Message from the CEO

Message from the CEO

October 20, 2020

Gratitude. I must begin this latest update to give thanks to God. Six months ago, things looked quite bleak, I know, for so many of us, but also for the mission. Now, I am amazed at all that God has done and continues to do in the face of adversity, in the face of our own fears. 

 

This is not a time where we are ‘cobbling together,’ ‘getting by,’ ‘doing what we can under the circumstances.’ 

This is a time of innovation and new programming. This is not a time of mourning what we have lost, although much has been lost. This is a time of restructuring, rebuilding, and imagining all that is possible for a new future. This is just the beginning:

 

The Mission Continues. Each week, we are seeking to do more in the short term always with an eye as to how these initiatives might be grown and incorporated with our core programs in the future. In spite of it all, it is an exciting time where we can see light in this darkness and are very grateful to God for it. Some updates are as follows:  

 

  • General Medicine and Orthopedic Telemedicine Visits. We began telemedicine visits in June as Guatemala started to emerge from complete lockdown. Since that time, we have continued to expand and improve these clinics and have several scheduled through January. Initially, the clinics were 100% remote (one Guatemalan physician and a U.S. physician, organized and facilitated by Guatemalan staff) and addressed some of our Guatemalan volunteer health needs. Following these consults, we delivered medicines and did follow-up. As Guatemala opened, we expanded these clinics to include in-person consultations (Dra. Patty Baiza and partner clinic personnel) and remote U.S. physicians to provide medical consults via Zoom. We continue to work with our Guatemalan volunteers and clinic partnerships to hold these clinics, which include a pharmacy, review of x-ray, etc. In September, we added specialty (orthopedic hip and knee implant follow-up and future triage) telemedicine. 

 

Each month we are expanding these clinics and are adding additional U.S. practitioners, specialties, and locations. Currently, we have clinics scheduled through December. Each clinic has full PPE and plexiglass barriers and shields. Patient numbers are limited, of course, due to Ministry of Health regulations and the need to limit gatherings of patients for safety reasons. But we are expanding as quickly and as safely as possible.

 

  • Mobility Clinics. Begun in June, our Mobility Clinics are ongoing. Currently, we are holding weekly clinics at the Casa de Fe patient guesthouse in Antigua and have scheduled several clinics throughout the country working with local partners. Currently, we have clinics scheduled through April 2021 and have ordered three additional containers of wheelchairs to support this program.

 

  • Care Packages to Guatemalan Volunteer Leaders and Their Communities. Since June, we have been distributing packages of food and vitamins to our volunteers. Also included have been rapid growing seeds, stress management kits, first aid supplies, PPE, hand sanitizer, etc.  We are also including general health education brochures on a different topic per month. As Guatemala has opened, our Guatemalan volunteers have been distributing these gifts beyond their immediate families to those most in need in their communities.

 

In December, we will be ‘morphing’ these packages into more of a “Leadership Development/

Community Service” kit to give more tools to our volunteers, as we move toward expanding this volunteer program, linking them more closely with local ministry of health services into the future and preparing for the return of our volunteer teams in May.

 

  • Special Case Management and Cancer Patient Accompaniment. Dra. Patty Baiza and staff continue to manage and accompany patients who require follow-up as well as cancer patients. As Guatemala has opened, Dra. Baiza has been able to more freely continue this important work. We continue to shepherd and provide for our amputee patients to provide them with a new limb.

 

  • Symposia. We recently launched a professional development exchange via Zoom with Hilario Galindo Hospital and Providence St. Joseph Health System via Zoom. We held the first of these in August, the second is scheduled in October. The topics are driven by the hospital itself. We are planning on expanding this program, which we intend to become a core program expanding beyond Providence St. Joseph to other systems and practitioners. 

 

  • U.S. Volunteer Team Return to Guatemala. We are scheduling teams to return to Guatemala in May 2021, limited in scope due to necessary COVID-19 precautions. The volunteers are ready to return and we are preparing for that anticipated return through procurement efforts of supplies, medicines, etc., recognizing that all is costing more to serve fewer patients in light of COVID precautions that we must implement.

 

  • U.S. Corporate Partnerships. We are continuing to develop and expand these partnerships to plan for the future, including medical supply manufacturer DeRoyal (donated container to ship in October and ongoing willingness to sell surgical supplies at below cost including shipping), Providence St. Joseph (donation of PPE, symposium, sending volunteer medical teams), orthopedic implant manufacturer Zimmer Biomet (a new donation of knee revision surgical instrument set and a full complement of hip replacement hardware to ship in December), a new potential hospital system partner (in the process of discussing a new comprehensive primary care program in partnership with Faith In Practice and Hilario Galindo Hospital), among others. Our U.S. corporate partners remain engaged and willing to support this work in spite of the challenges they themselves face.

 

  • Guatemalan Partnerships. We are expanding ongoing partnerships and looking to add more local partnerships as we increase our continuity of care model of delivering healthcare in Guatemala. Xela Aid, located in Quetzaltenango, is a new partnership, one that we had begun just before COVID, where we are currently holding telemedicine clinics, for example. With this partnership, Xela Aid will be able to send patients who come to their clinic to Hilario Galindo Hospital, and will serve as a local clinic for follow-up of surgical care. We will continue to provide clinical support remotely. We hope to replicate this model in the future. 

 

In addition, we are strengthening our core hospital partnerships, Las Obras and Hilario Galindo. For example, we are exploring holding a medical clinic at an Obras outpost clinic in Jutiapa in 2021. With Hilario Galindo, as noted above, we are working toward a comprehensive primary care program, conducting symposiums, and are also assisting in establishing additional specialty clinics, even as we continue to invest in the Women’s Health Clinic that opened at Hilario Galindo in July 2019. Last but not least, we are assisting the hospital in a solar energy project designed to significantly reduce its overhead costs.

 

Guatemala Update. 

Guatemala has reopened for all practical purposes. While this is good news, on one hand, it is not necessarily reflective of any reduced risk or spread of disease. As such, we are continuing to proceed with extreme caution as we continue providing services in Guatemala at this time. Protecting our patients and staff to the best of our ability and safeguarding our ability to implement the return of volunteer teams remain top priorities.

 

A few developments of note are as follows:

 

  • Airport. On September 18, 2020, Guatemala’s international airport reopened. It is slowly adding additional commercial flights over the next few months. The airport has imposed set entry protocols and parameters, including a negative COVID test within 72 hours of arrival. As is the case throughout the world, they are navigating uncharted territory in this regard. 

 

  • State of Calamity. On September 30, 2020, the President allowed the State of Calamity to expire. There remain some national mandates such as universal mask-wearing in public, social distancing requirements, and a limit to occupancy on public transportation in place. That said, most measures have been handed over to local authorities to set regulation and to enforce. 

 

  • Second Wave. There is evidence to suggest that Guatemala is entering into a second wave/surge of COVID cases. At this time, we have no reason to believe that the national government will lock down again or impose stricter measures than noted above. But, as we all know, it is a fluid situation. 

 

  • Navigating the Changing Seas. Faith In Practice staff has set out established internal protocols and standards to ensure a safe environment for our staff and patients, independent of governmental restrictions (that is to say stricter). Staff and patient safety remain the most important priority.  

 

Return to Guatemala.

Pending any additional developments, our plan remains to send small ‘advance’ groups to Guatemala in late winter early spring of 2021, with a resumption of medical and surgical volunteer teams shortly after Easter, 2021. From May through August we are planning 17 teams (smaller than usual as we test out the waters and implement COVID safety precautions). The first three teams with set dates are: Parsley/Woolf (Surgical Obras), Bullard (Surgical Hilario Galindo), and Farrow (Surgical Hilario Galindo). Staff is working to set additional dates with team leaders and are already looking toward the Fall of 2021! Please note this is our current plan, which may change based upon developments. 

 

Conclusion. 

Because God is faithful.

This may be a time of fear but let us not be fearful. 

This may be a time of uncertainty but let us step out in certainty. 

This may be a time when many are losing faith but let us hold out our shivering faith to the One whose faithfulness never falters. 

Because God is faithful.

Let us act boldly leaning into this future that God is unfolding before us with expectant joy. 

For I know that if we do, we shall be met with a future which shall be richer in meaning, purpose, and faith than any of us could have imagined. 

We have seen it before. We are seeing it now. And, we shall see it in the days to come.

Because God is faithful.

 

Blessings to you all,

 

Rev. Linda L. McCarty

President & CEO

 

PS: Should you wish to support this mission at this critical, at this exciting, time, you can do so here. May we continue to hold our Guatemalan brothers and sisters and prayers, even as they pray for you. And may we all continue to pray for those wherever they may be who are suffering as a consequence of this virus. 

 


September 1, 2020

Guatemala Update

Current Country Status. As you know, Guatemala basically closed down in mid-March in a heroic attempt to contain the virus. (See prior updates for specifics below.) Most recently, the Guatemalan government instituted a ‘stoplight’ system wherein communities could open in phases based upon their positive testing rate. That said, with the exception of uniform mask-wearing, communities are not necessarily complying with the restrictions. The reasons for this are multi-faceted and complicated. It is fair to say, however, that the poor are being disproportionately impacted by the virus not unlike the United States. It is fair to say that Guatemalans are doing what they can to go back to work, provide for their families, and are doing so recognizing that they are placing themselves at inherent risk. As is often the case for the poor, they have little choice. 

 

The Mission Continues. With Guatemala’s staged opening, we are expanding the services that we can provide. We will continue to do more each week predicated upon the law and what we believe we can do safely for both our patients and our staff. Some of the services we are providing, as of this writing, are as follows: 

 

  • Telemedicine Visits and Distribution of Medicines
  • Remote Symposiums to Disseminate Information and Share Learnings with Partner Hospitals
  • Wheelchair and Ambulatory Care Clinics
  • Distribution of Food and Healthcare Related Materials to our Guatemalan Volunteers
  • Distribution of Vitamins and Basic Medicines through our Guatemalan Volunteers
  • Provision and Management of Prosthetic Fittings for Recent Amputees
  • Continued Donation of Medicines and Supplies to Partners Based on Need
  • Case Management of Cancer Patients 

 

Return Travel to Guatemala. I know many of you are anxious to return to Guatemala as soon as possible. So, am I. That said, it is important that we do so intentionally and safely. Guatemala’s borders have been closed to all international travel since mid-March. The government has indicated that it intends to reopen the airport in mid-September. That said, we have no information (at the time of this writing) related to whether certain countries will be banned from entry, what protocols will be in place to screen passengers upon arrival, what will happen when a passenger presents with symptoms (although there is some indication that they will be doing rapid testing at the airport and if someone tests positive, they will be taken to a COVID-19 hospital immediately), etc.  

 

Considering these unknowns, we do not deem it prudent to send staff or volunteers to Guatemala until the protocols and procedures are not only established but that we have a good sense of how they will be implemented. We hope with time, the airport protocol will be smoothed out and we will be able to more accurately assess the risk of entry. 

 

Taking all of this into consideration, and based upon currently available information, we hope to send small ‘advance’ groups to Guatemala in the Winter of 2021, with a resumption of more robust medical and surgical volunteer teams shortly after Easter, 2021. 

 

In the interim, we will continue to provide and expand services to those in need. It is important to note, however, that we are viewing all services provided during this time as a basis upon which we might incorporate the expanded services as a part of our corps programming for the future.  

 

There is so much that is unknown, but we are seeing that in the unknown there is much possibility. And, while there is much that is unknown, we are seeing very clearly that which is known. And, that is that God is very present in this mission. That God is present and also leading us forward. What is known is that God, as always, is creating something new. 

 

Thank you so much for being a part of Faith In Practice, that which is was, is, and is becoming. All to God’s honor, glory, and praise. And, please continue to hold our beloved Guatemala in prayer, even as we pray for you, during these challenging times.  

 

Faith In Practice is responding under these challenging circumstances and you can support this mission so we can continue to serve and will allow us to return to our beloved Guatemala when the border reopens. Also, please keep our Guatemalan brothers and sisters in prayer during this extremely challenging time for them. As always, they continue to show a depth of faith that inspires. And, may we all continue to pray for those wherever they may be who are suffering as a consequence of this virus. 

 

Rev. Linda L. McCarty

President & CEO

 


July 15, 2020

Guatemala Update

On March 17, Guatemala closed her borders and began imposing internal travel restrictions to do what she could to contain COVID-19. Currently, she is on significant lockdown. Some of the measures in place are as follows:

 

  • All medical office visits in the public system suspended.
  • No surgeries beyond trauma/emergency proceeding in the public system (even in the very small private system it is severely curtailed).
  • All public transportation suspended.
  • Imposed curfew from 6pm until 5am each day, with, at times, weekends on complete lockdown, residents not being allowed to leave their homes at all; pharmacy and food deliveries are allowed. 
  • Restricted travel between ‘states’ (only exception is with special written permissions) which are the size of small counties (in two weeks, these restrictions may be lifted for states that have fewer reported cases).
  • Ban of gatherings of individuals.
  • Mandatory mask-wearing throughout the country.
  • Airport closed with exception of repatriation flights scheduled through embassies.

 

The result of these measures to contain the virus has led to an alarming increase in poverty levels for the majority of Guatemalans who do not maintain traditional employment as well as job loss and hardship for the small minority work force who do. 

 

In addition, for all practical purposes, for those who do not have a private physician (the vast majority of Guatemalans) there has been virtually no medical care rendered in the entire country since March 17. 

 

With respect to our partner hospitals, Las Obras Sociales del Santo Hermano Pedro and Hospital Hilario Galindo, the Obras has been closed under the direction of the Ministry of Health. Hilario Galindo is seeing only a few patients related to emergent cases. We are working with both to determine how we might safely begin to consider opening to only a few patients, with set protocols in place, again, to prevent the virus from spreading.

 

Most recently, the government is trying to parse out how to open portions of the country, having launched a rating system based upon positive rates. That said, the hardest hit areas are around Guatemala City and Antigua, in all likelihood, because those are the areas receiving testing. For the size of the population, testing is not widespread and limited where it is available. As is the case in the United States, there is a great deal of conflict surrounding the costs vs. the benefits of keeping the economy shut down as poverty rates rise and health continues to deteriorate.

 

Faith In Practice is responding under these challenging circumstances and you can support this mission so we can continue to serve and will allow us to return to our beloved Guatemala when the border reopens. Also, please keep our Guatemalan brothers and sisters in prayer during this extremely challenging time for them. As always, they continue to show a depth of faith that inspires. And, may we all continue to pray for those wherever they may be who are suffering as a consequence of this virus. 

 

The Mission Continues

Even in these difficult times, however, Faith In Practice continues to serve. We are pushing to do more each day, as circumstances allow, even as we watch the need grow daily. The following are some of the ways in which we are currently serving:

 

  • Telemedicine Visits. We are conducting general telemedicine visits with delivery of medicines across Guatemala through Faith In Practice staff. 
  • Symposiums. We are working with U.S. health systems to create remote learning/sharing opportunities for our partner hospitals to assist them in responding to COVID-19 and other areas of need. 
  • Monthly Care Packages to Guatemalan Volunteer Leaders. These care packages contain food, medicines, health related information, seeds for planting, soap, sanitizer, masks and include a written devotional for them as well as messages of encouragement.
  • Donation of Medicines and Wheelchairs. Doing what we can, we are making donations of medicine, PPE, and wheelchairs, to local and public hospitals as needed. 
  • Special Case Management and Cancer Patient Accompaniment. We are continuing to manage and accompany patients who require follow-up as well as some cancer patients.
  • Mobility Clinics. We are still distributing wheelchairs and mobility aids, including medical checks and PT visits, whenever possible. Also, in partnership, Faith In Practice is continuing to provide specialty wheelchairs. 
  • Prosthetics. Our surgical teams performed several amputations prior the Guatemalan border closure. Faith In Practice is continuing to work with these patients in physical therapy and provide them with their new limbs.  
  • Orthopedic Follow-up. We are continuing to work with a local orthopedist to follow patients who were awaiting staged surgeries or who had complications.  

 

Each day we are seeking and finding ways to serve in spite of the current limitations. And, as soon as possible, we will resume volunteer teams.  

 

Thank you for being a part of this mission. Thank you for your support that allows us to continue to serve and which will allow us to return to our beloved Guatemala when the border reopens.

 

Please keep our Guatemalan brothers and sisters in prayer during this extremely challenging time for them. As always, they continue to show a depth of faith that inspires. And, may we all continue to pray for those wherever they may be who are suffering as a consequence of this virus. 

 

Animo!

 

Rev. Linda L. McCarty

President & CEO

 


June 4, 2020

The Mission Continues

I will never forget Claudia, a young mother in her twenties, saying to me that throughout her surgery, amputation, and months of physical therapy, her standing on her new leg for the first time, that Faith In Practice never abandoned her. Her words were a strong reminder of what we are called to do, who we are called to be. Above all else, we have been called, through this mission, to witness to the One who shall never abandon us. It has been a pillar of who we are. Therefore, know that in the midst of this storm, we shall trust. We shall not abandon. It is not an option.  

 

The following is a short recap of developments of where we stand:

 

Short-Term: Ongoing Mission in 2020While we cannot serve for the time being, as we once did, we are committed to doing what we can. We are limited, of course, because Guatemala’s borders remain closed and travel is restricted within Guatemala as she valiantly works to contain the virus*, but we are striving to find ways to serve, nonetheless. The following is the current plan for the next several months. (Ability to do much until now has been limited due to internal curfews and restrictions of travel between departments and, at times, communities within Guatemala, but that is changing, and we are ready.)

 

  • Food delivery to Guatemalan Volunteer Leaders.  We had our first food distribution in May and will continue to do so monthly during this time of crisis. Timing and ease of transport is challenging due to travel restrictions, but staff has and shall continue to overcome those obstacles as hunger continues to grow in Guatemala and the threat of widespread famine looms. 
  • Special Case Management and Cancer Patient Accompaniment. Staff continues to manage and accompany patients who require follow-up as well as the cancer patients shepherded by Dra. Patty Baiza. This work is continuing, albeit made more difficult due to travel restrictions and curfews.
  • Mobility Clinics. Beginning in June, Guatemalan staff will be conducting mobility clinics including medical checks and PT consults. These clinics will take place at the Casa de Fe in Antigua. We intend to expand these clinics to Hospital Hilario Galindo in San Felipe, Retalhuleu in July. 
  • Medical Clinics. In the planning stages, we hope to begin medical clinics wherein we will contract with Guatemalan physicians who are close to Faith In Practice and also employ the use of telemedicine using some of our U.S. volunteers. We anticipate these clinics will take place at Hilario Galindo and will begin in late July. Our Guatemalan volunteers, who look to us for their medical care, will also be invited to these clinics, of course, contingent upon travel restrictions. 
  • Surgical Program. Currently, there are no elective surgeries taking place in Guatemala. We have been meeting with our partner hospitals as they try to navigate the challenges on the ground and to anticipate what medical care and medical mission will look like once Guatemala begins to open again. They are committed, as are we, to working with the government to establish protocols that will create a safe environment for patients, practitioners, and volunteers alike. This is an important role for us as we look forward to the future, wherein we can be a part of setting the standard which will ease other organizations’ return. Therefore, our focus in this area is one of collaboration, advocacy, and support to local authorities as they begin to emerge from this crisis. 
  • Small Specialized U.S. Teams. While the lead-time required for a full team makes it impossible to return in the fall, our hope is that Guatemala will be open with sufficient regulatory stability such that we will be able to send a few volunteers in the fall and/or early winter to conduct, for example, triage trips. Because they will be limited in scope, these forays will be able to be planned with less lead time and less need for permissions. They will also serve to ‘test the waters’ as we move toward resuming operations on a larger scale.  

 

Therefore, for the rest of 2020, our plan is to serve two purposes:

  • Serving people NOW.
  • Exploring/vetting/testing other models that might shape how we work in the future in our ‘reborn’ state.

 

 

Short-Term: Suspension of U.S. Teams through December 2020. Consistently, we have been committed to volunteer safety and to efficient use of resources entrusted to our care. It has become clear that there will be insufficient information available upon which to plan a safe and successful fall season, as we had hoped. Therefore, we have suspended sending teams to Guatemala until January 2021. 

 

Long-Term: Resumption of Operations in January 2021. We are committed to returning stronger in 2021 knowing that they will need us more than they ever have. Knowing that we will need, more than ever before, to see their faces. Again, we hope to use these upcoming months to develop and enhance programs in a way that will allow us to serve more individuals in a more efficient way, leveraging technology and strengthened relationships for a new future. In this crisis, there is opportunity.

 

Financial Challenge. As you can well imagine, as is the case throughout the United States and the world, this situation is creating a financial crisis for us. We have always sought to maintain a good balance between healthy reserves for times of crisis, while ensuring that we did not over-reserve so as to use the funds in mission.

 

Therefore, we are committed to ‘flattening the curve’, using our reserves as judiciously as possible to get us beyond this time of crisis, using this time to reimagine operations, and trusting we will be able to resume operations in January. If we focus our efforts on serving where we can, reimagining the future, and listening for where the Spirit blows, trusting in the One who created and has sustained this mission across the years, we shall prevail. To that end, we have reduced staff by 65% and cut costs as much as possible, recognizing that we have always run a very lean organization.

 

Conclusion. Much is unknown and uncertain. But much is also true and sure. And, that is that God created this mission and has sustained it for more than 26 years. And, that God is faithful, as I know you all are. 

Please reach out to us with any questions or thoughts. Above all else, hold our beloved Guatemala in prayer. And hold us in prayer, joining with us in any way you can as together we seek to fulfill this call to witness in the name of the One who shall never abandon. The One whose Spirit moves through this precious gift that is Faith In Practice. Then, now, always. 

 

Guatemala Update. We evacuated two teams from Guatemala mid-March just before Guatemala closed her borders. The President of Guatemala has taken this threat very seriously and has continued to work towards containing the virus as much as possible. His goal is to reduce or eliminate the risk of Guatemala becoming overwhelmed with cases beyond her capacity to manage them. He has required the wearing of masks, restricted movement of the elderly and children, implemented curfews, and restricted travel between departments. The curfews and travel restrictions have been relaxed or strengthened based upon number of cases as well as perceived population compliance. So far, his efforts have been successful. As of this writing, there are 5,586 confirmed cases of COVID-19, 123 dead, recognizing numbers may not be accurate, as is the case in the United States. We do have reason to hope, however, as on June 3, the Ministry of Health published phased reopening targets.

 

All the while, other illnesses and the people’s hunger are on the rise throughout the country. The human rights commission recently appealed to Congress for funding indicating their concern that the hunger will soon rise to the level of famine if the government does not intervene.

 

Roosevelt, the main national hospital in Guatemala City, has closed their medical clinics and all elective surgeries. This is not uncommon, and we have seen it many times before. That said, the news is now reporting that the hospital is overflowing with patients being attended under tents in the neighboring park and the morgue is overflowing. The same is being reported with respect to the other large national hospital in the city, San Juan de Dios. 

 

In short, the situation related to lockdown and the containment of the virus and the ability of Guatemala to manage it remains in flux, even as Guatemala seeks to balance the need to reopen with the threat of the virus. Guatemala is bravely facing this crisis and we have been grateful and impressed with the leadership the government has exhibited, even as our heart aches as the pain grows each day.

 

Needless to say, it remains uncertain when Guatemala will open her borders to foreign travelers. Our hope is that as the months pass, there will be more clarity with respect to when we might return to our beloved Guatemala.  

 

Again, please hold Guatemala in your prayers. And, please know she is praying for you, even in the midst of her own crisis. 

 

Sending prayers to you all and hoping you are safe and healthy. God’s blessings to you all and I hope to see you all in Guatemala one day soon.

 

 

Rev. Linda L. McCarty

President & CEO