(Please click on thumbnails below, to see larger views:)
Guatemala Medical Mission in 2009
Barb and Bob Welch
On a cold and snowy morning in January, thirteen members of the mission departed Newark International Airport to travel to Guatemala for a two week medical mission. Working along side locally trained Mayan healthcare givers, the Epiphany Medical Mission or “Epifania Misión Médica” examined and treated poor needy villagers in four remote farming villages in the western highland mountains about 100 miles west of Guatemala City.
Guatemala lies at the same latitude as the popular winter resort Cancun; however the highlands elevation is 7000 feet so it is very, very cold once the sun goes down. For many, long underwear and thermal socks were the dress of the day and for some were worn to bed at night. Accommodations were basic; four walls, cold showers, no heat of any kind, the little lighting available came from one ceiling light with a 25 watt bulb, a bed and a blanket (each time we changed locations we had to ask for more blankets). Meals were basically locally available foods with lots of beans, cheese, rice, chicken (pollo) and tortillas.
As crude as our conditions were, we knew that we were far better off than the Mayan families we sought to serve. These Mayan families live on small plots of unfertile ground that they work by hand and they live in makeshift huts constructed from wood sticks and corrugated metal. Their dwellings have few or no furnishings or running water and most families sleep on uneven dirt or cement floors. Drinking water comes from fairly clean springs, but is transported home in pails left mostly uncovered on the ground and used by everyone for everything, even animals that wander in and out of the home at will. At night, families huddle together for warmth sleeping around an open fire and breathing in the unhealthy smoke throughout the night. To help understand these conditions, imagine living your whole life on a camping trip where you grow your own food, gather wood for a camp fire that is needed for warmth and cooking in addition to carry pails of water great distances to your home.
Our Mayan neighbors are intelligent and happy despite being under educated and unhealthy in so many ways. Upper respiratory problems, parasites from un-pure drinking water and poor nutrition are common problems we encountered. Over 500 patients were treated and more than $8,000.00 worth medications distributed. In addition to that, each patient was provided soap, toothbrushes and toothpaste for each family member. Upon completion of the clinics, toys were given to the children of the healthcare givers and a first aid kit and water filter system was donated to each village. Also, thanks to Sue (our classmate), and her son, Joe, they purchased dozens of wonderful good quality colorful balloons that Bob was able to make into shapes for the kids to entertain them all. It was a total suprise to us when the balloons arrived by UPS two days before we left. It was wonderful especially since those types of balloons are difficult to find. A small hand pump to blow them up came with the balloons----what a gift that was too, (even though Bob is full of "hot air). ;-)
This year for the first time, workshops were held for the care givers providing health education on hygiene, parasites and nutrition.
Adiós buenos amigos….Barb and Bob
Be sure to click on the link below,
to see the photos and story of Bob and Barb's mission last year!