Embracing a “Korima” Lifestyle: Helping People Around the World

On Thursday, October 29, the Center for International Programs and the Max A. Shacknai Center for Outreach, Volunteerism and Education (COVE) co-sponsored a brown bag titled “Korima: The Cornerstone of Outreach in the Sierra Tarahumara.” The event featured Dr. Raul Favela, a surgeon who performs reconstructive operations for those who cannot afford them in Mexico.

Favela detailed his life’s work of performing pro-bono surgeries for the community in the Sierra Tarahumara, a mountain range located southwest of the Mexico-United States border. Throughout his talk, Favela emphasized the need to help others and the importance of giving back.

“Our silence is part of the problem,” Favela said. “We prefer to look the other way, and if we do so, we become part of the injustice being made.”

As a trained reconstructive surgeon, Favela has performed a wide variety of operations for the Sierra Tarahumara community, from correcting cleft lips and palettes, to removing extra fingers and toes in order to improve quality of life. He first traveled to the Sierra Tarahumara with another reconstructive surgeon when he was in medical school. From this initial trip, Favela realized that he wanted to help others for a living. 

While Favela initially trained as a general surgeon, he decided to specialize as a reconstructive surgeon in Mexico City and set up his practice in Sierra Tarahumara. However, it took several years before Favela and his team were able to gain the trust of the Sierra Tarahumara community. Before Favela set up his practice, it was custom for the Tarahumara to abandon a child if he or she was born with a congenital effect. But over the course of two decades, Favela and his team were able to convince families to bring children with birth defects to their practice to undergo reconstructive surgery.

Favela and his team have been serving the Tarahumara community for 20 years. During this time, they have been able to help over 2,922 people through surgical and medical care.

Favela was particularly inspired by the Tarahumara idea of “Korima.” This is the tradition of mutual assistance and support, shared by the Tarahumara people. Korima translates to “what I have, you have.” Favela vehemently believes that everyone should emulate this quality.

Students and faculty gathered in the conference room of the Center for International Programs, inspired by Favela’s enthusiasm and dedication to his practice.

“I was really struck by his sentiment that he considers all of his work volunteer, and sometimes he gets paid for it. I think that can apply to any field of work out there, so long as you make a commitment to help,” senior Alana Ounan said.

Senior Nora Gordon was also inspired by Favela’s talk and was able to see parallels to her own life.

“I realized that after interning in the corporate world, I was more interested in working in the common good but I feel like it’s kind of hard to find people here, even career services, that are supportive of that,” Gordon said. “That brown bag was super inspiring, especially for anyone that wants to work in the common good.”