Sunday, January 15, 2012

The SEED has been planted!

This medical mission was a vision that our director and founder Diane McGehee has had for many years. It is the first of its kind been done with this community, in fact Together in Hope is the first organizations to be invited in to help this community. In the area where we work, there is one doctor for 30,000 people, he has very little resources and the need is too great for one person. As one of our team members Joanna said’ We cannot change the world, but we can help change a life’ and I believe we did!

Some of the children showing us their clean hands after a preventative medicine class

Our team went from seeing 61 patients the first day, 87 the second day to over 100 for the last three days. Every single member of the team gave it their absolute all and gave 110%. The majority of our team had no medical training, but wow did we get the job done. On Friday night we counted all our patient forms and between medical and dental we saw and treated approximately 500 people. I cannot express the joy and gratitude that the Together in Hope team felt when this number was revealed, all I can say is THANK YOU, THANK YOU, THANK YOU, to everyone who made it possible!


Not only did we see patients, but we also interviewed 12 families discovering the needs of the community and how we can improve our program. Each family had an amazing story and was most welcoming to our team. After speaking to them, many came to the clinic, and gave hugs and kisses to all our team and were so grateful to us for giving them time and giving them much needed assistance.

One of the families we met, both children have special needs and attend Rosa Blanca. There are no services or support systems for children with special needs in El Salvador

Our goal is to build a community centre, medical/dental clinic and a bigger school in this community.  We are hoping to buy a piece of property to fulfil this goal. During this mission we were able to see the property and it is amazing! There is already a building on it that will be perfect for the medical clinic, and the space is big enough to build a community centre and a school that will enable the children to continue their education past 6th grade and finally get the opportunities they deserve. We will have more information on this and how you can help in our next newsletter.

The piece of property we are hoping to buy- What an amazing piece of land

The goal of this trip was to plant a seed in the community, to begin the vision of this community to become empowered and to create a better future for all. As I have said this was the first trip of its kind in this community and we learned a lot about what to do and what not to do. We will be forever grateful to our team for helping us see our dream become a reality! It would not have been possible without each and every one of you. Thank you to you all. You were all amazing and we are so grateful.

Our team with local volunteers and the Together in Hope team

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Making Progress!

It is impossible to describe all the things we have learned in the last couple of days, but I can tell you one thing, I was right, things only got better.On Tuesday, we saw 87 patients, and today we exceeded all our expectations and saw almost one hundred patients. That brings our grand total of patients seen, and treated to almost 250. This means that at day 3 we are half way towards our goal of 500 patients! We are all over the moon and are so proud of our hard working and dedicated team.

people waiting to visit the doctor

All the team has been over whelmed by the commitment and hard work of our local volunteers. There is a team of 6 amazing people that are giving up their time to assist us, and help wherever is needed. The ministry of public health here in El Salvador is establishing a program to provide medical assistance to children, what's even better is they are registering the people who are coming to our clinic. This is great progress for all involved as our moto of 'Helping the world's poor, help themselves' is really coming true. It is fantastic to witness it, and to able to help facilitate this.

                                      A member of the ministry of public health registering patients

Yesterday two members of our team did a home visit to a family of five. The outside of the house was made of tin mental, and inside was a gravel floor, with one room for sitting and another for sleeping. There were no walls around the house, only a mental frame at the front and side. Five people live in that house, three children and their parents. The interview began asking about the family, there were three children and one son who was killed last year by gang violence, he was only 16. The mother does not have a job but the husband gets temporary work. When asked how Together in Hope can help them, or what they envision for the future, they replied ' safety for our children, medical assistance, a better home for our children and a brighter future for us all'.
The wonderful family we met,

We visited Bishop Mendaro Gomez this afternoon who was kind enough to tell us the story of the persecuted cross. During the civil war he askedthe civilian population write the sins of the country on a big wooden corss. He was forced to go into hiding as he was a bishop he became a target for an assassination. The very night that he took refugee and went into hiding, his church was attacked by government forces. There were five foreigners in the church they were arrested, along with the cross as it was seen to be subversive.When he was able to come out of hiding many months later he asked the president for his cross back and for the foreigners to be released. All the prisoners were released along with the cross. When he finished the story he said 'pretty hard to believe right?' the cross is now in his local church and has become a symbol for justice and peace for the whole community!

                                                Bishop Gomex with or wonderful team

It has been a hard few days for our team, both  physically and emotionally draining, yet everyone is rallying and getting the job done and we couldn't be more thankful.

Monday, January 9, 2012

It begins!

6:30am wake up call. 7:30am get on bus. 8am arrive at clinic. 8.05am time to set up clinic. Our team arrived at the clinic at 8am, and we were delighted with the space we were given to run our clinic. A doctors office, a dentists office, a pharmacy, a nurse's station and a make shift waiting room were all set up, and within minutes we had our clinic. Patients began to arrive around 9. There were patients from all age groups from young babies to a woman as old as 88. The morning was at a nice steady pace with 24 people being seen by our doctor ;Doctor Steve, and 10 by our dentist; Dr Tammy. It was also a quick learning experience for many of our volunteers as many have no medical training but boy, did they get the job done.

Two of our volunteers including our program director, visited three homes in the local community to conduct interviews in order to better understand the needs of the community. The first house that was visited was a beautiful family of 6, there were four children, three girls and a boy and both parents. They lived in a wooden house with two rooms, one with a small bed for them all to sleep in. The father is unable to get work and the mother makes tortillas to sell. The papa stays at home to look after the children while the mother works close to 12 hours a day. They were a great family, very friendly and open about their story. Two other homes were visited. Each family was wonderful and very welcoming. Together in Hope is very excited to share their stories with you.

In the afternoon, our whole team came together to work at the clinic and assist wherever they were needed. The afternoon was much busier than the morning with families coming to see the doctor and dentist. Some of the children had their first tooth extraction, and got to bring their tooth home for the 'RATON' to come take it(the Spanish equivalent of the tooth fairy). For others it was their first time seeing a doctor, the children got a lesson in how to hear the heart beat! At the end of the day the grand total of patients seen was 61 between Dr Steve and Dr Tammy, not too bad for our first day! It was an amazing start to what I can only see as an amazing week! 

We Made it!

In July 2011, Together in Hope was asked to bring a medical team to El Salvador to provide treatment to five of the most marginal communities in San Salvador, of course we said YES, and we began preparing. It has been a long road since July we over came many obstacles and we even wondered at times is it all going to fall apart? Can we do this? Luckily for us, we met an amazing group of individuals who wanted to come with us and volunteer on this medical mission! We gathered our team together and wow what a great bunch, we are also very lucky to have two native Salvadorans participating on this trip with us.

Our flight left Houston at 9:30am on Sunday morning. We learned who likes the morning and most importantly who doesn't, always good to know when getting to know people :) We arrived in San Salvador, El Salvador three hours later, flying over the wonderful landscape below us, full of green fields and volcanoes. Our team got most of the medicine through except anesthetic that  is essential for our Dentist, Dr Tammy to work. We argued back and forth for a couple of hours but to no avail, our anesthetic was taken. One glitch in the otherwise grand entrance to El Salvador.

Sunday was all about getting to know each other, there was some quality team bonding over Pupusas, a Salvadoran tortilla filled with beans or cheese...delicious! At the end of the day we had our orientation giving our team some essential background about Salvadoran culture and how we were going to work. After a delicious first meal, we all, I think it's safe to say....fell into bed!