Bellin College students recently returned from a medical mission with Mission El Faro to the Izabal region of Guatemala on the East Coast. There were 13 students and 1,400 pounds of medical supplies in tow for the trip. The team traveling consisted of the 13 students, Bellin College faculty, nurse practitioners, nurses who are prior graduates of the college, support individuals and physicians at Bellin Health.
Students returned to the Eliza Martinez Children’s Hospital, the only publicly run children’s hospital in Guatemala, built in 1952 which functions on very low funding from the government. The group brought needed medical and general supplies and large amounts of infant formula to the hospital. The students also taught paramedic and staff members their annual CPR certification and how to utilize the Kits for Girls which are menstrual hygiene kits for teen girls.
For the fifth year, the team set up portable clinics in the villages of Baltimore (80 patients), Rio Salado (76 patients), and the Puerto Barrios Dump (80 patients). This year they served a new community deeper in the jungle called Plan Grande (80 patients), which had the most significant healthcare needs. The group has seen some of the same patients each year. Medical charts are maintained on each patient, which is different than many medical missions where data and patient information is not maintained for comparison between visits.
“The most impactful memory I have from my time in Guatemala was when we set up a clinic in the Puerto Barrios City Dump,” said Martha Daley, 2020 BSN student who attended the mission in 2019. “I remember as we were driving into the dump, I had tears filling my eyes as I saw more and more garbage piling up on the side of the roads and people rummaging through the items for anything they could salvage. I could not, and sometimes still cannot, believe that there are people in this world that make a living off of working in a dump, and worse, live in a dump. At times, it is hard to believe there are people who do that, and living the life we live, we don’t think twice about where our garbage goes.”
The team has made a commitment to the villagers and work with them to provide access to clean water through water filtration systems and stoves which use less natural resources and are more environmentally friendly.
Students and faculty raised just about $8,000 before the mission trip, which was used to purchase water filters for 35 families, new stoves for 19 families and much-needed prescription and over-the-counter medications and clinic supplies. The group brought 1,250 pounds of equipment to help support our clinics and our teaching activities at the children’s hospital.
“I was excited to bring this year’s Team back to the Izabal region,” said Lynn Murphy, Assistant Professor at Bellin College. “It is wonderful to see the same patients return to our clinics each year. We have worked on developing relationships based on caring and trust with the villagers and I can see the improvements in their overall health over the past few years. It is an experience that really has the ability to change a student’s understanding regarding healthcare disparities within different communities and the impact that poverty can have on their patient’s health. It is my hope that will be able to apply and utilize these experiences of running these remote clinics in their future careers in health care, increasing their empathy, respect and caring of all patients.”
The experience of going on the Guatemala mission trip stays with students who elect to join the team on the mission.
“The most important reason why I wanted to partake on this mission trip to Guatemala was to gain a better experience of healthcare diversity in a different culture, and help those who cannot afford healthcare for many different reasons, including the high costs and the distance to travel to gain healthcare access,” said Daley.
Read more student stories from the mission on the blog.