Conestoga news

June 13, 2018 3:16 PM

Conestoga community members join medical mission to Guatemala

Between April 26 and May 6, four members of the college’s School of Health and Life Sciences joined a team of 20 volunteers from the region on a medical mission to Guatemala. During the course of their 10-day stay, the group assessed 2,500 patients in remote villages and delivered much-needed medical supplies.

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This spring, four members of the college’s School of Health and Life Sciences joined a team of 20 volunteers from the region on a medical mission to Guatemala. L- R: Lori Smith, Lori Strauss, Jane MacDonald and Robin Young.

Lori Strauss, coordinator of the college’s Personal Support Worker program at the Doon campus, and Robin Young, a retired professor from the Paramedic program, have made the journey before. This year they were joined by Jane MacDonald, a professor in the Paramedic program and the Occupational Therapy Assistant and Physiotherapist Assistant program, and Lori Smith, coordinator of the Paramedic program. Each of the volunteers was responsible for their own travel expenses.

The mission was organized locally through the Christian Mission Resource Centre in London, Ontario, and once in Guatemala the team was partnered with logistics coordinators who work with multiple charities and organizations to determine where the needs are. Coordinators stationed full-time in Guatemala provide follow-up for patients identified by the medical team.

“It is well organized,” said Strauss who has now completed three missions. “The minute you walk in the doors everyone starts pitching in.” 

The team of 20 volunteers included nurses, doctors, paramedics and those who didn’t have a health care background but lent other skills to the mission.

MacDonald and Smith found the experience very humbling and both were impressed with the energy of the volunteers. In one day alone, the team saw 630 patients with health concerns that ranged from parasite issues to diabetes, teenage pregnancy and repetitive strain injuries.

The volunteers also provided targeted education through specialized clinics including one designed for girls. Throughout their 10-day trip, the team delivered 300 menstrual kits that included washable, long-lasting pads and provided health teaching on how to use them. Other clinics supported women who had been abandoned or widowed.

Planning for the mission started last September and volunteers held a packing party in February. In addition to their personal belongings, each volunteer brought more than 100 pounds of supplies that ranged from over-the-counter medications to glasses and toothbrushes collected through donation drives.

“It’s the people that make this work. There is no sense of class or division and everybody is willing to help,” said Young.

Conestoga’s School of Health & Life Sciences delivers a comprehensive array of career-focused programs that combine theoretical and hands-on learning. For more information, visit the School’s website.