The first thing that you notice in the Guatemalan Highlands is how short of stature the Indians are. This is not genetic but the result of poor nutrition. The same Mayan Indians several hundred miles north average about seven inches taller. This stunting is a sign of severe malnutrition.
Medical and dental teams are invited to visit the pueblos where we have programs as well as surrounding areas in need. Intestinal parasites (because of unsafe water) and respiratory diseases (because of smoke-filled houses from open, in-home cooking fires) are the most common medical problems facing the rural population. Scanty nutrition and little knowledge of basic healthcare exacerbate what would normally be minor health problems.
Besides basic care teams often bring to light vulnerable “closet children” that need special attention, such as wheelchairs, braces, hearing aids, and operations — far beyond the financial reach of these folks. We raise money for these special needs or refer the family to a funding agency, usually paying any necessary transportation.
A major success story: Seven-year old Lucia, pictured above, is an example of a “closet child” found by Kellen Hansan’s medical team at a routine checkup in Nueva Victoria. She could barely breathe and was unable to play with her friends. Her complexion was pale; she was shaky and noticeably disoriented. The doctors found a heart murmur. We referred her to a pediatric surgeon that runs clinics in Guatemala City. A sponsor from the medical team paid for several rounds of transportation to and from the city. Lucia had open heart surgery and then six months later, she was a new child. She gained 20 pounds and was soon running and skipping with all of her friends. She now has hope for a full life.
Are you a doctor, nurse, dentist, physical therapist or other kind of health professional who would be interested in volunteering to help those most in need? Contact us. To see more about accommodations and area highlights to enhance your trip, check out our volunteer vacation pages.
Photo Gallery of the Medical & Dental Aid Program