University of Virginia Student Group Plans Dinner, Auction to Support Guatemalan Medical Clinic

April 21, 2008 — The Inter-American Health Alliance at the University of Virginia will host its first annual U.Va.-Guatemala benefit dinner and auction on Tuesday, April 29, from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m., at La Taza Coffee House at 407-B Monticello Road in Charlottesville.

The Inter-American Health Alliance, founded by fourth-year students Megan Dunning and Elizabeth Murphy, supports a small rural clinic in the Guatemalan highlands. "Primaros Pasos" ("First Steps") is a medical clinic co-founded by U.Va. alumnus Brent Savoie that provides free care to the children of nine indigenous communities near Quetzaltenango, Guatemala. In recent years, dozens of University students have worked and studied at Primeros Pasos.

The gala and dinner event will feature regional music (including a live marimba performance by a U.Va. professor) and an assortment of Guatemalan and regional foods, including fresh homemade corn tortillas cooked on site. Margaritas and mojitos will be available at the cash bar. Activities include a silent auction of Guatemalan market items, textiles, hand-blown glass, premium highlands coffee and many other items. "Local" auction items, such as salsa dance lessons, spa packages, local "get-away ideas" — even a private opera performance by Cabelle St. John – will add to the variety.

In addition, the event will provide students and other attendees an opportunity to learn about student service and education opportunities in Guatemala being developed under the umbrella of the U.Va.-Guatemala Initiative, a collaborative, multidisciplinary U.Va. program dedicated to developing sustainable relationships between the University and the people and institutions of Guatemala. Local and national partners in this initiative will take part.

After graduation this May, both Dunning and Murphy will return to Guatemala to work with Primeros Pasos for a year. One of their roles will be to facilitate opportunities for future U.Va. students within Guatemala.

For details on the dinner and auction, including ticket prices, go to