Local doctor, missionaries help in GuatemalaBy Whitney Denson Published 4:08pm Friday, July 11, 2014
Natives of Guatemala City received vital medical care and home renovations from a local doctor and missionaries in June.
First United Methodist Church of Clanton sent several missionaries to Guatemala in hopes of improving the natives’ health and living situations.
This was the second trip to Guatemala City for the missionaries of FUMC, and this time, they were pleased to add a doctor to their mission group.
Dr. Jon Binkerd of Chilton Surgical Associates said he got involved in the mission trip after hearing about it from one of his patient’s mothers.
“It’s something I’ve always wanted to do, and the opportunity just presented itself,” said Binkerd. “The kids were so appreciative, and it was very rewarding to be able to help as many as we could.”
The mission group worked out of a small section on the outskirts of Guatemala City known as the Tracks.
Stanley Batchelor, a paramedic and missionary, said the group had a better idea of what to expect going into the expedition this year, as opposed to last year’s mission.
“To bring in a real doctor meant a lot to us, especially after seeing the need last year,” Batchelor said. “We were able to do what we could as nurses, but we definitely had an advantage having a doctor with us this year.”
Basic primary care was the main concern for Binkerd, and most of his time was spent in a three-day clinic, treating more than 200 people for illnesses such as sinus and ear infections, nose bleeds and parasitic-related sickness.
“The majority of the people we saw had never seen a doctor before,” Binkerd said. “They were in awe of the situation. As soon as we arrived, kids were running up to us and hugging us.”
With the help of Prattville Baptist Hospital and other Prattville drug stores, the mission group was able to provide antibiotics, Tylenol and other medications for treatment.
Binkerd said Guatemala’s economic structure made purchasing medications almost impossible for a family in poverty.
After one day of the medical clinic, the mission group was able to acquire more necessary medications from another group working in the same area, turning a supposed one-day clinic to a three-day clinic.
As a surgeon, Binkerd aspired to perform surgeries on the people of the Tracks with diabetes or other serious conditions.
“We were able to perform a minor surgery on a man with a diabetic foot, but there were so many other cases we could have treated if we had the proper tools,” Binkerd said. “I plan to go back, and I hope to visit an orphanage in Guatemala where many kids have a cleft lip or cleft palate that needs surgery.”
Batchelor, the main organizer of the event, shared his ideas for mission trips in upcoming years.
“The ideal plan would be to send a team over to identify where the need is and what tools we will need, and then to send a second team to perform surgeries,” Batchelor said. “There are diabetics that need amputations and then there are some people with incurable illnesses that just need pain medications.”
The mission group grew by one member this year, but missionaries are hoping that the mission will further expand in upcoming years.
In addition to treating illnesses and administering medications, Binkerd was able to offer basic medical advice to the natives through a translator.
However, medical assistance was not the only need met for those in the Tracks.
Since the Tracks lies on the side of a volcano, ash and dirt are the foundations of their home structures.
The makeshift homes, mostly built with tin, are built around the volcano, meaning that many homes sit above other homes on a hill.
This living structure allows monsoon rains to wash the homes’ dirt and ash foundation onto the homes below them.
The issue of flooding and mudslides has proven not only detrimental to the homes themselves, but also to the people living in them.
Upon their first trip to the Tracks, the mission group saw the need for a change, and decided to build a retaining wall to prevent mudslides and constant erosion of the dirt wall.
Before their second trip in June, the team was able to raise enough money for 25-30 meters of wall, and asked the Guatemalan families to clean up the area the workers would be building on.
Batchelor said every family for about 100 meters cleaned up the area in hopes of the retaining wall reaching their home.
“When we go back, we want to finish the retaining wall,” Batchelor said. “We want these people to feel safe in their own homes.”
The mission group left a huge impact on the small section of the Tracks they were able to help, but Binkerd and Batchelor agree that the people there made an equally meaningful impact on them as well.
“I was surprised at how much they didn’t have,” Binkerd said. “People in the U.S. complain about our health care system, but they don’t realize what life would be like without that safety net. Those in poverty here can at least find food.”
When Batchelor wasn’t working on the retaining wall or organizing the medical clinic, he was spending time playing and interacting with the kids.
On the final day of the trip, the team held a barbecue for the kids, and gave away over 250 hot dogs.
Members of the mission group included Rose Uthendahl, Ron and Nancy Dovey, Frank Mims, Debi Hagan, Batchelor and Binkerd.
Plans to extend the wall further are in the makings, and Batchelor said the mission group is accepting donations for their future missions.
Batchelor encourages anyone interested in joining future trips to contact the church, as he will be organizing more missions in the near future.
For more information on helping with, or donating to, the Guatemala missions fund, contact First United Methodist Church of Clanton at 205-755-0490 or contact the project leader at email@example.com.