Our last gathering as the Delk Village Team was at a farewell dinner in El Progreso the last evening of February 2020. The COVID-19 pandemic hit Guatemala the week after we returned home, and two attempts for us to get back to our village work had to be abandoned in 2021 and 2022 because of the pandemic. It was a devastating time for the country, and viral surge after surge kept everyone down here on edge. But it’s no surprise that even without the medical teams from the States, local and Houston-based Faith in Practice staff and volunteers kept this amazing program going. Finally, last Saturday the planes from across the States carrying our incoming team members started to land. Our bleary-eyed volunteers in blue shirts started to slowly congregate in the airport in Guatemala City; hugs between old friends (some of us back after more than a dozen trips) tied up the space in front of the coffee stand in the airport lobby. Newcomers to the team immediately got a sense of what was in store for them this coming week. Our Faith in Practice in-country team met us with iced water bottles and joyful amazement at having us all finally back where we belong. As the country continues to struggle with a still brutal pandemic, commerce, education, and everyday life are returning to normal. Traffic is back at its insane place, restaurants and coffee shops filled with chatting families and friends; and motorcycles gloriously zip around carrying more people and groceries than they should!
All of the more than fifty Faith in Practice medical teams—eleven village teams and the dozens of surgical teams–are back in action. It’s an amazing feat no one could have predicted a year ago. We’re in the best months of the dry season right now, so most village teams (they require the most travel and logistic support) will be working into May. This year’s Delk team (named after our generally gregarious but no-nonsense management-oriented leaders, Christopher and Bethany Delk, veterans of sixteen village clinic trips since 2006) is smaller than usual: We have twenty folks from the States this year, rather than our usual complement of forty. But what we lack on that end is being made up by a full complement of local professionals, logistic support folks, and volunteers helping us in the clinics. Our team picture of the Stateside volunteers is dwarfed by the other group picture posted here—which includes all those energetic Guatemalans. Don’t miss the “red hats;” local volunteers that work side-by-side with us moving patients, answering questions, delivering supplies. Their English skills, professional preparation, and ability to ride herd on us and keep us on schedule is pretty impressive!
The first twenty-four hours have been a whirlwind of introductions, orientation to COVID safety, triage and clinic protocols, and three hours of bus travel to our clinic location in Quesada, Jutiapa. A few of our pictures give you an idea of the afternoon’s clinic set-up in our primary school location—lots of light and airy rooms, great security, generous waiting areas for the 250 patients that we will see each day. There was lots to do unloading the trucks and positioning equipment, and tomorrow at 8 a.m the work we all love begins. Tagni and Julia (our local handlers and logistics managers) have told us in no uncertain terms: drink water, take your breaks, stay nourished, and drink more water! Losing team members to illness or accidents is the thing that we most need to avoid with the limited crew that we have.
You’ll be getting a lot more commentary and photos on the clinic activity in our next four blogs, but we’ve got an impressive set of clinics in place for tomorrow: Pharmacy, Pediatrics, Referrals, Lab, Ob/Gyn, General Medicine, Mobility, and Radiology. We’ll get you into those spaces and give you a chance to meet some of the staff and patients in the next few days.
I know that a few of you are still in the throes of winter Stateside. So, I’ve included a few pictures of the flowers that are in full tropical bloom this week in Guatemala and at our little hotel. Their lustre, bright colors, vigorous growth, and intoxicating scents speak of new life down here, and the beauty and optimism of the people we are working with. It’s a blessing to be here, and its only possible with your ongoing support—prayers, notes, phone calls, and financial aid—for this amazing work.
To support this team and their commitment to our patient’s visit: