Guatemala Medical Mission Trips
Rotary Club of Hendersonville Guatemala Medical Mission Trips
Service Above Self
District Award for 2012-2013 District Conference
Five Avenues of Service - International
The Rotary Club of Hendersonville was first made aware of the hopeless plight of children in Guatemala in early 1996. Many of these children have never had access to a dentist or medical doctor and they represent the poorest of the poor. Since 1996, the Rotary Club of Hendersonville has embraced international service through an annual dental and medical mission to Guatemala. The program was inspired by club member and Pediatric Dentist, Dr. Bill Taylor, who has led the group each year since the first trip. Club members have partnered with Rotarians in the Guatemalan Rotary Club - Las Americas to bring dental and medical services to poverty stricken children. Hendersonville Rotarians are joined in Guatemala with local dentists and physicians who conduct medical screening. Dentists, nurses, dental hygienists, pediatricians, an orthopedic surgeon, optometrists and other health professionals, along with numerous lay assistants from the Club, have responded to the desperate needs of the children by working on this project. Each year 8–15 Hendersonville Rotarians travel to Guatemala, always at their own expense, to participate in this humanitarian work. This program exemplifies Service Above Self.
In 2005, the mission was expanded to include orthopedic surgery. Tennessee Orthopedic Alliance partner Dr. Wills Oglesby led the surgical team and personally performed over 50 examinations and 15 surgeries resulting in several patients being able to walk again for the first time in years.
In recent years, the mission efforts have been focused on the Remar Orphanage. This orphanage rescues children born to the slums and/or who exist without family, home, love or education. Many of the impoverished children in this area survive by rummaging for food and other necessities at the municipal trash dump.
Over the years, deep friendships have developed with Las Americas Rotarians, the orphanage staff, and former patients. The ever-present long line of children anxiously awaiting the extraction of a painful, non-restorable tooth (followed with a hug, a toy and a hygiene kit) is the proof the program has been successful.
Since the program began, almost 14,000 disadvantaged children and adults who otherwise would not have had access to professional healthcare have received over $4,000,000 in dental, optical and medical services calculated by U.S. standards, in settings as remote as a jungle hut or a newly established hospital. None of it would have been possible without the collaborative effort of many volunteers here in Middle Tennessee. Rotary mission members say the resulting fresh smiles on the faces of the children make all the time, effort and money spent worth the work. The Rotary cost per medical service provided (many patients received multiple services) was less than $5.00.
Over the years we have expanded our partnership with the Las Americas Club with two new medical projects. We assist Climesa Hospital in treating poverty-stricken citizens of Guatemala City and at Safe Passage our Rotary team provides medical services for those living in and around the city's trash dump. Unfortunate homeless children from the city dump rifle through the discards of the more fortunate for something to eat or wear. Climesa Hospital, Safe Passage and Remar Orphanage each have tremendous medical needs that the Rotary Club of Hendersonville can address..
Some examples of our seventeen trips:
In 2007 the Rotary Club of Hendersonville again expanded its Guatemala medical mission horizons. The Club partnered with the Ophthalmic Department at Volunteer Community College in Gallatin and brought two graduating students, all expenses paid by the Club, to assist in a Guatemalan eye clinic program. These students dispensed eye glasses, some donated and some purchased by the Rotary Club, to needy Guatemalans. This was an outstanding experience for the two young ophthalmic students. Because of this successful ophthalmic program, the club will continue taking Volunteer State Community College ophthalmic students to Guatemala. This is a winning situation for the College, for the students, for our Rotary Club and especially for the Guatemalan people. In 2012 six ophthalmic students were part of our program
The 2009 Guatemala trip was very successful in terms of number of patients served. There were 1241 Guatemalans that received dental treatments, prescription glasses and medical examinations. The Dental Clinic consisted of 4 dentists extracting 428 decayed teeth. The Eye Glasses Clinic had 4 Volunteer State Community College ophthalmic technical students dispensing 728 glasses. The Health Screening Clinic used two medical doctors from Guatemala to screen 275 needy patients. These physicians prescribed many thousands of dollars of medicines free to the Guatemalans. the medicines were provided by a grant written by the Hendersonville Rotarians. The clinics provided 1441 total patient services. The Hygiene and Toy Area gave away more than 800 hygiene kits and toys to children who had completed their medical and dental procedures. There were 16 Middle Tennesseans and Hendersonville Rotarians, along with a British college student that traveled to serve the Guatemalans at the Shalom Christian School in Guatemala City.
Our Club had a great partnership with the Shalom Foundation from Franklin Tennessee. This organization set up the Shalom Christian School site for the Hendersonville Rotary Club team to receive and serve the needy patients. As always, the partnership with our fellow Guatemalan Rotarians, the Club Roterio de Las Americas, made the trip possible.
In 2012 there were over 1400 medical, dental, ophthalmic and psychological patients treated at Remar Orphanage. .
The 2013 Medical Mission Trip will take place the last week in April. This trip includes approximately 20 volunteers. Many are Hendersonville Rotarians.
After more than a dozen years, this Rotary program has developed into a true labor of love. Many Hendersonville Rotarians have traveled to Guatemala repeatedly, working under difficult conditions, with their only desire being to help underprivileged Guatemalans attain a better life.
Service Above Self!