Volunteers Respond to Lack of Basic Needs in Chicaman Health Center

December 21, 2015

Clean, warm water can often be taken for granted. When we visit a health clinic, we assume that our doctors and nurses will have access to clean water to wash their hands. Or that a mother and her baby will be washed with clean water after childbirth. But for far too many people in Guatemala, these basic assumptions are not guaranteed.

For the communities of Chicaman – a region which Providence has committed to make long-term health improvements – the local health center has no running water and would often go for days without access to water on the grounds. That all changed when Providence caregivers arrived this month ready to make a difference for the population of 35,000 people served by the Chicaman health center. 

This skeleton crew included Ray Nichols, laundry manager at Providence St. Patrick Hospital in Montana and Jurgen Zieb, manager of clinical engineering at Providence St. Vincent Hospital in Oregon. They joined Aimee Khuu, director of Providence Health International and Katherine Bullard, clinical director of community partnerships, for the installation of a new water system funded by Providence. While at the facility, they assessed all the equipment and supplies to determine what could be repaired or replaced with Providence’s support. They also met with the local health improvement committee to develop plans for future volunteer teams to continue strengthening the health center’s infrastructure.

For Katherine Bullard, who has led several surgical relief teams to Guatemala, the lack of supplies and equipment was still a shock. “Several things will continue to haunt me after this trip,” said Katherine, “the staff in the lab shared with me that they only use one pair of gloves all day. The blood bank refrigerator only works for limited hours each day. Furthermore, there was only one sphygmomanometer for a hospital that provides care for a population of over 35,000. The very basic supplies were lacking."

This was the second trip to Guatemala for Ray Nichols, who shared, "It was great to be involved in a project that will benefit the whole community. Meeting people from the Ministry of Health and the municipality assured us that these projects would continue to be prioritized and allow collaboration for further development."

Working with Medical Teams International and other in-country partners, Providence is committed to making sustainable impact for the underserved communities of Chicaman. A Providence team will return to the health center in the spring and continue this important Mission. Interested volunteers are encouraged to apply online.