When there is no doctor

Date posted: Wednesday 08 February 2017

I ask you to take a second to think about what you do or where you go when you become ill. How far away is the nearest medical clinic, what means of transportation do you use, how are the paths you travel on? What type of doctor do you see? Now, imagine you are 2-6 hours away from any type of medical facility. There may not be roads for much of the journey, only dirt paths and rivers. The cost may be too much for you to even make this journey.
This can be a reality for many of our brothers and sisters in Guatemala within the ILAG community.  
For this reason, the ILAG has a health ministry dedicated to the health and overall well-being of their communities. I am the current health committee chair for the Saint Paul Area Synod Guatemala Task Force. I am also a member of Spring Garden Church in Cannon Falls, MN, a congregation with many medical professionals.
Our church has been traveling to Guatemala for the past three years to help lead health retreats alongside the ILAG's health promoters. Health promoters are volunteers, travelling to Guatemala City 2-3 times a year to receive their training, which they then bring back to their communities. The focus to teach good health practices, hygiene, and prevention is vital when no hay doctor (there is no doctor). Not only does ILAG's health ministry provide training for promoters, but also works to supply resources such as dry latrines and water filtration systems. These, along with our next project, cooking stoves, are small changes that reap a great health benefit. What might seem a simple concept to us means a hugely positive impact to well-being among our Guatemalan companions.
During these retreats, we have asked the promoters about what is vital to them: what topics do they want to learn about, what medical supplies do they need, what resources do they use or need access to. Although we came away with a two-column page of topics and the fact that antibiotic ointment is "gold", sometimes we still have to make educated guesses or deduce a concern to find a root cause. In August, we were given the opportunity to hold a mini medical clinic at Las Rosas. We found that the information and the knowledge we can learn from these clinics and patients is invaluable to the health ministry.
All of this being said, the health committee has two ways that you can help! When you visit your companions, please work with the health promoter to complete a community health survey. Send it to the health committee when you are done.
If you are looking for gifts to bring to your companion community, we have created a recommendation list of items to bring with your delegation.
If you or anyone you know is interested in becoming involved in any aspect of the health ministry, please feel free to contact me: mnerison13@gmail.com.
Megan Nerison
Health Committee Chair
Spring Garden Church, Cannon Falls