It has been three months since our last report to you and even though things slowdown in the US and in Guatemala over the holidays, we continued our efforts to provide medical care in rural communities. We provided surgical patients to the Medical Mission for Children from Boston in January and the Cape Breton Nova Scotia team in February. In February we expanded our area of service by traveling to four communities in Northwest Guatemala with doctors and non-medical volunteers. These expansions are possible because additional health local promoters are recruited and trained in the process of preparing for the arrival of these teams and the care for patients that will be receiving surgery. These promoters also have the local responsibility for monitoring the children enrolled in our Cleft Infant Nutrition Program. Now 85 percent of the enrolled children in this in-home program are new born and called to our attention by midwives and government health providers. The result is that the children remain healthy and we have been able to reduce the time a child has to wait for surgical attention. The quicker a child receives all the needed surgical procedures, the quicker we can add children to the program. This cleft program is a wonderful example of how collaboration between an international non-profit, Guatemalan organizations and community volunteers can address and solve a very daunting health care problem.
We would like to share with you examples of the care that is provided.
Gift bags and quilts
In order to create a more friendly atmosphere, for the past 8 years Partner for Surgery has been taking gift bags to Guatemalan children, and more recently, dozens of beautiful quilts, both made lovingly by a McLean, Virginia church.
Inside the bags, children find items that are not available to them in Guatemala – coloring books, crayons, and stuffed animals. In fact, sometimes even the parents are not familiar with coloring books and we see them with crayons in hand as well!
The quilts are especially important to keep the children warm. Many come from hotter areas and are not prepared for their stay at the cooler, higher altitudes. And when they return to their villages, the quilts add a wonderful touch to their very sparsely furnished homes.
No age limits
We do our best at treating patients of all ages in Guatemala, from just a few months old, to a full and long life.
Felisa is on the other end of the spectrum, coming to us last year when she was 75 years old, with a hernia.
It wasn’t very easy to always understand this sweet woman, but we could still see the love and happiness after her surgery.
That’s the beauty in what we do. Medical care knows no borders, age, and language barriers when it comes to changing lives.
Non-medical volunteer opportunities
We are making a renewed effort to encourage non-medical volunteers to join us on a medical mission in Guatemala and also visit some of the patients in their rural homes. If you know of anyone who might have an interest in learning more, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Birth defect prevention program
Efforts are also continuing to build a program that is focused on birth defect prevention with emphasis on clefts. Universidad Rafael Landivar in Guatemala City has recently joined the effort which is being led by our sister organization, Asociacion Companero para Cirugia. We look forward to providing details on this effort in our next report to you.
Last year, thanks to the support of our volunteers, partner organizations and our donors, we were able to help Jonny play soccer with his brother again.
Jonny was only 5 years old when we operated on him in 2016. Up to that moment, he couldn’t run and play with his twin brother, Fredy, due to a hernia. His surgery was scheduled for October and we are happy to say it was a success.
Today, Jonny is attending preschool and he is able to run and play soccer without feeling any pain.
Jonny’s father, Andrés, and his mother, Zoila, already had 3 daughters when a new pregnancy came along bringing them the twin boys. Before the surgery, Jonny had been having trouble since he was 6 months old and his sisters helped take care of him.
Andrés told us that he learned about Partner for Surgery through the radio and some leaflets brought to him. It was only when he finally consulted with us that he was told that Jonny had a hernia. He was happy to learn that not only Jonny would receive his much needed medical care, but that he also wouldn’t have to pay for it.
Today we share with you some pictures of Jonny after his surgery, and we thank you once again for your incredible support.
As we start 2017, we look back at our efforts from 2016 and celebrate our accomplishments.
We closed 2016 with 165 children enrolled in our Infant Nutrition Program. This program is specially important for children with a cleft lip and a cleft palate because, due to this birth defect, breastfeeding is compromised and malnourishment becomes a reality. Without proper strength and body weight, many children would have to be turned down for their life changing surgery. Thanks to the generosity of our donors and the wonderful people joining as volunteers and partner organizations, however, children in Guatemala receive the treatment they need, from nutrition, to surgery, to follow ups, to speech therapies, to a new smile.
Sandra, mother of the adorable Daniela, was afraid her daughter would not survive due to her cleft lip and palate. When she visited our Mobile Medical Mission in Panzos, however, Daniela was enrolled in the Infant Nutrition Program and was able to gain 5 pounds in one month, and her surgery was scheduled for last November. Sandra was very happy to find us and she knew that she would be able to be the proud mom she always wanted to be.
In our nutrition porgram we also met Dulce, a girl among four brothers. Her family was no stranger to us. Her brother Julio was also born with a cleft lip and palate and we performed his two surgeries 5 years ago. The family came from a house with no electricity and the only water available was from the rain; with only trails and no roads, the closest health clinic was a one-and-a-half hour walk. Dulce was a tiny girl, arriving with only 8 pounds before she was enrolled in our program.
The Infant Nutrition Program is a continuous effort. As one child leaves, we know there are more waiting in line. We believe that a child should not be turned down due to the family's financial situation and we work very hard to raise the funds needed to continue with our programs from start to finish. Changing another person's life takes time and effort, and we are happy to do it everyday.