Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Together in Hope returned safe from El Salvador

The Together in Hope team arrived home safe from El Salvador on Saturday, it's hard to believe that the week went by so fast! It feels like only yesterday we were trying to put the team together, now it's all over. We could not have asked for a better or more dedicated bunch of folks, every single person gave 110% to the mission both the medical staff and the volunteers. We saw over 700 patients including the children who got their teeth cleaned by Rosa our dental hygienist! What an amazing number!! We couldn't be happier and either could the community of Alta Mira Flores community.

The last day is always the hardest yet the most fun. At the school, the children painted the last of the canvases and played food bingo learning about the different healthy foods.After bingo and painting each of the classes got a pinatas as a surprise! It was so much fun watching the kids try knock down the pinata and then run to get the candy!
The children surprised the team with a beautiful song and dance as a thank you! We all said our goodbyes which is always very difficult, as the kids tell you they don't want you to leave and when will you come back. For most of us, we don't have the answers but promise the kids we will see them soon. 

At the clinic, things were moving fast as it was the last day for patients to get free medical care and treatment! While we were cleaning up and packing our medicine away, a family from the previous day came in looking for treatment for the husband. The doctors said it was no problem to see one last patient. It turned oyut he was our oldest patient of the week- 103!! Here he is with his wife and their youngest son! It was pretty exciting for Dr Ward as he is a pediatrician and he was his oldest patient ever! Not abd end to a wonderful week!

We really cannot thank everyone who made this trip possible enough! You guys have made such a difference in the lives of  over 700 people, how incredible is that. As for our team, I am speechless, you guys rocked! You did amazing work and we are so honored to have worked with you all. We hope you will return to El Salvador so we can continue this great work! From the bottom of our hearts, thank you, thank you, thank you <3

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Medical Mission Day 4

Wow what a day! We started the day a little different today...we forgot to mention that one of our medical students, Ellen is a zumba instructor. As soon as the teachers learned she was an instructor, they asked us would she do a class with the kids, so we picked today as the day. We started with the three younger classes, the kids were a little apprehensive at first but after a couple of minutes they were all dancing and trying to be the best. They absolutely loved it, the team didn't seem to mind it either...can you spot a few doctors in the picture?

After Zumba, the children started painting canvases, Steve had this fantastic idea of getting the children to paint a canvas and then auctioning them off back home (keep an eye out). Of course, nobody knew what to expect but they are all amazing, from the youngest class to the oldest. Each class was allowed paint two canvases each and all had to come up with their own ideas of what to paint. For the younger classes Steve and Sarah had already painted the bark of the tree so they had to decide on what to paint for the rest of the picture, they came up with some amazing ideas! I would show you the pictures but I think you should wait for the auction :)

At the clinic, the doctors continued doing great work and saw over 80 patients today! The Together in Hope staff cannot believe the amazing work of the medical students, they are working so hard and learning so much each day. If it wasn't for them we may have only seen half the patients, as for our amazing translators and staff at the pharmacy, they are incredible!!!!! This trip would not be doing as well without them! Thank you so much to everyone on the team, you guys (if you read this) are amazing!!

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Medical Mission Day 2 and 3

Wow! What a great couple of days, the trip just keeps getting better and better! The doctors have seen almost 200 patients over the last two days, over 30 children have gotten their teeth cleaned and around 60 children have gotten physicals at the school. That means that almost 300 people have received health support in some shape or form. I think by the end of the week, we will see a much higher number and a lot more people will benefit from the service.

We asked the team to share some of their personal stories today and give us some feedback about their experiences in the community. Patti was working with some of the children at the clinic who were waiting for their mothers/fathers doing some basic art and exercises. All of a sudden as we were wrapping up for the day, a mother came over and gave her a picture. She thought the child had drawn it, but it was actually a picture the mother had drawn with the words of a simple blessing to thank her for taking time with the children and doing some art with them. Diane (who has been working with the children all week at the clinic) reflected how the children get so excited about something so simple as a page and some colors. For most, they have never had their own. Diane has asked the children to draw their houses and write what they want to bee when they grow up, most say a doctor, a footballer, a nurse or a teacher. It is great to see all their dreams and ideas and we can only hope that true Together in Hope we can make them come through!

Today (Wednesday) to give the team a break from work, we surprised them and brought them to the Salvadorean Symphony. Many of the volunteers struggled with the idea of us working in such a marginalized community and afterwords going to the symphony! Dr Recinos told us the story of the symphony. During the civil war much of the Salvadorean culture was suppressed, buildings were destroyed, people couldn't play music, it was war time therefore a lot of the culture was lost. The people of El Salvador have been trying to bring back their culture and little by little, they are doing it. The symphony is just one example: World famous conductor German Caceres has worked all over the world but has returned to El Salvador to bring back his native culture. The group of musicians come together to form the symphony and non receive any salary or any compensation, they play for peoples enjoyment and to regain their culture. Afterwords, a group of us met one of the musicians and thanked him for such a wonderful performance. His eyes filled up and he said 'no thank you, I cannot believe a group from the United States came to see us preform, it means so much to us' 


Being in El Salvador always humbles us, we take so much for granted and don't focus enough on the simple things in life- people always think we come and help the community, but we actually learn a lot from them.

Monday, July 15, 2013

Medical Mission- Day 2

Well the first day is over, I think most people were apprehensive and didn't know what to expect but boy did they do amazing.From the doctors to the med students to the translators to the volunteers at the school, everyone did fantastic and once again nothing went as planned but went great.

Alta Mira Flores

Let's start withe the clinic. The doctors did amazing work, we have three professional doctors seeing the patients, there are also two medical students and our nurse Ruth doing intake along with our pharmacists. They all did great work and saw more than 50 patients today, don't worry, we warned them that number is going to get much higher :) It is amazing to see how happy the patients are just to have some one to talk to and listen. They have opened up to each doctor with great trust, we couldn't have wished for anything better. 
Basic Physical

The other half (us non medical folk) went to work at the La Rosa Blanca school. The kids greeted us with two wonderful traditional dances. After their wonderful performance, the group divided in 3 groups, two of the medical students came with us to the school and did basic medical exams on the children. They saw a total of 28 children and thankfully there were no big problems. 

Traditional Dance

The rest of the group did art with the children, we made bracelets from different colored beads and shared stories of what each color represented- Yellow= light/sun, blue= sky and sea, we even got to teach them some English.  After school time we packed 28 kids plus some parents but the 6 team members of TIH into a small bus and  brought the kids to a big open space where we played soccer, basketball, and frisbee. The kids loved playing the different games and learning some new ones as did the volunteers. All round it was a lot of fun, and everyone got to know each other and the kids got to know the team. 
The older kids with their bracelets

After today and how well it went, we are so excited to see what the next few days have in store and how great this medical/outreach mission will be. Thank you to everyone who has made it possible for us to be here.
Making Kites for tomorrow

Medical Mission to El Salvador- Day one

It has taken over a year to plan and a lot of hard work but we are here! We made it to El Salvador safe and sound with all of our medicine intact and all of our team members :) We are so excited to have a group from Bellaire United Methodist Church and six students from University of North Texas Health Science Center at Forth Worth Texas volunteering with us on this trip.

                                                (Don't we all look pretty at 5:30am?)

After a day of getting adjusted, and the group getting to know each other, we did some sight seeing. First, the team went to see the location for the clinic and also the school so we could plan activities. After we drove around Alta Mira Flores and learned a little bit about the community, we visited the tomb of Oscar Romero. The civil war started after Romero was shot at the alter in 1980. (for more information see https://www.un.org/en/events/righttotruthday/romero.shtml). After visiting the tomb of Romero, the team met with Bishop Gomez, an amazing man who despite all odds survived the civil war. Bishop Gomez received numerous death threats from the government as he opened his church to all citizens that were in danger. His most interesting story is that of his cross. During the war, he asked the community to write the sins of the government on the cross, they wrote things like 'hunger', 'death', 'persecution'. When the government came to arrest Gomez he was in hiding but they found his cross and arrested the cross and 'put it in jail'. It remained 'in jail' until the end of the war when the bishop came out of hiding and asked the government to give it back. It now hangs in his church beside the alter and is a reminder that good always overcomes evil. The Bishop inspired us all, and really showed us why we are here. 

(The team with the x convict- the cross)
The rest of the evening was spent doing some serious team bonding.....by sorting supplies :) After two hours, all the medicines and school supplies were ready to go. The team worked extremely hard and had a well deserved late dinner.  Everyone is pumped for tomorrow and can't wait to see what it brings but for now..buneas noches. 

(Sorting medicine brings such joy)