From 1996-2005, Dana Shepherd, ARNP, CPNP took several trips to Guatemala, where she served with Habitat for Humanity and Food for the Hungry International (FHI),a Christian non-profit relief organization focused on grass-roots efforts to meet the medical needs of third-world (or 2/3 world) nations. FHI spends a great deal of time training local health promoters and local leaders, teaching them about basic hygiene, signs and symptoms of severe illness, and nutrition. Those community leaders then teach their peers in the communities in which they live. The goal for FHI is to no longer be needed in whatever community they start with. Here are excerpts and photos from Dana’s trips:
I traveled with a group of 4-6 medical professionals to isolated rural villages to staff week long health clinics for sponsored children. We set up in schools or small concrete buildings along the road, using two interpreters (Mayan and Spanish) and did well checks as well as treat asthma, pneumonia, skin infections, parasitic infections, anemia, dehydration, malnutrition, and many other disorders common to the third-world. For those with obvious severe health impairments such as tumors, congenital heart disease, infantile glaucoma, or severe malnutrition, FHI orchestrated specialist consultation in the capital after our team left.
I was privileged to visit several of the same communities year after year. Armed with growth charts from previous years, I was able to see huge gains in weight from vitamins and de-worming from year to year. One trip, for language school, allowed me the opportunity to work with a Guatemalan pediatrician in an urban public health clinic in Antigua, seeing children for well and sick care.
Families can endure long waits for public transportation to take them to the medical clinic . As is often the case, a bus breakdown along the route may force families to wait hours for the next available ride. However, their joy seems undiminished.
One day, a group of school children stood waiting outside their school, which was serving as a mobile health clinic. When our team arrived, there were literally 200 children waiting and only 4 of us to do the check-ups. A social worker in our group had thought to bring bubbles, something these kids had never seen before, to entertain them for the long wait. They had such fun trying to catch them no one seemed to mind the waiting, in some cases hours. Such patience was a joy to see compared to the time pressures we often experience in the states.
My first trip to Guatemala in 1996 (on this occasion with Habitat for Humanity) occurred just months after the official end of years of bloody civil war. Most families were terrified of having their pictures taken, for during the worst parts of the war, it meant that the photographed would often mysteriously disappear. Having worked closely with Carlos’ family for quite a time, they were happy to allow us a few photographs. I was grateful for their trust and the opportunity to catch this little boy resting.