Bringing Therapy to San Pedro

Last June we had the blessing of being chosen to be the mission project for VBX (Vacation Bible [E]Xperience) at Westside Church.  They blessed me with a trip up to be part of this special week and I got to enjoy being with the Children's Ministry in which I served more than a few years ago. It was a special time to reconnect with old friends and make new ones.

Kitchen before

As part of the VBX project, the church wanted to help build a house of a needy family in Guatemala.  Reason to Hope partnered with Love Guatemala Canada to build a house for Angela and her five granddaughters.  Her daughter (the girls' mother) had recently died in childbirth and the father could not handle it and disappeared.  Grandma stepped in, but was clearly not prepared to take on this responsibility.  Partnering with Love Guatemala, we were able to rebuild on the site of their present house, but providing a more permanent, safe and sanitary home in which to raise the girls.  We will continue to check in on this family and help them as we can.

Kitchen after
The second part of the VBX project was to enable us to build on to the existing men's home to allow us to begin a community outreach project.  The main focus of this center will be to provide physical, occupational and educational therapy as well as family support to the residents of San Pedro where we are located.  We will work with local therapists who will do the evaluation and treatment planning, and our staff will help the patients carry out the in-home therapy prescribed for them. 

The soon to be Outreach Center
under construction
While it is true that there is physical therapy available in Antigua, about 5 miles away, for many with physical disabilities this is an impossible distance to travel if they don't have a car.  (Imagine trying to get a wheelchair on to a school bus--that's what our folks face.)  Often they don't have the money to pay the required therapy fee.  Sometimes, especially in the cases of older adults, there is no one to take them. 

Many times family members are not compliant with therapy recommendations because the process is uncomfortable for the patient and they don't like it.  Our hope is to have the parents and caregivers come to our center and we will coach and encourage them to do the needed exercises and movements to prevent further deterioration of their bodies.  Adults often have no one who will do their therapy exercises with them, and we will fill that gap. 

Roberto, one of our residents, working with Blanca
who comes to us for educational therapy
A number of younger children or those with more significant disabilities in our town do not receive any educational services.  There is a quality special needs school in the next town, but it is a formal school program and often these children have be isolated and are not socially, emotionally, or behaviorally ready to attend school.  We are working with them to develop the needed skills to go to school, or, in the case of more severely limited children, will work to develop whatever abilities they have.  

This is Lester, an eight year old with a severe heart
problem who is unable to walk.  Through our Outreach
we were able to provide his mom with a jogging stroller so
she no longer needs to carry him up the mountain on her back.

Because of the men living in the home, and especially Fidel's recycling business, our house is already known as a place people can come for help.  Through these programs we hope to become more open to the community, meet the people's human needs, and lead them to know Jesus who can meet their every need.  What an honor and a privilege.

Alvaro is a fourth grade student at New Life School in the Mayan village of Santa Maria de Jesus in Guatemala where our ministry works.  He is one of the kindest and most well behaved children I have met in 30+ years of working in special education.

In April, 2018  Alvaro began having difficulty walking and speaking.  Having had a brain tumor removed previously, his parents were duly concerned and took him to the national hospital for diagnosis.  It was discovered that the tumor had returned and was pressing on his brain stem.  His symptoms were worsening rapidly.

It was amazing to see the compassion of Alvaro's classmates and they
helped him while his condition worsened.
It was discovered that his tumor had regrown.  While it was a benign tumor, it had a vascular core (think a spaghetti-like ball made up of arteries and and veins) requiring lengthy and complicated surgery, with the risk of severe bleeding.  Untreated,  the tumor's continued growth would have put more and more pressure on his brain, and his condition will deteriorate.  Without this surgery, he would have, according to our surgeon, died a "slow and painful death."

The family discussing treatment options with our friend and
neurosurgeon, Dr. P.
Due to the gravity of this tumor, he needed  to receive the surgery by a private surgeon in a private hospital here in Guatemala.  While not costing much more than the copay would have  been for surgery in the US, the cost was astronomical to this Guatemalan family.

His family committed to do all they could to raise these funds, but they are farmers who sell their produce at a local market and have very limited resources.  They sold some of their land and possessions and asked for help from relatives and friends.  Their only other option was to borrow money. Here this comes with an exorbitant interest rate of up to 25%.  Borrowing the money the family would never be out of debt and risk losing what property they still have.

The family never asked for help, only emotional support, advice and prayer.  However, God convicted me that, while we do not usually take on projects of this magnitude, Alvaro was to be an exception.  I felt led to start a GoFundMe page (not our usual method of making a needed known), and withing 20 days we had the needed funds for him to have his surgery.  The majority of the donations came from people I did not even know.  (I guess God knew where the funds would come from.  I'm so glad I followed his prompting!)

The next hurdle was to get 9 people to donate his exact blood-type.  Nine blood donors is a challenge anywhere, but here in Guatemala it is especially difficult.  There is much misunderstanding and even superstition here associated with donating blood and folks are very reluctant to do so.  God, however, that this and within one week we had the needed blood banked at the hospital.

Two of our champion blood donors, Nizsa, a teacher at the school and Dani, a companion-caregiver at our home.

The end of August, Alvaro was successfully operated upon and 98% of the benign tumor was removed. What could not be removed due to its location on the brain stem is scheduled to be radiated to prevent it from returning. We are grateful to God, the medical professionals involved, and especially the donors who made this happen.

Alvaro has made a miraculous recovery, leaving the hospital only 8 days after the eleven and one-half hour surgery. He receives therapy three times a week to help with mobility and strength, but is a champion fighter.

We had not anticipated the need for radiation and will need to raise approximately $5000 to cover the cost of future treatment and therapy. If you can help with this we would be most grateful.