Most of the time, growth in the clinic has been gradual and a product of hard work. Through the last two years that we have been open and seeing patients, our impact has slowly grown. We have slowly built connections with the local public health center, the town council and other local organizations. We have had set backs that held us back (losing some of our staff, issues with the owner of our building, etc). But we have slowly grown.
January however was one of those moments of rapid growth. The whole month seemed to bring about big steps forward. For starters, we hosted a group of physicians, nurses and providers from Denver, Colorado affiliated with Denver Community Church the week of 1/12 to 1/18.
Here is our group from the US loading up at the Guatemala City Airport (from L to R): Steve Stahl, Melissa Pedigo, Dan Humer, Kyle McDonald, Jessica Meyers and Miranda Bellatoni. All providers and nurses (except Kyle who is in the process of applying to medical school).
Getting to Guatemala City is not all that bad really. It is about 2.5 hours of flying time from Houston and once through security, our groups that visit Camotan Clinic hit the road. As we have told you before in earlier posts, it is about 120 miles to Camotan from Guatemala City. But with Guatemalan roads and traffic, this takes about 4 hours.
Once we arrive in Camotan, we usually stay at a wonderful, safe property owned by Servant Ministries. It is so great to have a clean, well organized base from which we can launch our daily activities. Check out their website to see what they have been doing for over 30 years in this rural corner of Guatemala. Above is our prep at Servant Ministries facility the night before a week of work.
With 5 providers we launched our first day up in a village that was new to us: Neara (pronounced near-a-ah). Neara is not near at all. In fact, it is beyond the villages we have been able to go to so far. It lies about 10 miles from and about 2,000 feet above Camotan. The dirt roads leading up to this isolated village are treacherous with near 1,000 foot drops in places (no guardrail or anything similar of course!). This village had not ever seen a medical group before. Above you can see the government run school yard we used for our clinic. We saw about 150 patients here on Monday.
Here Kyle and Ellie, one of our favorite translators, run the pharmacy in Neara.
In general, we have found that the poverty worsens with each mile we go further into these mountains. Because Neara was a bit further from some of the villages we have established ourselves with, it was poorer. Malnutrition was a major problem. Abject poverty was more evident. We met a family of 4: one mother, 3 children who had just a couple tortillas for food. The father left years ago. The children were in very poor health, at least one was disabled. It was heartbreaking. Fortunately we were able to get them some food and supplies. This family will continue to be supported by us. It is your donations that help us keep this family fed and cared for with some basic services. So if you do give to Camotan Clinic; thank you. This, along with medical care, is why we exist.
Kyle, Melissa, Jessica and Ellie visit with the mother and 2 of her 3 children in Neara.
While our mobile clinics pushed further into the mountain villages above Camotan Clinic, there was plenty going on in the clinic. Dr. Strohecker again was seeing many regulars as was Dr. Toledo. A second provider would stay each day in the clinic and see patients as well. We had meetings with the mayor of Camotan, with the head of the local public health center and other community leaders.
The clinic on a typical busy week day
Our clinic building is not yet owned by us. This has been a source of frustration for some time for us but we continue to expand it and add rooms to meet our growing needs (see Dec ’19 post for more on this). Currently we continue to move forward with plans for a water purification system that will be put in place by the Guatemala Mission Partnership of the Denver Presbytery in April. There will be much more on this as the time draws closer. But for now, the construction of the water room is underway.
The future water room
Even more growth came by collaboration. There are many great people in Guatemala. And these people are very aware that in their country, there is a group of people marginalized and living in the jungle who need help. Many times, these wonderful people are often with only minimal resources themselves. But they do care. Some can help and are creating Guatemalan foundations, hospitals, orphanages and charities all aimed at helping the needs of the poor in Guatemala. With the help of Dr. Toledo, we have been making connections with some local doctors and dentists who are doing this great work.
Drs. Kirra Sosa and Marilyn Ordonez, local surgeon and dentist who joined us during our work week
At the end of the week, while the clinic was busy seeing patients, the group made their final visit to an area we know well: Tierra Blanca. We visited with old friends, said hello to Juan (see Dec ’19 post) and handed out some nutritional supplements. About 100 patients were seen in our mobile clinic there as well.
The group delivering nutritional supplements to families on the mountain near Tierra Blanca.
The end of the group’s week was by no means the end of work for the month. We saw over 500 patients during this week. But the work goes on. We have 2 nurses and 1 dentist (a dental resident) in the clinic daily now. Our midwife, Melina Morales (see prior posts) is at the clinic 2 weeks a month working in obstetrics. Much more is being planned for future growth. Dr. Toledo travels from the city almost every week to check on things and ensure that the clinic is running smoothly. But it is always wonderful to finish a hard week of work with a photo like the one below.
Thank you for reading! See you next month.