Text and photos by Robyn Nielsen unless otherwise noted
Last week Pop Wuj welcomed the Indiana University Timmy Global Health brigade with much excitement and anticipation. Nearly 40 individuals ranging from undergrads to long time practicing physicians arrived in Xela on Sunday with medical supplies and an obvious display of enthusiasm.
Timmy Global Health is a USA based nonprofit that works to expand healthcare access to underprivileged communities and empowers volunteers to become better global citizens while understanding global health issues at a deeper level. Here in Guatemala, Pop Wuj partners with Timmy Global Health and receives monetary support in order to maintain year-round care for all of the patients that rely on Pop Wuj's free and low-cost health services. Timmy Global Health sends five volunteer groups to Pop Wuj a year where medical professionals, student volunteers, and community volunteers combine their skills and knowledge to serve rural communities around Xela with mobile clinics. Many of the individuals who we serve would otherwise not have access to health care without these brigades.
Unlike many other short-term medical volunteer programs, Timmy Global Health and Pop Wuj work with communities to ensure long-term health solutions including a referral day after the brigade leaves where patients with referrals receive the additional care that they need with transportation provided.
This much anticipated week filled with hard work, PB&J sandwiches and hand sanitizer started off a little something like this:
Day 1 started bright and early in Llanos del Pinal in Ixcanul Noj, the community center that is also home to the Family Support Center. After a group introduction and special welcome led by Pop Wuj's director, Carmencita, everyone went to their designated stations and got straight to work.
|Carmen and brigade leader Shanti leading the first group meeting|
|Pharmacy team in action|
|A view of doctors and med students in consults and the dentist at work|
|Timmy student applying a flouride treatment to a child while coloring|
|Patients waiting for consult in Llanos del Pinal|
Day 2 started early with a 7am departure for our 1.5 hour journey to rural Xeabaj. The vans were loaded with everything needed to set up what was basically a small hospital and we were off.
|Dr. Brett going above and beyond to set up the wires needed for the clinic|
|The Xeabaj School where we set up clinic|
|Sean acting out how to use an inhaler to a young patient|
|Our caravan loaded up and ready to go home|
|A small glimpse of beautiful Pujujil|
|Setting up in Pujujil|
Some of us walked down to the nearby school, La Escuela Oficial Rural Mixta Caserio El Adelanto in Pujujil and provided parasite treatments to 346 kids.
|Students at the school (photo by Shanti Aguilar-Cardenas)|
|Becky giving a parasite treatment to a student (photo by Shanti Aguilar-Cardenas)|
|Students lined up, ready for the parasite pill (photo by Shanti Aguilar-Cardenas)|
After seeing 61 patients (38 women, 16 men), the vans pulled out with children and community members waving us goodbye.
Day 4 in Buena Vista. We arrived around 8:30 am and gathered for another short meeting and welcome led by Doña Ana, the midwife who runs the hospital where we set up the clinic. She introduced the staff and the local translators and thanked us for our efforts. This time we were in a Mam community and, as in Xeabaj, we used translators to bridge the language gap.
|Ali, a Pop Wuj Medical Spanish student, with one of the women of the community.|
|Pop Wuj students and Timmy students ready for registration|
|Sneaky birds eye view of the clinic and waiting patients|
By the end of the day we had seen 70 patients (56 women, 14 men) and returned to Pop Wuj eager for the highly talked about dinner that had been prepared all day by Pop Wuj staff member, Carmenlina.
That night, more than 50 chairs were set up in the main Pop Wuj sala for the whole team as we munched on burritos made with fresh ingredients, said our thank yous and goodbyes and shared stories from the week.
|Pop Wuj sala turns into a 5-star restaurant for the night|
|A full house!|
The final day of the brigade, day 5, wrapped up here at Pop Wuj. Unlike normal Pop Wuj clinics which are usually held in the clinic on the first floor of Pop Wuj, we opened up the entire school in order to serve 81 patients (61 women, 20 men). Rooms that usually held Spanish classes were filled with blood pressure machines and doctor consults. It was comfortable to be at our second home and special to share the space with others.
|The Timmy pharmacy team in the Pop Wuj pharmacy|
|5 for the 5th day!|
|Team Timmy in the Pop Wuj house|
The team finished early around 3:30, headed back to the hotel and loaded into the vans for the journey back to Antigua.
From a more personal perspective, I found what was suppose to be somewhat of a daunting, busy week to be extremely fulfilling and inspiring. The gratitude that we received from patients after their visits made the long hours well worth it. The motivation that I saw in the young students was incredible and day after day they displayed more energy than the day before. While sitting in on a consult with Dr. Brett and a scribing undergrad student, she leaned over to me and said, "This is why I want to be a doctor." Although it was only a week, I saw a definite spark in students, an ignited passion for global health, and watched as they transformed throughout the week. What students take away from an experience like this is unsurpassable. Speaking with the doctors and brigade staff reignited my own motivation for a future in health work and I learned a tremendous amount from working in the clinic alongside my peers.
Thank you Timmy Global Health and everyone that was involved in such a transformative week!