Four and a half years ago a good friend asked me if I would be interested in volunteering as a nurse in Guatemala. I immediately responded, “Yes!” Volunteering is a way of life for me as I grew up in a family that was always helping those in need. In some ways, choosing nursing as a career was an extension of what I was accustomed to growing up.
The Canadian Team of Medicos-en-Accion has been providing volunteer services at Hermano Pedro Hospital for over 26 years, which I think is outstanding. For two weeks in February, the Canadian Team services surgeries and hearing clinics to the less fortunate people of Guatemala. Patients and their families travel for hours – sometimes even days – by foot or local bus to come to Hermano Pedro for care from the Canadian team. Even the locals will tell you they wait for our team to come. We have become friends with the hospital staff who support us in our work. The staff is very patient and flexible as approximately every two weeks a new team arrives at their hospital and they have to adjust. The hospital is supported by other volunteer surgical teams throughout the year. There are many American teams as well as teams from Brazil, that fulfill the needs of this very busy hospital.
This coming year I will be volunteering at the Santo Hermano Pedro Hospital in Antigua for the fifth time. I absolutely love it! The Guatemalan people are wonderful. It is amazing to see how they manage following surgery or how they react to hearing for the first time when fitted with a hearing aid. They are not demanding in the least and are grateful for everything you do for them. The recovery room team provides a gift bag for every patient as they leave recovery. The gift bag contains practical items like toothbrushes and toothpaste as well as fun items such as small games, barrettes or knitted dolls. Our team acquires donations of these gift bag items so that we can provide every one of our patients with a present. It is also quite remarkable that a donation of just $75.00 will pay for one surgery!
Our patients are privileged at Saanich Peninsula Hospital where we endeavour to give excellent care to anyone who seeks our help. Our Foundation and the many that support its work are commendable. Working with those less fortunate just reminds me of how lucky we are to live where we do and to have excellent healthcare available to us. I find my volunteer work humbling and rewarding. For me, nursing is enriching but volunteering is more. It’s what keeps my life in balance.
By Barb Daykin, SPH Emergency Room Clinical Coordinator