Saturday, May 30, 2009

Hosting campus Ministry

Friends and Family,
Greetings again. These past few weeks we have had many visitors. It is important to us that we share the treasure of mission with our donors, friends, family, and guests from our Diocese. 11 represenatives of Pastoral youth ministry of Resurection Parish and Montana State University, the BOBCATS, and their pastor just departed. They come to visit, and share the life and culture of the people we serve.

They began their visit with breakfast and being serenaded with christian music by the clinic band. The administrative team of the parish clinic then shared a power point presentation of the health program at the mission. Thier tour began in the Medicinal Plant Clinic, which is alternative Mayan medicine. There are 102 medicinal plants and over 20 nutritive plants. Most of these medicinal plants are cultivated in the clinic garden, Teas, soaps, shampoos and other remedies are made from the plants. This clinic is supervised by a chemical biologist from a Health Association of which we are a member. The students and Fr. Val then proceeded up to the Clinica Maxeña which is the parish clinic founded in 1966. The met Dr Ever who has worked in the clinic for four years. He works one evening/night shift at the local hospital. They visited the Laboratory which is managed by our Lab technician who has 25 years experience with the Ministry of Health. Many lab tests allow for accurate diagnosis by our doctor and auxillary nurses. Such tests as VIH for Aids, TB sputums, typhoid, malaria, urine and stool labs are performed daily in the laboratory. Consultation for minor ailments by our two auxiliary nurses also was witnessed by the visitors. The visited the administrative office, accounting office and the small in patient area for patients with acute illness. The clinic has space for four in patients. The Emergency Room still lacks importnat equipment but it is an important function of the clinic. They met the personell from the Mountain Clinic project at the Clinica Maxeña, which includes six mountain clinics. This project is supervised by two Guatemalan doctors and is funded by the European Union and Medicus Mundi España. In the afternoon they traveled over a bumpy road to one of the mountain clinics and shared the progress in health care in the community served, presented by the auxiliary nurse. They also witnessed the devastation from hurricane Stan in one of the mountain villages in 2005.

The next day they journeyed to ASUNCION junior, senior parish high school, initiated by Fr. Hazelton more than a decade ago. There are almost 600 students, including 125 dormitory students who come from very poor families who live at a distance. They shared sports, witnessed a program of dance and poetry of the Mayan culture and a delicious lunch, followed by class visitation. The day terminated with celebration of Mass by Fr Hazelton in their native language of QUICHE and then supper.

They shared a game of soccer with the team of the Clincia Maxeña admist drizzling rain and laughter. The Clinica Maxeña was the winning team and they gladly accepted the gift of two soccer balls and pumps. Another day they traveled to a very poor village and together with men from the community painted three classrooms of the local grade school. A trip for the more hardy was a hike half way up the VOLCAN PECUL, which was recently devastated by a forest fire. The Clinica Maxeña is planning some reforestation in its environmental project on this Volcanoe which is the origin of all water source for the lower coast where the mission is located.

The group of students and Fr Val visited different mountain villages and celebrated mass with Fr Hazy in the native Quiche language. They attend mass with confirmation for local youth at our parish church. Fr Val and Fr Hazy con celebrated this liturgy and sacrament with our local Bishop Pablo.

Pizza in the city on the night before departure ended their experience at the MISSION. Sharing the TREASURE OF THE GUATEMALAN MISSION is indeed an honor for our Mission TEAM, FR, Hazy, Sr. ANNA, Sr Mary, and myself. THANK YOU!

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Formula and Baby milk need grows.

Friends and family,
Greetings from here in the Clinica Maxeña. I have been off the radar screen a bit as life here has been busy with visitors and stress a bit high as violence in country very present and creeps closer to us. But we must dwell on the positive as we know there are prayers and support surrounding us. Today I want to share a little about our very present and increasing need to supply baby formula and milk and protien nutrition for the malnourished and the moms with insufficient breast milk.

In Guatemala 2.5 pound of formula milk cost approximately $20.00 and Milk for infants in Powder form $10. for 2.5 pounds. We use the national nutritional supplement of Incaparina in powder which is about $1 for a quart of this nutritious drink. The infants and moms must come every 15 days to weigh in and be examined by one of auxiliary nurses. Our Natural Medicine clinic health Promotor has received many workshops on Nutrition and she is scheduling nutrition classes which are mandatory to be part of the Program and receive this milk. The classes are given in the native language of Quiche.

Juana, whose picture is included, is cared by her aging grandparents. In no way were they interested that this little child would be given outside the family to raise. Grandma considers her a treasure. Her parents are alive, but the father accused the mother of possibly being unfaithful and therefore the child was not his. The mother was forced to choose, her husband or the infant; so not to lose the support of her husband she chose to give the infant to the grandparents. Today in Guatemala, GRANDPARENTS day is celebrated. Grandparents are an important, and vital part of family. In most homes the married children share the family home. This is not the situation for the infant pictured. Actually these grandparents are also raising two other children of another sibling. Life is sometimes more complicated for the POOR!

Our project is presently offering one to two cans of formula to most though many need and request more. We are desperately in need of more sponsors. CAN YOU HELP US!

Please make your DONATION check for NUTRITION PROJECT to
Guatemala Nurses FUND
and send to
Guatemala MISSION
Diocese of Helena
PO BOX 1729
Helena, MT


Sunday, May 10, 2009

Secure Water

Here in Guatemala there is a lot of intestinal disease related to microbes present in the water. The source of the water for most of the coastal area where our mission is located is on Volcano PECUL. This is the volcano where over a thousand hectares of forestry burned and where several large rivers originate. Already it is estimated that the water capacity has decreased 15% due to this forest fire. Water comes from springs and rivers and flows through tubes to large cememt tanks. Most communities have access to water now but as the population increases there are many issues related to water to be resolved. Contamination in the tanks is due to fecal material from surrounding land seeping into tanks. Much of the population still lack outdoor toilets or do not use the exisitng ones. Tanks also are not properly cleaned and the people lack the education or means to perform this service of the existing tanks on a regular basis.

Last year a Chemist from Carroll College of the Diocese of Helena, Montana came with a plan of a project to educate the population to clorinate their own drinking water in their homes. Change comes slow as preventive health is always more difficult than curative medicine. We have named the Project, "Secure Water" to avoid the taboo of the taste of chloro in the water discouraging participants. Several of the workers involved in environmental issues in the clinic have introduced "secure water" to their families. They realize they must be convinced theselves and teach by example. Several more employees have been convinced and the project slowly grows.

We also have introduced this project to our parish high school where over 100 students live in a dormitory in the school. Like many environmental projects this help resolve other health and economic issues, such as use of less fire wood to boil the water which helps deforestation and economic cost of firewood, decrease in intestinal disease and preventive health education makes changes that hopefully are passed on to the next generation. This is a project that is very important and yet is not a great expense for the people or the clinic. Thank You for your support to improve the lives of the Poor whom we serve.

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Hospitals in Guatemala

Visiting patients and taking patients to hospitals in Guatemala is often a difficult experience. It is another world to care we receive in our Health System in the US. This week Mary and I accompanied a patient with the diagnosis of Tuberculosis and AIDS to a hospital in the second largest city. Her condition is grave but she wants treatment and we are glad that she and her husband agreed to go to the hospital. It is one of the few National Hospitals that diagnose and treat Tuberculosis patients and also have a program for antivirals and the treatment of AIDS. She is only 39. She has four children. The Hospital is delapitated, grim really, but the care is adequate and the most appropiate place for her to heal. It is much colder so we hope she can adjust to the climate change.

Today also I went to the National Hospital nearby to check on one of our workers sister who had a baby by emergency C Section. I was a little sad to see the newborn as she has hydrocephalus. Really a beautiful tiny face admist her huge head; her prognosis is grim. Patients and personell are with masks due to the arrival to Guatemala of the virus that is gripping the world. Three cases have been identified.
Time has made small improvements in the care and diagnostic procedures in this hospital for the patients. Doctors and Nurses really have little access to the means or medications to bring full recovery to many of the patients. Health Care is not a Human Right here. We are blessed that our doctor works one day a week in the national Hospital and is able to track our patients.

Time to eat as rain soaks the ground outside. Thank You for allowing me to share with you.

Monday, May 4, 2009


May 3rd is an important day for our church here and also for many workers. Before the Feast of the DAY OF THE CROSS held little significance for me. Here it is celebrated by carpententers and construction workers as their DAY of recognition. A huge cross, behind the altar in the church, was beautifully decorated with fresh flowers. We are in the midst of remodeling and enlarging our clinic kitchen so we have extra construction workers who are working in the rain. Our hope was that the kitchen would be finished before the rainy season and the arrival of guests, but we did not succeed. Before departing Saturday, the workers built a small cross, decorated it, and erected it in the center of the kitchen construction. This is a custom of construction workers to have a cross to commemorate this day. Today they were delighted to pose with the cross.

The Clinic Kitchen is a very important service for our mission. Patients, workers, and guests to our mission are served delicious, nutritious meals daily. We obtained a grant to remodel and buy new appliances for this kitchen. Estefana and Metchas are the cooks and they both have worked many years for the Clinic. They will soon also benefit from a ONIL stove that saves wood, a new store room for basic food products and a place to store fire wood. The construction is being directed by our own Constructor, Martin, who is also head of Pastoral Health and Maintenance.

Friday, May 1, 2009

Thoughts on the DAY OF THE WORKER

The rains have begun in the afternoons, sometimes accompanied by wind. Before the Mayans used a banana leaf or small piece of plastic to prevent being soaked. Now you see more umbrellas and people riding in small three wheel taxis up to the clinic. Times have changed. When we came in 1966 there were less than 10 cars in town;now there are more than 200. Cell phones are very common, even for the poor. They are also a safety issue too as violence is an issue and communication is very important to all. Education is much more accessible though there are still many communities that do not have access to highschool because of poverty or no school nearby. Asuncion, a parish highschool started by our Mission has enabled hundreds to graduate from highschool that otherwise would not have had the opportunity. Weekend college classes of social work and other careers at Asuncion is providing more opportunities. Our Health and Education projects are not meant to be a solution for these responsibilities of the government but rather to supplement the needs of the pooor with these basic rights. Progress is slow but change is possible and it is happening.

Today is the day of the WORKER so there are marches and schools, banks and other businesses are closed for the day. Our Doctor took his holiday but other workers will choose another day and so we are open for business as usual. It is quieter though so time to celebrate the day with cake and a juice drink.

A frequent diagnosis now is Diabetes. This is new for the Mayan population and is a health challenge for us. We have hundreds of cases diagnosed now and we have started a monthly Diabetic Club. We are fortunate to have a Nutritionist from pastor health of the diocese here to assist us in providing classes. Diet change is difficult for these people. The childrenare weaned off the breast to sweetened coffee. Bananas grow to shade the coffee trees and are readily available and when in access contribute to the high sugars. Corn tortillas also have to be limited and a more varied diet is required to control their sugar levels. The extreme poverty sometimes does not allow for many diet changes. Taking medicine for a chronic disease is also new to them so some patients stop their medication without medical advice and come in a health crisis. So we are learning slowly how we can help them control this disease which is becoming epidemic for us.

i did want to share news from the world of my FURRY Friends. if you read the blog of my animals you know I have a HUSKY, CHAJINEL. This is the Mayan word for GUARDIAN!
Chajinel does not have much opportunity to roam so you know he was happy when of the workers brought a female HUSKY as a possible mate. I was a bit concerned he might growl and not be friendly but I was wrong. This visit was meant to be a get acquainted space and I was as excited as Chajinel to meet KEEKA. More later on upcoming visits. I am including a photo so all can know CHAJINEL!