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Providence employees have just returned from two inspiring journeys for the inaugural Providence Health International (PHI) service trips to Guatemala. The first team consisted of ten employees working with PHI partner, Medical Teams International. The team installed 35 energy efficient stoves to address the public health crisis of acute respiratory infection related to traditional indoor open fires that produce harmful smoke. The team worked in the village of Chitepey in the central highlands of Guatemala. Chitepey is a Q’eqchi-speaking indigenous community lacking in public health and educational support; it has virtually no infrastructure for electricity, public transportation or running water. Despite Chitepey’s many needs, the community had much to teach participants and captured the hearts of the Providence team members, who valued the simplicity of life in Chitepey and gained a new appreciation for previously taken for granted opportunities back home. As anyone in the team will share, the gift of a stove pales in comparison to the richness of the relationships and love shared.
The second team also created strong bonds on their trip. This team consisted of thirty skilled clinicians working with PHI’s partner, Faith in Practice. The team members represented a variety of hospitals and departments throughout the Southern California Region, yet they worked seamlessly in the rural village of San Felipe, Retalhuleu to address the medical problems of more than 65 patients. The team performed 26 hernia repairs, 25 gallbladder removals and 14 surgeries to remove lymphomas, cysts and masses. Throughout the week, team members heard the stories of the patients who had not worked in years because of the pain and disruption caused by their medical problems. The patients had traveled many hours to receive health care support and the Providence team was relieved to see their patients leave the hospital with smiles on their faces.
In two short weeks, 35 families were provided with highly efficient stoves that improve ventilation and families’ health, 65 surgical patients received interventions that provided relief from extensive pain and 40 people of Providence learned from and were inspired by the resilient and warm people of Guatemala.
PHI provides opportunities for people of Providence to learn, serve and donate to international communities; leveraging the resources and talents of our health care system to improve and promote global health. The service trips in Guatemala, a new program of PHI, will expand the Providence Mission beyond our borders to address the health needs and improve the health care capacity of Guatemala. This work is driven by the Sisters of Providence’s Hopes & Aspirations and, if built upon relationships of trust and respect, will be mutually beneficial for the people of Guatemala and the people of Providence.
A big thanks goes to team leaders James Harker, Colleen Settles, OP, Eileen Wolf, Katherine Bullard, RN, and trip participants Raymond Rivera, MD, Douglas Morrow, MD, Philip Biderman, MD, Scott Patterson, MD, Deborah Olson, MD, Maria Bendebel, MD, John Nguyen, MD, Joanne Fowler, RN, John Chop, Alexandra Bierne, Arlene Howe, RN, Karen Rice, RN, Susan Olson, RN, Lynn Miles, RN, Kevin MacVane, RN, Kathy Dibene, RN, Nikki Bauer, RN, Rowena Lester, Marie Mayen-Cho, RN, Judy Albert, RN, Deanna Tueros, RN, Alex Jackson, Mark Thomas, J. Heidi Aylsworth, Matthew Volta, Scot A Gudger, Joyce Dombrowski, Michelle Boucher and OT Millsap for giving their time and energy for the success of these first trips. We also thank the staff at Medical Teams International and Faith in Practice for their dedication to this important work and for helping to make these trips possible.
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