Stories

Kevin’s Story

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Kevin was born on July 28, 2019, in Santa Maria Ruvetzul, Aldea Campur, San Pedro Carchá, Alta Verapaz. He was registered in the Cleft Infant Nutrition Program on August 13. Zoila Tut, Partner for Surgery’s Health Promoter, trained Kevin´s parents, Enrique and Tomasa, to care for baby Kevin. He was happy and developing, so his mom and dad were notified that Kevin was going to be scheduled to receive cleft lip surgery in March 2020. Everyone in the family was so happy and celebrated the news. But, unfortunately, things were about to get complicated. During various visits to Kevin’s home, Zoila noticed that Tomasa was having problems with her vision, and they were becoming progressively worse. Zoila decided to train Kevin’s father and 8-year-old sister on how to prepare the formula, bottles, and feed Kevin to keep him healthy. When Zoila came to visit in January, Kevin had lost one pound, but he had been sick with diarrhea. In February 2020, After Zoila and Aurelio (Nutrition Program Coordinator) did the growth monitoring and control, they realized Kevin had lost 3 pounds in one month. Kevin was not only going to be unable to travel to receive surgery with Smiles for Guatemala but had to be taken to the Nutritional Recovery Center at the Health Center in San Cristobal Verapaz in an ambulance. He was released from the hospital two weeks later completely recovered.

Zoila asked Enrique and Tomasa why Kevin had lost that much weight in one month. Finally, Tomasa said, “I have to be honest. I have completely lost my vision. I am no longer able to care for my son. I can’t get water from the tank, boil it, and prepare the bottle for Kevin. I can hardly walk in the house without hitting myself with everything, and I am afraid to cause a fire and destroy the house. I am unable to take care of my son and my other children. Someone has to help me. But my husband has to go to work to feed our family and my 8-year-old daughter has to go to school. How can I help Kevin?”, Tomasa said.

Then, COVID-19 surprised us in Guatemala, and government restrictions were put in place, including the suspension of public transportation. We rapidly began the process of getting waivers from the government authorities, finding transportation, and providing proper protection for our Health Promoters to continue with their work. Zoila was pleased and grateful to be able to visit Kevin at home despite the pandemic and her having to ride on a motorcycle for 6 hours. In the last four visits, Zoila has focused on continuous training Kevin´s father, his grandmother, and his 8-year-old sister to make sure they will help taking care of Kevin. So, now they are all contributing to prepare the bottles, and Tomasa feels blessed that she can still have this bonding moment of holding and feeding his baby. We at Compañero para Cirugia/Partner for Surgery are committed to accompanying Kevin and his family throughout his journey until we make sure that he receives the surgeries he needs and that he is safe and healthy enough. In the meantime, we are not only providing nutritional supplements for Kevin but essential food and supplies for the family as they are one of the thousands of people who have lost their primary job and income.

 

Tropical Storm Amanda lashes in Guatemala

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Guatemala is facing an unprecedented emergency on top of the pandemic, as 779,900 Guatemalans have been affected by tropical storms. People living in high-risk areas sought refuge in municipal or government-run shelters after being forced to leave their homes. The winds damaged houses, knocked down trees, triggered flash floods and landslides in many areas. The governments’ National Coordination for Disaster Reduction, transit police, soldiers, and community individuals have worked together to rescue desperate people. Guatemalan officials have warned that heavy rain would continue, with swollen rivers and possible landslides affecting highways and flooding in coastal areas. We pray this heavy rainy season does not spread the virus as, in emergency cases, people leave their homes with no protection and no possibility of social distancing.

 

Update on Cleft Infant Nutrition program

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As Director of Operations in Guatemala, I have the responsibility of leading our volunteer Surgical Teams and rural Medical Mission.  My job takes me to the largely forgotten rural areas where hundreds of people await our missions and into the hospitals where we provide our surgeries. 

Fourteen surgical teams and five medical missions were scheduled for this year and due to the Corona Virus, all since early March have had to cancel.  It is highly probable that no volunteer medical teams will be able to come for the remainder of 2020 but most are hoping to return in 2021. I am working to ensure their return and also communicating with our Health Promotors regarding patients awaiting surgery and enquiries from those hoping to be included on our patient list when surgical teams return. Working with members of the Partner for Surgery Board, I have contacted the leaders of canceled teams regarding a donation as we struggle to maintain our programs. Many have been generous and we are deeply grateful for their support.  

For twenty years, we have been filling an unmet need in rural Guatemala by providing medical and surgical care unavailable from the Guatemalan health service. With the impact of the coronavirus and travel restrictions, the need is only increasing. We will be ready to meet that challenge because of your continued assistance. Thank you so

much for your invaluable support.

Warm regards,

Ariel Marroquin

Director of Operations

Letter from Liset Olivet, Executive Director of Asociación Compañero para Cirugía

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As Executive Director of Partner for Surgery, Guatemala, I stand with all whose health has been directly or indirectly affected by COVID-19 and the brave heroes of the healthcare system. At the same time, I would like to let you know how we have adjusted to the government pandemic restrictions and probable cancellation of all surgical teams for the rest of the year.

Our current focus is to ensure our Cleft Infant Nutrition Program can continue providing child monitoring, formula, and other supplies to the increasing number of participating families. Unfortunately, many of these same families have lost their employment and now are in pressing need of food, so we are providing some essential items and working with other organizations and partners for additional assistance. Fortunately, we have been able to obtain waivers to the travel restrictions so that our health promoters can continue to visit, deliver supplies, and provide education to the families on virus prevention through masks, hand washing, and social distancing. Like many other organizations, we have furloughed some staff, but are maintaining those needed to restart missions whenever possible.

As of June 28th, there were 17,409 recorded cases, 13,491 are active, and 3,170 have recovered. Sadly, 746 Guatemalans have died of COVID-19 and two from other diagnoses. Given the lack of government health services in rural communities, the actual numbers are undoubtedly much higher. We are incredibly appreciative of your continued assistance because, without you, our mission would not survive.

Lastly, I am forever grateful and inspired by the commitment, resilience, and dedication of our Health Promoters and staff who have shown up and take additional steps to stay true to helping the most vulnerable in Guatemala.

Warm regards,

Liset Olivet

Executive Director in Guatemala

Health Promoters in the Time of COVID-19

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ACPC, our host in Guatemala, currently employs Health Promoters whose job it is to make monthly wellness home visits to the babies awaiting surgery.

When COVID-19 shutdowns began, ACPC was prepared for the possibility that they would not be able to get formula to families in need. They placed formula with the Health Promoters and made sure that each patient’s household had an extra supply, as well.

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Numerous Missions Canceled Due to COVID-19

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When Guatemala halted all flights from the United States and Canada, Partner for Surgery had to suspend surgical missions for the foreseeable future. In order to ensure the health and well being of the children and families who were waiting, Partner for Surgery’s Guatemalan Health Promoters and staff have stepped up to make sure the children in the Infant Nutrition Program remain healthy as they wait for their surgeries. More than 150 children are depending on our support.

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