014


  I recently discovered Pop Wuj and was immediately drawn to their mission. Quetzaltenengo captured my heart six years ago during my first visit to Guatemala and I am thrilled to be back working within the city and the surrounding communities as the Environment Projects Coordinator/Co-General Projects Coordinator. In 2012 I received a Bachelors degree in International Studies with minors in Native American Studies and Spanish from Southern Oregon University. I am very interested in women empowerment, promoting indigenous rights, and providing support to those fighting to preserve their culture and language.
        Since my arrival at Pop Wuj I have been particularly drawn to the Safe Stove Project. This program has given me the opportunity to interact closely with the families receiving stoves and to help combat the inhalation of smoke from open fires, a leading cause of death amongst Guatemalan children. While the programs range from health to scholarships to ecological education, it has been pleasing to to see how interconnected they how are and how many families benefit from multiple programs.  I am proud to be part of a non-profit cooperative that goes beyond providing services by educating and empowering people for a better future.

Dawn Bailey - Family Support Center Coordinator - January 2014

Hi, my name is Dawn Bailey, and I am extremely grateful to be serving as co-coordinator at the Family Support Center, formally known as the Guarderia.  I am from Lexington Kentucky, and have a Bachelors in Anthropology from the University of Kentucky.  I will be attending Graduate School for Social Work this coming fall. 

I first came to Pop Wuj as a Spanish student last year, and I fell in love with the work being done at the Family Support Center. The program’s staff both at Pop Wuj and the Center have impressed me greatly; with the love, devotion, and determination to improve so many lives with so few resources. I am very excited to learn from their extensive experience over these next coming months. I am also thrilled to be working with Bronny, my co-worker, who has such a loving and optimistic attitude and will be great with the students.  Most of all, I am excited about getting to know this amazing group of students and kids!

Bronny O'Halloran - Family Support Centre Coordinator - January 2014


My name is Bronny O'Halloran and I am one of the new coordinators for the Family Support Centre.  I am excited about the opportunity to work on this project and I look forward to contributing as much as I can.  I am lucky to have spent the last couple of weeks working alongside my great co-coordinator for the project, Dawn Bailey, preparing for the opening of the Centre for 2014.  

I am currently undertaking a Masters in International Relations with Deakin University Australia, specialising in the Global Political Economy.  I am particularly interested in understanding the forces contributing to the gross economic inequalities that exist in the world.  Interning in this position will allow me to further understand the impacts that these forces have on the livelihoods of those living in a developing country and the barriers to development that the country faces.  

I have spent time in Guatemala previously, where I volunteered for an organisation which ran a day care centre for children with disabilities.  I am very grateful for the opportunity to contribute once again in Guatemala and especially with Pop Wuj.  In the last few weeks that I have been here, Pop Wuj has already exceeded my expectations through the dedication they show and the compassion they have for the communities that they serve.

Shanti Aguilar-Cardenas - General Projects Coordinator - January 2014 


My name is Shanti Aguilar-Cardenas and I’m the new General Projects Coordinator Intern for Pop Wuj. I’m currently working on finishing my BA in International Development Studies (IDS) at the University of Winnipeg in Manitoba, Canada and considering a one-year after degree program in Social Work at Lake Head University in Thunder Bay, Ontario. I found Pop Wuj while searching for a long term volunteer placement in the non-profit sector in Guatemala to fulfill my practicum need for my degree in IDS.

Although I grew up in Canada, I have had the privilege to spend some time in the beautiful country of Guatemala because my parents are Guatemaltecos. Throughout my life I have developed strong connections with family and friends in Guatemala and a love for my culture and historical roots. As a result, I am thrilled to have the opportunity to serve and learn from the indigenous communities benefiting from the Pop Wuj projects. What I have seen at Pop Wuj so far justifies all the positive comments I heard from past Pop Wuj interns prior to my arrival. The projects at Pop Wuj such as The Family Support Centre, the Safe Stove Project and the Scholarship Program are all administered in a manner that ensures ownership and sustainability through the participation of the local communities. This is something I believe is essential in order to achieve sustainable development and I’m very much looking forward to being a part of it the next three months to come!
Caroline Yung - General Projects Coordinator - August 2013

My name is Caroline and I am the new General Projects Coordinator Intern for Pop Wuj.  In the midst of a one year sojourn, I arrived in Xela in June with the expectation of staying for a few weeks to study Spanish, but after hearing about the wonderful work done at Pop Wuj, I was thrilled to join the team.

I come to the organization with a Masters in Economics, as well as eight years of public policy experience at the Government of Canada at the Department of Health.  

Just starting my second week, I am thoroughly amazed by the quantity and quality of the services that Pop Wuj offers to Llanos del Pinal and several other communities in the Western Highlands.  In particular, I have a keen interest in the stove-building, nutrition and scholarship programs, which have immediate and long-lasting impacts on improving the health and social outcomes of families. 

Grady Hart - General Projects Coordinator - June 2013

My name is Grady Hart and I am thrilled to be the new General Projects Coordinator for Pop Wuj!  I am currently a graduate student of Public Administration (concentration in International NGO Management) at James Madison University (much like one of my Pop Wuj predecessors, Grace White), which is located in Virginia, United States.  My undergraduate major was International Affairs, with a special focus on Latin America and Spanish language.  Having studied Latin American development issues for years, it is clear to me that education, health and nutrition, and environmental stewardship are not only key, but are in fact wholly necessary to building a sustainable future for any country.  It took no time at all to see that Pop Wuj’s benevolent staff is dedicated to doing exactly that and more in Guatemala.  

While I will be working on all of Pop Wuj’s projects (Safe Stove Project, Family Support Center, Medical Clinic, and Environmental Program), I will be devoted especially to the Scholarship Program, which offers small grants to Guatemalan children and youth to enable them to attend school rather than work to help their families earn a living.  With literacy rates among Guatemalans aged 15-24 now climbing to around 90%, I am truly proud to have a chance to contribute to such a worthy cause.  I believe that it is not the differences between countries and their people that define us, but the many similarities which unite us as a common people- Less than one week into my work at Pop Wuj, there is no doubt in my mind that this reigns true.

Adam Kinross - Coordinator of the Family Support Center -  May 2013

My name is Adam Kinross and I am the new project coordinator of the Centro de Apoyo Familiar or the Family Support Centre, (formerly known as the Guardería). I am from Melbourne Australia. I was originally passing through Xela for a couple weeks when I heard about the fantastic work that Pop Wuj is doing within the community. Naturally I jumped at the opportunity to become part of the team and the chance to give back to the local communities around Xela. And once I met the children out at the Centro de Apoyo Familiar I knew instantly I made the right choice. I have previously spent time volunteering at orphanages and schools in Cambodia as well as coordinating family camps for refugees in Australia. I thoroughly look forward to contributing to the great work of Pop Wuj and the Centro de Apoyo Familiar and contributing to the enrichment of the children and families involved.

Anssel E. Lopez-  Environmental Projects Coordinator - February 2013

I am a Guatemalan who had the opportunity of pursuing a Bachelor's of Science Degree at the University of Washington, Tacoma.  I am a recent graduate and majored in Environmental Science.  I am also currently in the process of getting a certification in GIS (Geographic Information Systems).  As a "Local Boy", I have experienced some of the needs of my country men and women.  I always have had the desire to give back to my country, and Pop Wuj Association has given me the opportunity to do  it.  I bring to these projects experience in construction, reforestation, agriculture, and knowledge in environmental issues in addition to lots of enthusiasm and energy.  

I’m excited for the opportunity to work with the Pop Wuj Community Development Projects. I have a passion for working with marginalized populations and find that immersion in cultures foreign to me is a valuable, humbling experience.
I’m currently finishing a Master's of Public Health through the Colorado School of Public Health. In addition to my educational pursuits in community health education, I bring a great deal of experience to my internship with Pop Wuj. I’ve served as a Peace Corps volunteer in Ethiopia (2008-2010), an AmeriCorps volunteer with the Boys & Girls Club and worked as a medical assistant in an under-served region of Colorado. In addition to the valuable experience that I am able to take back to my Colorado community, I hope to positively impact the lives of  Guatemalans through my contributions to the projects.

Julie Kirby-Hines - General Projects Coordinator - February 2013

I’m excited for the opportunity to work with the Pop Wuj Community Development Projects. I have a passion for working with marginalized populations and find that immersion in cultures foreign to me is a valuable, humbling experience.
I’m currently finishing a Master's of Public Health through the Colorado School of Public Health. In addition to my educational pursuits in community health education, I bring a great deal of experience to my internship with Pop Wuj. I’ve served as a Peace Corps volunteer in Ethiopia (2008-2010), an AmeriCorps volunteer with the Boys & Girls Club and worked as a medical assistant in an under-served region of Colorado. In addition to the valuable experience that I am able to take back to my Colorado community, I hope to positively impact the lives of  Guatemalans through my contributions to the projects.

Marya Case-Ruchala - May 2012

My current occupation in life, besides interning at Pop Wuj, is as an undergraduate student at Indiana University.  I just finished my freshman year there as a Business Economics and Public Policy major, Cultural Anthropology and Spanish minor. I came to Pop Wuj three years ago as a sophomore in high school to do the Spanish immersion program.  Later during my senior year of high school I worked for AmeriCorps as a youth volunteer coordinator.  I had very impressionable and positive experiences both with Pop Wuj and AmeriCorps, so when I heard Pop Wuj was looking for a volunteer coordinator I jumped at the opportunity to come back.  My first 4 weeks here have flown by and I have 5 remaining.  In the mean time, I'll do my best to keep you all updated about and work to develop the projects!

Grace White, Projects Coordinator - December 2011

I am a recent graduate of James Madison University holding a bachelor's in International Affairs and Modern Foreign Languages. Additionally I am working towards a graduate certificate in Non-Governmental Organization Management. The product of my studies is a passion to work in organizations like Pop Wuj that seek to increase the standard of living in a sustainable way without changing the culture in the surrounding areas. Pop Wuj is a necessary institution in Guatemala as the people of Guatemala suffer from some of the highest rates of malnutrition in the world and are physically affected by the conditions they live in, most notably the presence of open fires within the home. Presently, the Guatemalan government does not have any initiative to tackle these major problems.
Pop Wuj, a grassroots non-governmental organization, has many projects that aim to augment the health, education, and the environment for the people in the communities surrounding Xela.

Katie Adamides - July 2008

As an undergraduate student of global public health, I see the necessity of the programs that Pop Wuj coordinates. Guatemala does not have a system of public health education or government-funded public health initiatives, so organizations like Pop Wuj are the only public health initiatives working towards eliminating preventable illness, such as smoke inhalation-related respiratory complications, Guatemala´s second-leading cause of childhood death. The stove project helps elimate the cause of this preventable illness, and the other projects here target other types of illnesses that lower the quality and duration of life for impoverished populations. This kind of work is slow going, but it´s the only path worth taking. There´s a place for every skillset and an opportunity for every creative mind.

I am currently an undergraduate at Davidson College studying Political Science and am part of the Social Work Program here at Pop Wuj.

Michael Majzoub - July 2008

I created this site to address the growing need for an place online for volunteers to update progress on the programs, communicate both accomplished goals and needs for the future, and offer an easy way for individuals to fundraise to support these programs. My time at Pop Wuj has opened my eyes to the pressing need that exists in highland Guatemala. It is my hope that this site helps the projects, the people, and the mission come alive and inspire you as much as they have me.

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