Thanks to you, our donors, we successfully lead the inaugural Jo’s Nurses mission Feb. 23 – Mar 2 with Seattle-based Guatemala Village Health. The four first-mission nurses selected were JP Denham, Kathryn McCarty, Wendy Clarke and Stephanie Saldivar. I was privileged to supervise and mentor both weeks.
The first week we brought health care to the eastern Rio Dulce area and second week to Monterico, south of Guatemala City. GVH “adopted” a dozen villages around these two cities and brings teams of medical and dental personnel three times a year. Additionally, local representatives provide ongoing monthly support with medications for chronic illnesses such as diabetes and hypertension as well as ante-natal checks and vitamin supplements.
Clinics were conducted in health posts, schools and once in a pastor’s home. Living conditions were generally comfortable, but remote and occasionally rugged. Transportation was unique – vans, walking, small boats and in the open back of transport trucks to arrive at the villages. All supplies were brought from Seattle by the volunteers.
I invite you to enjoy these excerpts from trip reports by Jo’s Nurses:
“The second village we went to was up in the hills and quite remote. After spending the night on the clinic floor with a pillow and a blanket the adventure began with us driving up a dirt road with 15 people standing in the back of a pickup truck. It was stunningly beautiful. The sky was crystal blue and the sun was shining, homes made of bamboo and leaves…
“After setting up our make-shift clinic, I was introduced to a stern looking Mayan woman. I wondered what her status was in the community. She was well groomed; she wore a simple beaded necklace and gold earrings. I decided to show her pictures of my husband and two daughters. It was a game of charades (she only spoke Ketchi) but I think she understood. I then took her picture.
“When I showed her the picture she shrieked with laughter. She ran around the room with my camera showing it to all available bystanders. I thought then maybe she had never seen a picture or herself in a mirror. Could that be so? Her reaction was priceless. Unfortunately, I did not get a picture of it because she ran away with my camera! I got my camera back but never got a picture of her smile. I have it stored in my memory.
“When I came home people asked if I felt like we helped or made a difference. The answer is yes, but what they gave to me was much more than I could have ever imagined. They are happy people, living a different way of life, some of it clearly better, some of it clearly worse. I want to go back again, and again, and again.” ---Kathryn McCarty RN
“Going to Guatemala was such a surreal experience, I'm not sure I could ever fully describe it in writing. I have dreamed of being involved in medical missions for quite some time - this is why I became a nurse. Being supported by One Nurse, I was finally able to take that first step. Having an experienced mentor (Sue) with us was absolutely invaluable.
“There is no way to fully prepare for a ride on the back of a flatbed truck or a riverboat into the jungle to be met by an entire village waiting. I was deeply impacted by the beauty and gratitude of the people we were there to serve.
“Somehow I attracted a variety of wildlife (an enormous spider, scorpion, tarantula, sting ray, a giant moth, and even a barracuda!) As physically demanding as this trip was, I felt energized and had no trouble with 12-16 hour work days, hauling gear from camp to camp. The crew was amazing - both the American and Guatemalan members.
“Being on this mission has served to fully confirm this trajectory for me. My wife and I have our sights set for being involved with long-term and hopefully permanent mission work as soon as we are able to.” ---JP Denham RN
“My greatest emotional feeling - how simple life can be. The families we saw had many issues which in the US would be taken care of easily. A good example is a patient with a blood sugar over 600 goes home in the village. A person in the US might get admitted with an Insulin drip, diet teaching and a follow up doctor visits.
“When children came from the school was my biggest surprise. They were piled loosely in a pickup truck. They got out and sat in the heat waiting to see us. It was lunch time. There were no lunch pails. I saw a girl eating a pig’s ear for lunch. It reminded me of my girls complaining about the cafeteria food. We are so blessed, it’s unbelievable!” ---Wendy Wescott RN
“I met Sue at a time that I needed a little inspiration and a little direction. Being able to go on this trip worked out effortlessly, and I feel like it is where I was meant to be. What I appreciated most was meeting other like-minded individuals, connecting with those around me, being in a new environment and being able to provide care to the people we served.” -–Stephanie Saldivar RN