Mom and Daughter part of Guatemala Service Team

Lion Walter Hayes

A team of twelve youth, adults, professionals and retirees from Alaska and Oregon spent ten days in Guatemala during July and August of 2015 conducting multiple projects to assist an under-served Mayan population. Robin Bassett, an Advanced Nurse Practitioner (ANP) and her daughter, Savannah, a senior at Chugiak HS were members of the team from the United Methodist Church of Chugiak. Robin’s primary work was in four rural settings in primary care health clinics. Savannah, with her strong Spanish skills was a principal translator for the team and worked on several community projects delivering household water filters, doing the screening for a vision clinic for young children and gave the opening greeting ( in Spanish) for 330 Pre-teen Mayan girls and their female relatives at the Days for Girls Party.

Five members of the team were involved in the four, one-day rural health clinics working with tri-lingual translators to serve 180 patients. Robin Bassett, ANP, was the health professional on the team. The clinics were held in the communities of Chipaca, Xabillaguach, Chulumai and Nauuala. (The clinic in Chulumai was hosted by a large Primitive Methodist Church that operates a private school as part of its ministry) The team worked in cooperation with Salud y Paz (Health and Peace) Clinic, a United Methodist Project, that provides medical and dental care to 16,000 people each year.

In Santo Domingo Xenacoj (a community of 14,000 about 25 miles from the national capitol), seven members of the team made home visits to deliver house hold water filters, provided a kitchen addition for a Mayan family of six, held a vision screening for 138 young children (in cooperation with Lions International and Lions Clubs in Guatemala), delivered 350 pairs of eye glasses from Alaska Lions that will be shared though Lions Clubs and an educational NGO – AVIVARA. The team also delivered 100 solar powered study lamps that AVIVARA will share with students in rural schools.

The work in Xenacoj also built on the work of the 2013 Alaska Guatemala Mission Team by continuing work with the Guatemaltecas de Corazon (Guatemalan Women with a Heart) sewing cooperative. Team members conducted both beginning a advanced sewing classes for 25 women of the cooperative. The cooperative has recently received its business charter from the Guatemalan government and is ready to move forward with a business and marketing plan to sell its products. To assist this effort, the team provided upgraded electrical service and lighting for the main sewing room. gifted two commercial sewing machines and provided a start-up grant for the first year of the new business operation.

The biggest event of the trip was a party for 330 pre-teen Mayan girls and their female relatives held In the Xenacoj municipal auditorium providing information about the use of the “Days For Girls” feminine hygiene kits. 400 of these kits were distributed (at the party) and later to health and educational organizations serving girls in Guatemala. (This project would not have been possible without the volunteer sewing skills of numerous women and groups in AK, FL, IA, IL, NY and AZ.)

The team also gifted two PET mobility carts and three wheel chairs made possible by gifts from Alaska Lions Clubs and Methodist Congregations and had briefings about the work of Salud y Paz Clinic and Susannah Wesley School in Camanchaj and the Refugio Esperanza (Refuge of Hope) wheel chair factory of Hope Haven-Guatemala.

Some $20,000 was raised to support this project from a variety of donors that included: the Alaska Conference of the United Methodist Church, The First United Methodist Church Foundation- Anchorage, St. John United Methodist Church (Anchorage), the Sleeping Lady Mountain , Captain Cook, Mt. McKinley, Girdwood Turnagain Arm and Palmer Lions and twenty-five Individual donors.

Walt Hays, the coordinator for the team, states, “We are so indebted to the friends that made our work possible. We were upheld by your prayers and your generous gifts that funded these multiple projects. We were blessed by the gracious spirit of the Guatemalan people we met and served. We feel that we have established solid working relationships that can be built upon by other teams in the future.”

Other members of the team included Justin Thomas (United Methodist Church of Sitka), Midge Johnson (Palmer Lions Club), Morgan Whitfield of Big Lake, AK, Adele Mery of Ashland, Or. Mary Werner, Connie Quinley and Vee Anderson of St. John UMC, Anchorage and Mark Kemberling, JoAnn Shore and Walt Hays of the Palmer United Methodist Fellowship.

Guatemala team members Guatemala children Guatemala team members

One of the four rural clinics was held in the community of Chulumai where the Methodist Church has a large elementary school. In the back row left, team members Morgan Whitfield (Big Lake), Justin Thomas (UM Church of Sitka) and Robin Bassett are pictured with kids from the school. Savannah is pictured delivering one of the tenhigh efficiency water filters in a Mayan home in Santa Domingo Xenacoj; the filter will purify up to 1 million gallons and save families $8-10 per month since they will not have to buy wood to boil water to drink. Savannah is shown with the PlusoptiX digital screener and Past District Gov. Blanca Luz Wug of Guatemala City Guatemala. Savannah screened 138 children in a two day clinic; Guatemalan Lions will evaluate and purchase glasses for the children that were referred for further follow up.