While staying at Monkey Bay Marina on the Rio Dulce I was lucky enough to have the opportunity to volunteer in the Medical Clinic at the local orphanage Casa Guatemala.
I thought I would write a small piece on Casa Guatemala, the clinic and the amazing experience I had their…
Casa Guatemala is a home and school for orphaned, abandoned, or abused children, located in the jungle on the banks of the Rio Dulce in beautiful Guatemala, Central America.
Casa Guatemala was established in 1977 and originally named Casa Canada as the original founders were a Canadian couple who reached out to assist the malnourished, orphaned and abused children during the brutal civil war. The couple had a simple mission; to provide a safe and nurturing home, provide health care and an education for the children of Guatemala who are abused, abandoned, malnourished, or living in extreme poverty. This mission is the driving motivation of the organization and still is to this day.
Casa Guatemala’s vision is to equip the children in their care with the skills and education needed to become upstanding, empowered citizens in their community and to become fully self-sustained through the businesses that they run which provide financial support and meaningful job training for the older children.
The set up at Casa Guatemala is impressive and very professionally run, led by head mover and shaker Heather Graham, an extremely motivated and inspirational lady who has been involved with the orphanage for over 12 years! With over 200 children, 10 staff and up to 15 volunteers coordinated on a daily basis, Heather is always keen to get a friendly helping hand from volunteers. Some volunteers I met had been at Casa Guatemala for 3 months… Very inspirational!
It is such an amazing experience to be surrounded by so many smiling and laughing children, each wanting to hold your hand or to be picked up, all asking you “Cómo te llamas” (what is your name) and “de dónde eres” (where are you from). Then you get whisked off to join in on playing their most favorite game in the world… soccer! And man! They are super good at it too! I headed out onto the pitch expecting not run much and to pass the ball gently around, I was kidding myself! 15min into the game I had a good sweat up and a queried partially strained left hamstring!
The children are all so polite and even when seated to join them for a lunch of beans and rice they will voluntarily come and take your plate when you are finished.
When it is time to leave the kids will come and shake your hand or hand you a small flower which they had picked from the garden.
Casa Guatemala Medical Clinic
The humble little clinic at Casa Guatemala in run by a very friendly and happy young nurse named Mynor.
Mynor does an amazing job, seeing an average of 40 patients a day, and being able to speak both Spanish and the local Mayan dialect of K'iche makes him very popular with the children.
Not only does Casa Guatemala Clinic service the needs of the orphanage but it also cares for patients from the surrounding villages.
Although the clinic is small I found it well equipped, thanks to the donations of many generous people, to deal with the simple day to day ailments that presented. When situations presented that where out of Mynors scope or the medical equipment was not available the patients were run into the nearest town of Fronteras to receive a higher level of care.
I saw a range of different ailments including skin infections, dermatitis, conjunctivitis and soft tissue injuries. It was a joy to serve such happy people, even when patients presented with painful or irritating skin ailments, it could not dampen their spirits.
I spoke with Mynor about some of the most common health issues in Casa Guatemala and surrounding villages and he said that the major one was Anemia, this he said was mainly caused by a poor diet. Although the local villages have access to the basic foods like beans and rice, it is not in large quantities and I believe that the inability to access clean water, good varieties of fruits/vegetables and spices, and lack of leafy greens in their diet would add to this.
Working in the little clinic with Mynor was an amazing experience for me, it was very humbling! Being able to be of service to these amazing people was an experience I will never forget and something I wish to do again.
I strongly recommend to anyone in the Guatemala area to make a trip to Casa Guatemala and lend a helping hand, and experience the joy of being able to serve and help these little grommets to achieve their dreams…