Tuesday, April 21, 2009

March Madness HIM style!

What an amazingly rewarding month for HIM in Guatemala! We had four teams of 10 day volunteer trips beginning Feb 27 and straight through until March 30. The run started with a team from Bellarmine University in Kentucky, then Carroll University (yes from WI!), on to Arcadia University in Philadelphia, and finally the Plastics/Cleft Palate Surgical & Dental trip. Trip sizes ranged from 24-69 people, bringing a total of 187 volunteers to Guatemala with HIM. Much of the stateside HIM staff was able to join for varied portions as well. A highlight for me was that my mom and good friend, Nancy, came on the last trip of the month! It was great to get a little dose of home after being gone for two months.

The month’s numbers included 3,138 people seen in general medical clinics, 421 seen in dental clinics, 796 teeth extracted (that’s a lot of teeth!! Like, 25 peoples’ mouths worth of ‘em!), 490 people’s teeth were varnished, 55 surgeries, and 95 pairs of eyeglasses given out!!

Additionally, through the high temps and blazing sun construction accomplishments included prepping for and pouring a new concrete floor at the Usumatlan Senior Center, concrete block and tying of rebar at the new AA building in Teculutan, and more rebar tying and pouring of the second floor for HIM’s orphanage. And who could forget the beautiful and amazingly creative murals designed and painted by the Bellarmine artists?! With results like these, how can it not be a success!!

During trips our days start with breakfast at the hotel at 7:30am, and end around 9pm after we’ve had dinner and some evenings, a HIM team meeting. During the day the HIM staff and volunteers (currently seven of us) are split up to drive the various groups to their destinations. Usually there is a crew going to the hospital, construction site, remote village location, Nutrition Center, and sometimes the ROMP lab or a local school. We spend the day working with whichever team we are with that day.

Normally, as one group is heading to Antigua to wind down and start heading back to the States, the long term volunteers stay back and get ready for the next group, which in March meant either later that same day, or early the next day. Given that I had family/friends on the trip I was able to join the crew this time! While in Antigua, my mom and Nancy hiked the volcano, Pacaya. I chose not to this time around, as I did it in October while here and the 6 am departure time was just not appealing after a long month of work. Here I am in Oct on Pacaya though. While they were hiking the volcano, I spent the morning seeing a few other sights around Antigua. Here I am with a couple friends where we hiked to the cross that overlooks the city, with a volcano in the background. We also went to one of the old Monasteries where there is an underground circular area which provides for amazing acoustics. A group of about 15 of us spent a good hour singing, listening and harmonizing to every song we could think of (and actually remember the words to!) Given my love for music, this was another amazing experience.

Each trip tends to bring a ton of donations with them as well. This is wonderful, as so much is needed....from medications, to clothes, to school supplies, to diapers, shoes, medical supplies, etc. The list is never ending! This leads to one of my current jobs now that the trips are done for a two month stretch. Someone has to organization and inventory these supplies...guess who...yours truly!!! Here is what I have been tackling almost daily since the groups left. IT'S A BIG JOB TO SAY THE LEAST! Yes, I am in the picture, but it's kinda like looking for Waldo.

My other ongoing role when there are not trips here is to keep the HIM blog, which Lauren and I started up to date. If you haven't seen that blog and would like to the address is http://himguatemala.blogspot.com/.

It was also a great month for meeting a LOT of wonderful people and reconnecting with a few people from past trips. After each 10 day trip (this time consecutively) of hard work and stepping out of our comfort zones, our parting gifts were a sense of satisfaction, making a difference, new friendships, and our eyes being opened to another culture and way of life. And the coolest part...with such rewards, of course our logical thought pattern is, “How soon can I come back and do it all again?” Now, hopefully you are understanding HIM's success in bringing volunteers from the States, and why I am here for an extended period.

“How wonderful it is that nobody need wait a single moment before starting to improve the world.” –Anne Frank

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