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Annual Faith in Practice mission is growing

An ecumenical group from Corvallis is flying to Guatemala on Friday, April 13, for a week-long Faith in Practice medical mission trip. For the impoverished people who have little access to treatment, it is a much-anticipated trip in its 14th year.

Since 1998, at least one person from the Benton-Linn counties area has made the journey, and the list of local residents who have made the trip tops 100.

Corvallis surgeon Peter Hinckle was the first to visit Guatemala with Faith in Practice, a national nonprofit agency incorporated in 1994 in Houston, Texas.

Hinckle said he was recruited by a college friend. When he returned with tales of helping the poor in Guatemala, his enthusiasm was contagious, and he never again made the trip alone.

Each year, two mid-valley teams of about 40 people each travel to Guatemala for one week; the trips are staggered one week apart. One group goes to work in one or two villages; the other, a surgical team, goes to work in the city of Antigua, in the central highlands.

Hinckle heads up the surgical team, which works out of Obras Sociales del Santo Hermano Pedro, a hospital in Antigua. Team members evaluate patients and do surgery as needed. The maximum charge is $150 per patient; sometimes the treatment is free.

And treatments in the villages are always given at no charge. The village team limits its services to 2,200 patients in four days. People come to the villages from miles around when they hear the Faith in Practice team has arrived. Patients are evaluated, and cards are given to those who need help; patients present the cards at the time of the appointment.

The village team focuses mainly on dental work, general medicine, pediatrics and gynecology. All patients are given parasite medicine because of the poor quality of the water. The children receive vitamin A. Everyone who needs prescription medicine receives it at no cost to them. Transportation to the appointment is provided, and follow-up care is arranged for those who will need it. No one is turned away.

This year’s village team will spend time in San Antonio Sija and Pologua, both in the Department of Totonicapan. (A department is like a state).

Two of the most commonly performed treatments are to repair uterine prolapses and cleft palates.

Hinckle said a 10-year-old boy with a bilateral cleft palate rode the bus to Antigua all the way from Mexico, accompanied by his father, so the surgical team could repair the deformity.

Faith in Practice volunteers also perform cervical cancer screenings. The incidence of cervical cancer is three times higher in Guatemala than it is in the United States. Volunteers have developed a “see-and-treat” screening that allows patients to receive results and treatment, if needed, all in one appointment. Faith in Practice workers are training Guatemalan natives to offer the screenings.

Each year one high school student travels with the village team, and this year it is Julia Fox of Crescent Valley High School. Her mother, Linda Fox, is a gynecologist who has made several trips with Faith in Practice.

All implements, medicines and other supplies are brought from the United States. Good Samaritan Regional Medical Center allows the local group to purchase materials at cost.

Wendy Robinson of Corvallis, a lawyer by training, often accompanies the village team as an organizer, administrator and translator. She and Hinckle both have learned — or brushed up on — Spanish to aid them on the missions.

Each person on the trip pays his or her own way, including airfare, and gives up a week of vacation time.

“It’s life-changing for the patients, and also for those of us who go,” Hinckle said. “It’s a place we can really give our skills. And the patients are incredibly humble and grateful.”


How to help

To aid Faith in Practice in its missions, see www.faithinpractice.org/corvallis

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