Institute staff attend Q’eqchi’ language classes at the Kingston Family Health Center

December 19, 2021

On Thursday evenings, a small group of Institute providers, residents, care navigators, and family support workers meet at the Kingston Family Medicine Residency Program’s conference room for lessons in Q’eqchi’, one of the Mayan languages indigenous to Guatemala. These classes are led by a community member who is fluent in both Spanish and Q’eqchi’, and are structured to help staff communicate more effectively with the growing community of Guatemalan immigrants in the Kingston area who are speakers of Q’eqchi’.

Within Kingston’s growing immigrant community, many new arrivals are coming from Peten department, a region in northeastern Guatemala where Q’eqchi’ is the main language. While many service providers and advocacy groups in Kingston are equipped to provide support in Spanish, it is less common to find resources in Q’eqchi’.

“Our goal is to demonstrate that we care to a growing patient population who are often linguistically excluded by offering greetings and general health service questions and information in their native language,” said Susanne Callahan, the Institute’s Vice President for Planning and Community Engagement in the Mid-Hudson Region who helped organize the classes. “While these classes will not replace fluency in Spanish, we hope to break down barriers and help to build trust and connection—an effort we make for all our patients.”

Callahan arranged the classes with the help of Mariel Fiori, the managing editor of La Voz, a Spanish-language magazine and radio program based in the Mid-Hudson Valley. This past fall, Fiori organized a separate Q’eqchi’ class in Kingston that filled up quickly, and was able to connect Callahan with the instructor so classes for Institute staff could take place.

“Learning some Q’eqchi’ is important for Institute providers, care navigators, nurses and others, as it shows this population that we care about them and their health and well-being,” said Dr. Marta Sanchez, the Associate Medical Director for the Kingston Family Health Center, who is also attending the Q’eqchi’ classes. “Being able to communicate key phrases will help us provide better care. It also will build rapport with our Q’eqchi’ speaking patients.”

The Q’eqchi’ language class will continue through January. Any Institute staff member interested in learning more can email Susanne Callahan at

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