Message from the 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 2020. While 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