Marco Island team members at La Aurora Airport, Guatemala City. From left: Dr. Joseph Premanandan, Matthew Erickson, Kristy Tellez. Diane Drevs, Susan Miller, Mike Erickson, Wanda Erickson and Laura Carney. Submitted Photos
A group from Wesley United Methodist Church returned from their annual mission trip to Guatemala recently. This year’s trip included the building of two classrooms of a new secondary school and conducting a medical clinic in the small village of La Soledad in the Department of Suchitepéquez, located in southwest Guatemala.
Clinic patients receive medical care.
Team Leader Mike Erickson noted that this year’s team consisted of six Marco Island United Methodist members and nine persons from Florida, North Carolina, Ohio and Tennessee. “There were two crude buildings with dirt floors, chicken screen and salvaged boards that were being utilized as a secondary school – no electricity, no desks, no tables, no textbooks. The neighboring villages called them ‘the chicken coop school.’ In a matter of weeks they will no longer be able to say that. They’ll be in a new concrete block building with a floor, doors, windows and electricity. Tables and shelving and benches were built to be used. This is the first year of an expected threeyear project that we hope to include with up-to-date textbooks and school supplies.”
The group made home visits to distribute bibles.
This is the tenth year that Erickson and several on his team have ventured to Guatemala to build schools and conduct medical clinics. The original team was begun in 1973 by former seasonal residents and Wesley members Norris and Fran Allen of Dickson, Tennessee. Wesley members have been participating for almost twenty years.
Construction project to build a new school.
The team consisted of sixteen members, a bus driver and four translators. A large part of the group – a doctor, a physician’s assistant, registered nurse, pharmacy tech and two aides – conducted a medical clinic in one of the primitive buildings using donated tables and shelves for examination tables and a pharmacy. They saw approximately 138 patients a day. The pharmacy tech filled prescriptions from the doctors at the rate of over 250 a day. The examinations consisted of many acute and chronic conditions. Team members were happy to contribute vitamins to chil- dren and adults, which are prohibitively expensive on an average villager’s salary. They were also able to provide muchneeded infant formula. Many of the people there are suffering from malnutrition and infants are extremely vulnerable.
The “Chicken Coop School” turned into a clinic, with patients waiting in line to be seen.
The team has worked in conjunction with The Living Heritage Foundation (www.livingheritagefoundation.org) located in Quetzaltenango for the past eight years. This group, led by Carla Gonzales Ramirez and her staff, are dedicated to environmentally sustainable and human development projects in their native country. They have partnered with and coordinated the team projects, making education a priority in the more remote areas of the country, particularly in reaching the indigenous people that populate many of the sugar cane, rubber, pineapple and palm oil plantations. Together with generous people in the United States and other countries they have developed a scholarship program that enables children who would not be able to go to school to get an education. Over 70% of Guatemala’s population are illiterate, something that our team and Living Heritage Foundation would like to change.
These families exist on average earnings of no more than $5 a day. An example of how meager this salary is: a can of baby formula costs $24 and will feed a baby for five days. They are among the most poverty stricken in the world.
According to all team members, “We can’t wait to go back next year. They are such a wonderful, caring people who have never had a chance to get beyond a survival mode of living. Anything we can do to make their lives easier, healthier and share the love of God and Jesus is what we were called to do.”
If you would like more information about this topic, please contact Wanda Erickson at 239-776-0072 or email at firstname.lastname@example.org.