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We were on the bus again before sunrise, however traffic was noticeably heavier on the way to the site. We were once again in a race against the clock trying to make it to the site before the road closed on us. We reached the spot of the strike yesterday only to find ourselves sitting in traffic. We waited, and waited. The clock turned to 5:55am, and we still had not moved one inch. The concern was building as time neared 6am, as the blockade started at 6am the day prior. At 5:56am the cars rushed forward and the nervousness drained from Felicity’s face and relief filled the bus as we crossed the choke point. We were on our way.

Faith in Practice’s direct impact is highly visible and noticeable, we can see the impact of a wheelchair, or surgery. Something less noticeable is how Faith in Practice inspires and builds up individuals, both American and Guatemalan.  On the current team there are 3 Guatemalans that started as volunteers with FIP which helped inspire them and develop them in their professional medical career. Coco is a 3rd year medical student, here in Guatemala. He and Stephenie, our ultrasonographer, have greatly benefited  from the wealth of knowledge imparted upon them from the Senior Medical staff. An example of this was when  Dr. Joe Austin, with his 30 years of medical experience, is seen here,  with Coco and Stephanie going over the ultrasound of the patient’s enlarged heart.

Speaking of the ultrasound clinic, it has been a big hit amongst the physicians to be able to get results immediately, from an ultrasonographer. Needless to say Stephanie has been a big hit and helped us diagnose more thoroughly.

The wheelchairs from Free WheelChair clinics that we assemble are some of the biggest quality of life improvements a patient can get here according to the physicians. Kids and adults alike are carried by family members on their backs for years. With the family members themselves developing back problems, from the years of carrying their loved ones. Today Fabiloa and Blanca helped Maria out by outfitting her young daughter in the mobility clinic with a wheelchair from Hope Haven. Fabiola and Blanca built and customized the wheel chair to fit her daughter. The mother says this will help her, move around and get more work done. She says her daughter was born normal but stopped developing normally after a few months.

We don’t just give wheelchairs to the patients, we train them on how to navigate the world with their new found freedom. Karen, is in charge of the training and is quite entertaining, as she makes comical sounds and movements to get her point across. Some things just don’t need translation and are universal, like fake falling and flailing around are some of things. Also in the mobility clinic, Dr Hillary Bartel was able to inject a steroid to help Andres gain more movement in his knee, from arthritis.

The clothing we get to see on the patients is beautiful, and wildly colorful each piece unique as the next. Stephanie  puts it best, “is as if the people wore their Sunday best to be seen by us”. The patient’s health and clothing intersect in eye-care. As the women hand make their elaborate skirts and dresses. Each dress has hundreds if not thousands of small colorful beads. Each bead is placed by hand one at a time, with precision. Guatemala has the lowest literacy rate in central America, at 74.5%. Despite this reading glasses are incredibly important and even if the patient can’t read. The reading glasses we bring with us help the women continue to make those beautiful dresses. (see dress.jpg)

It is my first time here and it is a lot to take in, but one thing is clear.  We are a tripod. Each leg supports the other. The three legs, being the volunteers (both Guatemalan, and US born), The FIP employees here in Guatemala and US and you the donors. Each part is lifting the other up, each equally important in the mission, without one leg we would fall. On that note Team Thompson is proud to announce our team was able to pass $100,000 donations last night. We all celebrated the news at dinner, with a toast. Thank you all for your amazing support. It really infused the team with energy here. 

Fun Fact
Do you like chocolate bars?  Guatemala is touted as the birthplace of chocolate, with the Mayans worshiping the cacao tree and calling chocolate the “food of the gods.”  Chocolate residue dating back to 460-480 AD was found in a vessel in Guatemala. This ancient civilization also revered chocolate for its aphrodisiac qualities, with Moctezuma apparently consuming absurd amounts of the food to enhance his “stamina”. 
Even modern studies have shown cacao’s ability to reduce blood pressure, boost energy, act as a diuretic, and treat certain ailments like asthma, respiratory issues, so it shouldn’t be too surprising this ingredient has long been cherished.

Vaya con dios

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