On our April trip, Barry Mayhew took detailed notes of his encounter. We are publishing these weeks later with his permission. As we write this, another group is on its way to the clinic for a week of work. Stay tuned for their journal and trip stories. Here is Barry’s entry, we love its detail and his description of his week working at Camotan Clinic.
So, we kept a constant eye on that and even got some nice views upon arrival.
The primary purpose for this trip for my wife Whitney and I, was to help take a look into the surrounding communities to see what type of water conditions they have in the remote villages. We were doing this to try to find a site to get a clean water system installed through our church group the Guatemala Mission Partnership of the Denver Presbytery https://www.gmpdenver.org/ . Our mission group does this in conjunctions with Living waters of the world https://www.livingwatersfortheworld.org/ .
However, we also wanted to help out in the clinic in any way they the both of us could. Whitney helped out when we were not in the villages by assisting with the cleanup of the clinics pharmacy as it was in need of some TLC due to some expired drugs and some mold issues due most likely to the recent hurricanes that had blown through back in November.
In addition to that we both did some much needed paint touch ups in a few places both inside and out as seen here. Paint doesn’t last too long here in some spots as expected due to weather and cleaning as you can see on the white sections in these photos.
In addition to painting and other misc tasks, I got to work as “MacGuyver” to fix some mechanical issues within the first 30 minutes of arriving at the clinic first thing on Monday morning. I made repairs to a compression fitting via a very BIG hammer and screwdriver along with some VERY gentle tapping (hence the MacGuyver nickname I quickly got 😊) on the air supply line to the dental chair as well as a leak in one of the chairs tools to supply air on demand. They were very happy with these immediate fixes as it had been an issue for the past three weeks or so. It turned out that this very common compression fitting that I have bought many times at our local hardware store in my local city was in fact a very uncommon item down in Guatemala, as I had stopped and 8 different hardware stores in Chiquimula to find a replacement only to find no one had it. So, I plan to pack a few extras for the next trip down.
Immediately following making repairs another big task for me on Monday was to travel into Chiquimula with Stanly to purchase food that we would be delivering to the families in the villages that we would be visiting with in the coming days. This happened to afford me the chance to drive for the very first time in Latin America as I had always never really had a need to in the past. Also it was my first time driving a diesel.
As for our trips into the remote villages if was a very grounding experience again for me to remind me of all the good things we have and take for granted (especially the little things). But one thing was very noticeable is that even though these folk may not have had any possessions to speak of you could definitely see that they had family and it meant a lot. At all the villages we stopped at we supplied food to the families in need while there to check on each water source.
We visited four different sites in the remote villages to the south and southeast of the town of Camotán. The first one was the most remote and was literally beyond the very end of the road that we drove in on. It was an additional hike for another 40 minutes or so and up and over a ridge to a mountain spring that was almost 500ft higher in elevation from where we started out. This spring was supplying water to 11 families in the area.
The second site that we visited had a well as the water source. During this visit the water level in the well was very low (I could see and feel the buckets bottoming out) and in fact I was told that most likely it would be dry in two more weeks or less. This was the dry season as well as the fact that this area of Guatemala is knows as the “dry corridor”. We collected samples there and then visited with a family that lived not far from the well site.
We then stopped at one more village to check on its water supply as well. This village gets is water from a medium size spring that came out of the hillside just below the road. There were several folks actively collecting water via a PVC pipe that was coming from the small cistern that was collecting the water from the spring. I got water upstream from the cistern were, it was close to coming straight out of the hillside.
The next day we visited Tierra Blanca, the fourth village that we intended to check out. This village was fed by a large mountain spring. In fact, this spring was large enough to supply water to two separate villages with water via a divider that had been built at the source. The water was then piped underground to a large concreate cistern to hold and distribute the water within the village from there. The cisterns in each village included a chlorination box but both villages currently had not had a supply of any chlorine tablets for the past few weeks.
After checking on the water we came back to deliver food to one more family that lived in the same area. This family consisted of a Mother with 3 kids that all had health issues that required her full attention. Two of them could not walk or talk than the other was deaf. The family lived in a small mud and stick sided house that had a metal roof over it. The woman’s mother also lived there to help take care of the kids as I know that is a very stressful situation. Not to mention the fact that the father of the kids was no longer around to help.
One of the other major things we set out to achieve on this trip was to deliver an ECG machine that was donated by Lutheran Medial Center in Wheat Ridge Colorado. We made sure that the machine was functioning before bringing it in country and then hand carried it along the journey to make sure it did not get damaged along the way. The machine came with a cart/stand as well but that will have to come later as we had to dissemble it for shipping at a later date. Whitney got the whole medial staff together in the doctor’s office and used Stanley (one of our in country translators for the trip) as the patient and then taught them all how to use the use the machine as well as how to place all the leads on the patient. She did several run thoughts to make sure they understood and gave times for translation to also happen in real time. Stanley was doubly helpful in this particular case as he was both the patient and the translator. I also helped in a tiny way by taking photos and videos for them to use later for reference.
On our last full day in country, we spent the first part of the day traveling back to Guatemala City. We took an alternate route back to avoid the traffic and in the long run it was nice chance to see more of the country. And we got lucky as along the way we got to see the Pacaya volcano put on a show for us.
Once back in the city we decided to unwind from our successful trip by having a small meal at an outdoor venue with a view of the Fuego volcano. Which it turned out, also decided to put on a show when the clouds cleared off from time to time.
After the meal we met up with our in country representative for Living Waters. We gave him the water samples for testing we collected, along with the site locations with GPS data. He would get back to us on what the water in these places is like. We are hoping to find a suitable place to get water flowing in the near future as there is a very large need in this are for good clean water. If for some reason these do not work out will continue our search. Either way, my wife and I look forward to a long time relationship in helping to build out this Clinics outreach for the area for many years to come.