Thursday, February 28, 2008

What A Team!!!

Day 3 - Restoration

After two 14 hour plus days, our team is exhausted and several are plagued with colds, headaches, and Montezuma’s revenge. Paramedic Glen Canavan started an IV on the bus, for one of the team members who was dehydrated after fighting the stomach flu for several hours.

With the IV bag hanging from the bus window, we journeyed for two hours up to the mountainous community of Primera Joya. Dirt roads curled upward incessantly it seemed, until we reached an altitude of 2200 meters to our destination. Nestled in between lush farm plots on the side of this mountain, was a small school where we would work today. In this area, farmers harvest carrots, potatoes, and a local vegetable called wiskil which is something like a squash.

We were greeted by Mayor Beto with hugs and words of thanks for helping the needy people in his community. Toothless grins and pats on the back encouraged us as we got off the bus to face yet another large crowd. 650 people had walked to the school carrying babies and elderly parents to receive desperately needed medical/dental care from our team. Doctors, nurses, and paramedics treated everything from parasites & scabies to high blood pressure & diabetes. Newborn babies who had never seen a doctor were examined and held tenderly for an extra moment or two before they were re-wrapped and put inside the cocoon wound tightly around the neck of their mother. Most of the women and children have chronic coughs due to the inside fires used for cooking and for heat, and so along with vitamins and parasite medications, our pharmacy workers dispensed a lot of cough medicine.

Today, our dentist, Dr. Jack Cottrell, did some minor mouth surgery and some orthodontic work. He and Dr. Mimi, a lovely dentist working with us this week, removed more teeth than we could count and they filled as many other teeth as possible. We soon discovered that most do not own a toothbrush and so we distributed them along with toothpaste and instructions for them to simply brush their teeth in order to save them.

By the end of this day instead of feeling more drained, our team seemed to feel restored. Colds, headaches, and the stomach flu had all been treated with medication and our spirits soared as we realized the impact we had on these brown eyed farmers and their families who daily endure cold (from the high altitude) sickness, and a level of poverty in tin shacks that is unimaginable. These people live off the land that seems unforgiving at times, but they are hard workers and so generations continue to survive. Not only did our team bring restoration today – we left restored with the faces from Primera Joya clearly etched in our minds.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Day 2 - Reflection

Today’s trip took us through morning traffic, one hour and forty five minutes out of town up the mountain and then down, down, down, on dusty roads only wide enough for our bus. This clinic location was chosen to help Guatemala’s Mayan people who live in a province that merges three different cultures and many different dialects. Long woven skirts and embroidered blouses are the typical dress of the women and girls – they are a proud people, humble in their surroundings yet unusually proud of their children. Gentle children demanding nothing bravely sat in the dentist's chair without ever having seen a dentist before today. While his parents worked, one six year old boy arrived alone sent to visit the Canadian dentist without even knowing what a dentist was. What this boy received today goes beyond words. What he received from Dr. Jack and his lovely wife Michelle as they spoke softly to him and gently wiped his tears, was much more than the fixing of cavities – it was compassion at its finest.

Dr. Steve Russell…
“Today we saw survivors – people who eek out an existence in very difficult circumstances. Not just issues of food security and poverty but also the hardships of life. Women who have been raped, orphans who have been left with relatives, children who are at work despite their youth, and yet, they find a way to carry on. In a life where the world can seem pitched against them, today we were able to offer them the hope that God is with them.”

Paramedic Glen Canavan…
"So much planning is put into these trips and on this second day, I am amazed by the fact that we have already treated over 1500 people. That is almost as many as we saw during five days last year in Honduras. Every day we pray for the safety of the team and for the communities that we are visiting. It is mind boggling to think that right now there are 1500 hundred people thanking God for us. The little things that we do for them will make noticeable changes in their quality of life. People like Victor who had stopped taking his medication because it upset his stomach, while his diabetes ran out of control. An alternate medication was selected for him and his diabetes is once again in check. It doesn't get any better than this."

Dr. Tony Brown…
“I find that we are seeing so many more people than we have ever seen before. Today’s Mayan people were so beautiful and so grateful. After receiving the 50th hug and kiss from mothers and their children, I realized that I had dispensed a new kind medicine called Amistad and Esperanza (Friendship & Hope).”

Day 1 - Remarkable

On this first day, a very excited team travelled 30 minutes outside of Guatemala City to the rural community of San Pedro Ayampuc. By the time we got off the bus at 9 a.m., hundreds of people were already in line. Toothless grandmothers clasped the hands of their grandchildren while young mothers bounced squirming babies on their hips – each one eager to see the Canadian doctors and dentists that waved as they got off the bus.

The team quickly found their spots and began treating patients. By 6 p.m. 789 people had been seen by medical staff, and 90 people had received dental treatment from our two dentists. Below are some stories from a very remarkable first day.

Twenty month old baby – gun shot wound and parasites
This little guy arrived in the arms of his young mother with abdominal discomfort and diarrhea. A kind paramedic examined him and his incredible story of survival unfolds. One month ago while being held by his father in a local store, a robbery took place and a bullet was fired. The bullet killed his father and miraculously passed through his small body without hitting any organs. The sad eyes of his 23rd old mother, now alone with 2 small children, pierced many hearts today. However, the gift of warm hugs, medicine, vitamins, food, and new clothing for her children went a long way to show this young woman that she is not alone – there are people who care.

Five year old boy – fillings for his teeth
He hides behind the strong arm of his father knowing that this big man will not leave his side. As I fill out his patient dental sheet, I ask his father if he has any health concerns. His father’s sad eyes speak louder than his words and I soon learn that this chubby little boy has lymphoma. His father tells me I will never know how much he has suffered and I let the tears fall as I tell him about my own granddaughter’s battle with stage 4 cancer. We weep together for just a moment – knowing that we share a bond of understanding as we trust God for continued miracles. I gently lead Kevin over to Dr. Jack – knowing that this doctor’s cheerful banter and mispronounced Spanish words will bring a smile to these two faces that deserve so much.

Dr. Jack gives Kevin a new ball and I run for another toy as Dr. Jack fires up the drill and gently begins his work. I stroke Kevin’s chubby hand knowing that today this darling child and his father have both received much more than beautiful teeth – they have received kindness and hope to face as many tomorrows as they have together.

Nine year old boy – heart trouble
He arrives at the clinic with an elderly neighbour who tells the doctor that he has heart trouble. The doctor is at once concerned and begins a thorough examination in search of heart irregularities. After finding nothing, he questions the elderly lady and she begins to explain that his father died a few months ago, and that recently his mother abandoned him, leaving in her wake a boy with a very broken heart. Things become clear and the concerned Canadian doctor speaks gently to the boy telling him he is sorry – his eyes tell this sweet child that he can only imagine how his heart must really feel. There are no words to describe this kind of pain and each team member wishes they could scoop him up and take him home. But…he is one of many hurting children and at best all that we offer is a warm smile, a hug, and some vitamins – momentary solutions that give him the courage he needs to follow his neighbour lady home in search of a cure for his broken heart.

Young woman – kidney failure
She receives dialysis three days per week, and has a donor who will give her a kidney but she cannot afford the surgery. Dr. Tony does what he can for her but he knows that time is not on her side, and that we must find a way to help this young woman get the surgery that she needs in order to live and together we will.

These are just a few of the reasons that motivate us to wake up in the morning at 5 a.m. to do it again tomorrow in the community of Saxsui, where we are anticipating the arrival of 1000 people.

Thank you for your support of this trip and of this organization that really does Feed The Children in so many more ways than one.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

The Team Has Landed!

We were a very energetic group of Canadian medical/dental professionals that walked off the plane yesterday in Guatemala City. Feed The Children Guatemalan staff welcomed us with hugs and two buses to transport us and all of our luggage. Twelve returning members were busily becoming reacquainted and laughing about memories from their Honduras trip, while welcoming six new team members and the exciting addition of a dental team.

The team was quickly settled into the hotel and spent the remainder of the day discussing logistics and sorting through the items that will be distributed to the visiting families at the clinics each day.

Today,(Sunday) we took a bus ride to the historical city of Antigua. Cobblestone streets still welcomed guests to this quaint city which was built in 1543.

As I stood on a rooftop overlooking the town, I could see hundreds of clay tiles on every roof – a sea of wavy terracotta baking in the hot sun. Warmly painted, connected homes lined the streets in every imaginable shade of gold, orange and rust. Ornate wrought iron decorated the windows that flourished with exotic flowers in reds and purples.

Along with us, many tourists wander through old cathedrals and abandoned convents wondering about the stories that the old stone walls would undoubtedly tell if only they could.

A fruit vendor stands beside a small cart preparing bags of papaya and pineapple which he sells to feed his family. Women hold hands with their little brown eyed daughters in typical dress making their way to the huge cathedral, while other women pass by our team carrying bundles of wood on their heads in order to cook their next meal.

Today we are tourists in this warm colorful city, but tomorrow at the first clinic in San Pedro Ayampuc, we become God’s hands and feet – doing His work with the use of stethoscopes and dental tools – a team of caring Canadians sharing God’s love with these beautiful people who really do need the hope that we have come to bestow.

Well & School Dedications Bless Two Communities

On Friday February 22, 2008 Ken Dick and FTC Canada Representative, Ryan Fletcher, drove up the mountain to the region of Palencia to dedicate the new well and school. Many families attended the dedications and spoke directly to Ken – thanking him for changing their lives and for giving their children a promising future.

One mother said, “I have lived in this community for more than 40 years and 32 years ago we were promised water. This has always been our dream and today it is a reality. I have brought my daughter here today so that she can witness this dream that has come true. Every day we had to walk two kilometers to get fresh water. She tapped on her heart and gently put her arm around her daughter's shoulder and said, “I thank you from the bottom of my heart. Now, my children will not have to wait many more years for fresh water, and they will not have to walk a great distance to wash or to get a drink. You have changed our lives forever and words cannot express what is in our hearts toward you.”

At the school site, hundreds gathered to celebrate this auspicious occasion – a day that the children of Bejucalito will never forget. They now have a school and a library to call heir own. A place to be proud of – a place of learning that will give them the tools they need to succeed. The children sang songs for the visiting group and Mayor Beto and his wife were very moved as with tears in his eyes Ken said, “Denada” (you’re welcome) to all of the people who clapped and cheered. In short, it was a very emotional day for the Canadians who had travelled up the mountain to show two communities how much they really care.

Friday, February 15, 2008

School & Well Dedications Next Week

The children living in Bejucalito are becoming very excited as daily they see more of their school. Just imagine the value these children, (who have watched the construction) will place on education – real walls, a library, and several blackboards provided by caring Canadians, will be the beginning of opportunities that will change their lives forever. Next week FTC’s President, Ken Dick, will travel up the mountain to officially dedicate the new school at its official opening. With the arrival of every new photo, Ken’s excitement has been visible to all of the FTC staff, who know that their leader has an incredibly big heart when it comes to changing a child’s life. It is his passion for this work that encourages each of us to press on in our efforts to help children.

In a nearby village, many will gather around the well that is also being dedicated next week – people thrilled to have potable water near their homes. Once the well is operational, the city of Palencia has promised to run the pipes directly into the community. In the western world, we don’t think about not having water in our homes. This is a huge blessing for these humble families who appreciate this gift more than we will ever know.

On February 23rd, FTC’s medical team will fly to Guatemala and with every communication we can “feel” their excitement. The dental equipment shipped from Canada has arrived, and our team in Guatemala is busy with the pre-trip groundwork. They are packaging the rice, beans, cereal and coffee that will be distributed to each family visiting the medical clinics. In addition, each child will receive a new piece of clothing and a small toy – all tangible items that will bless these Guatemalans with hope and show them that someone cares.