Rotary Eye Clinic

Rotary is involved in many humanitarian projects world-wide.
Our motto is "Service Above Self

Our First Patient

Our First Patient
Dr. Carl Whitehouse and Salome Huinac

"We would like to thank all of our friends, families and other members of our community for their generous support in donating glasses, knitted booties, medical equipment and other supplies towards our mission. Your kindness is most appreciated"

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Back home in Canada

Friday morning we got up at 3:30 a.m. and boarded our shuttle to the airport in Guatemala City at 4:00.
Things were very misty and our flight was delayed about an hour. Other than the delay everything went fine with our departure.

We said "Good-bye" to the beautiful hills, mountains and volcanos of Guatemala and made our way to Mexico City and then on to Toronto.

We arrived in Toronto about 8:30 and went back to the hotel where we had stayed before we left, to pick up our cars. Some headed back to Perth and some team members stayed over in Toronto.

We said our "farewells" in the lobby of the hotel. Having shared this very special time together the friendships and bonds that we have made during this great adventure will be life-long.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

We arrived in Antigua

Here we are at lunch in Antigua - this is like a world away from where we were earlier today. We enjoyed a late lunch with Clara, Utzil and Hose as our guests.
Tomorrow we get up and leave the hotel at 4:30 a.m. to catch our 6:30 plane from Guatemala to Mexico and then on to Toronto

Final numbers 470 / 240

Today was the final day at the clinic - our final numbers draft numbers are 470 patients seen and 240 pairs of glasses dispensed - we felt good about what we have accomplished.
In this picture you will see some varied dress that spans traditional to modern, we saw just about every kind of dress over the 6 days of clinics.

Here Barbara Whitehouse is doing the basic acuity test on this young man who turned out to be mostly blind in one eye. Some cases we could refer them for surgery and others like this one we couldn't.

This is one of the final views of the hills around the school. The horse in the horizon has been grazing this hill all week.

Janet Batchelor is testing this man's new glasses. It was always fun watching the look on their faces as they see things come into focus that haven't been that way for sometime.

We saw about 80 plus people at the clinic today. There was a higher percentage of glasses and referrals today for some reason.

Here are two women that span several generations who have received
examinations and medication that should make a difference to them.

When the day was over there were some speeches and thank yous from the local village from the villages that traveled to the clinic.
In this picture a representative from Chuicutama presented a very special ceremonial shirt to Barbara Whitehouse and then a scarf to Carl.

What a handsome couple they are decked out in their new finery.

After we had packed up and left the village Clara had arranged to take us to a school in Cantel to here are special school band play for us. This band has been together for about a year and a half now. Their instrument were a gift made by Chris and Bill Hale in honor of son's and daughter-in-law's wedding in July 2008. Michael and Melissa are very supportive of the work done in Guatemala and have been part of several projects and have also travelled to Xela where Melissa worked with Clara as an intern. It was very touching to hear the young people play - when we get home to a faster internet connection I'll try and put up a video so you can see and hear some of their concert.

This school has some strong links to Canada as the money to build it was raised by Canadians. In this picture you see the school leaders, Oscar the teacher, Clara Colop who is our coordinator and who makes all of this possible and works so very very hard, and Chris and I. Their school flag is made from the colours and shape of the Canadian flag in recognition of the bonds that they have with Canada.

And lastly before I sign off for tonight and possibly until we get home here is a picture of one of the people we were able to help. This sweet girl's smile says it all and this is why we want to again thank all those who helped us to make this trip possible with the donations of supplies and equipment. Thanks as well go to my fellow team members for their time efforts, good humor and sacrifices and to their families for letting them spend the time here. Special thanks to Dr. Carl Whitehouse, Barbara Gutherie and Janet Batchelor all who we could not have done this without and to David and Pat Batchelor who did an amazing job on the logistics letting alone being our Perth headquarters for putting together the glasses and other supplies.

Tomorrow we will disperse the remaining medications to a local clinic and then travel back to Antiqua to catch our flight home on Friday.

One last van ride, one last dilemma for the group to consider - "What's better - diesel fumes or dust?"

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Tuesday -April 20th - Chuicutama

Today was a good day, we saw more than 80 patients and got through about 3:30 which was in time to get back to Al Refugio before 5:00 p.m. Our hopes were up that the chocolate store on the premises would be open so we could have a treat of some hot chocolate but no luck it was closed.

The school in the village consists of a three classroom building and a one classroom building. Only the one room building seems to be in use and we aren't sure why, perhaps there is a lack of teachers.

This is the registration desk which we keep outside of the clinic room to reduce congestion and confusion. The door way is always crowded as there are lots of on-lookers taking peeks at what is going on inside.

This 81 year old gentleman shook the hands of the volunteers as he went through the clinic and gave us a blessing of some sort. I'm not sure if he was a cleric or not.

There were lots of children through today and most were in pretty good shape although most could have used a good bath. Some of their hands and faces were quite dirty although it seemed that the ones with scabbies were some of the cleanest ones. We do hand out soap to each family along with the tooth brushes and paste. We hope that the bit of training they receive at the clinic will be enough to make good and proper use of these supplies.

We had our normal sandwiches for lunch on the run while others set up a more traditional lunch out side for themselves.

Notice the load that this women in the foreground and the men in the background are carrying. It is common to see people walking on the roads, through the fields or up in the hills with heavy loads on their backs.

As the clinic was winding down some of us went up to the village to see this woman weaving on her back-strap loom. The detail in her work was incredible and it gave us an appreciation for the time and skill that it takes to produce the many beautiful fabrics that we saw on people in the clinic. Most of this work is for their own use we were told.

When I asked whether they had cooking stoves we were shown this stove and they commented that it wasn't large enough for large families which I suspect is the norm. While this didn't have the large plancha that the stoves that I have seen and built with the Guatemala Stove Project I was relieved to see a chimney to direct the smoke to the outside.

Last thing we did before we left for home was to take a team picture with the volunteers (Rotarians, friends of Rotary and Megile who is from Panimaguim and stayed with us all week), translators, Clara and Ushime and our drivers.The only person missing was Chris Hale who stayed back at Al Refugio today to recover from a cold.

Tomorrow is our last day at this village and the last day of the clinic. We are told that there is going to be a surprise in the afternoon and we're to wear something nice. That's a bit of a challenge given our working conditions and the limited wardrobes that we have.

Tomorrow I'll report on the surprise... stay tuned.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Today started out as normal with breakfast at 6:45 a.m. and then we gathered to meet the vans at 7:30.
The workers had already been in the field beside the hotel for some time planting their potatoes.

On our trip up the mountains we stopped very briefly to take some pictures of the volcano that was in the distance.

There was a minor washout on the road near the school in Chuicutama. This is the next village that we are working in so we walked the last little way. Later the road was temporarily repaired so the vans could get right to the school which was nice as that meant we didn't have to lug all our heavy cases too far. We got set up and were running within about 15 minutes of arriving.

We strive to get the eye drops in a few patients as soon as possible as we can't finish our testing until they have be dilated for at least 30 minutes.

This beautiful school was built after hurricane Stan by CARE. The views from the front of the school are of the fields rising up into the hills.  Today, just about every where you looked, you could see either and animal grazing or someone working a field way up on the steep slopes.

This person was coming back from gather fuel - mostly sticks that they will use for their cooking fire. They have a long way to carry the heavy load that is on their back.

Here's Cr. Carl and Cano doing their warm-up exercises. Actually Carl is showing Cano what he could do to try and stretch out some of his sore mussels from a soccer game that he had yesterday.

Today we saw 94 patients which is a record for us. We're really "in the grove" as far as efficiently processing people and giving them that extra little bit of attention and care that we feel they cherish.
Our work is bitter sweet. We're so happy when we see someone that we can help. On the other hand it is heartbreaking when we come across someone who we can not help. The 13 year old young women with the sun glasses on was one of the heart breakers. She was diagnosed with practically no vision, her retinas were destroyed likely by parasites and there was nothing we could do to help her, she is essentially blind. Dr. Carl will try and refer her to an agency for the blind if one can be found. For the many others who we are able to help with glasses, medicines and other treatments the smiles on their faces is reward enough for us. We received some very good news that some Doctors will be coming for a surgical clinic in May and they should be able to see our cataract referrals which is amazing that they will be getting this treatment so soon. 

Tomorrow and Wednesday will be busy days at the clinic as we try and see as many patients as we can in the final 2 days.

My apologies for the typos

I want to apologize for the typos in the blog. There just isn't enough time in the day - actually it's usually late in the evening, to get the pictures and material into the blog, do all the editing and proofing. Tonight the team wanted to see the blog and as I was going over it with them we discovered several typos that need to be corrected. I hope to be able to do that some time but feel that the limited time I have is better spent posting so that our followers can keep up to date.
Thanks for your understanding. / Bill

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Sunday's adventure

Some of us woke up to the shaking of the building today - it  was a 5.6 earthquake. We thought this was quite something and then a quick google check told us that there were 3 quakes in Guatemala in the last 24 hours. There was no mention of this at breakfast so we're now concluding that this is not that abnormal.
We're off the the market in Chi Chi today and I hope to be able to update the blogs later tonight.
This is what some of the houses along the highway look like.


 The flowers and fruit at the local road side stands are magnificent.

 The road to Chi Chi is very, very windy and steep at places. The switchbacks are amazing with the van having to make some very sharp turns - you can't find roads like this in Canada as they would be lethal in icy conditions. We did see a few spot where vehicle had failed to navigate the corners evidenced by missing and mangled guard rails.

Once in the market at Chi Chi we saw people bartering with live foul. Here the negotiation is going on to trade a chicken for some corn. The shop keeper is weighing and checking this chicken out. After she tool some corn from one of the sacks and fed it to the chicken. The lady at the right who was hoping to barter the chicken then wrapped it up in her wrap and continued on her way.

The market is a very busy and crowded place with both store or booths on the side and vendors walking in the street who if they can catch your eye and think that have even a slight possibility of a sale will follow you for blocks trying to get you to barter for their goods.

The weather today was magnificent and the country side is incredible.

When we got back to Al Rufugio we had some vino tinto and cerveza before dinner.

Tomorrow we're off to our next village.