Humanity First Guatemala

Sirviendo a la humanidad.

Fortaleciendo mi convicción de dedicar mi vida al servicio de la humanidad.

El cuerpo diminuto del niño estaba cubierto de suciedad y de heridas abiertas. Muchos de nosotros nos acercamos a la sala de pediatría mientras los médicos le quitaban cuidadosamente la ropa para limpiar su cuerpo, aplicarle  pomada en la piel y cubrir las heridas con una gasa. Siendo demasiado joven para comprender que los médicos estaban tratando de ayudarlo a pesar del dolor, se aferraba a su madre en medio de sollozos que hacían eco en la habitación. Las lágrimas llenaron mis ojos al ver cómo intentaba calmar a su hijo, meciéndolo de un lado a otro, y pensé en las dificultades que su madre había tenido que atravesar  cada día sin tener ninguno de estos medicamentos o recursos.

Le pedimos que volviera al día siguiente, el último día de la jornada. Antes del viaje, estuvimos recogiendo donaciones de suministros médicos y recibimos un gran cargamento de gasas para vendar. En aquel momento, pensé que aquello era excesivo para nuestro viaje, pero ahora parecían ser una bendición. Mientras esperábamos a la tarde siguiente, finalmente llegó con su hijo, y eran los últimos pacientes en la clinica. Cuando el niño se dio cuenta de lo que iba a ocurrir, abrazó a su madre y las lágrimas brotaron de nuevo. Los médicos limpiaron sus heridas y volvieron a aplicarle los ungüentos y gasas. Además le dimos  a la madre todas la pomada, gasas sobrante y ropa de algodón para él. El valor y afecto de la madre eran inimaginables, y presenciar este momento - uno de los  muchos acontecimientos de esta semana - fue una experiencia conmovedora. 

Estas experiencias continúan fortaleciendo cada vez más mi convicción de dedicar mi vida al servicio de la humanidad. Que hagamos nuestros corazones mas sinceros y mas generosos, y nos conceda la fuerza y los medios para servir a los que sufren graves carencias.

- Saifra, Humanity First Guatemala 

I am a nurse to serve others, humbly and unconditionally.

Being a part of a healthcare team in the United States as a registered nurse (RN) has shown me the complexities of both the positive and negative characteristics of the healthcare field. It is not uncommon to hear doctors, nurses, and aides feeling overworked, under-appreciated, resulting in, at times, resentment towards the population being served. It is not uncommon to treat health services like a business. It can be challenging to serve consistently graciously, without judgement, and with benevolence. Additionally, it can be more challenging to validate and sympathize one’s coworkers, while staying true to one’s own principles of staying compassionate and positive.

Those challenges were wholly removed in Alotenango, Guatemala. After seeing and talking with only a handful of patients on the first day of the Gift of Health camp, all I could feel was unadulterated joy. That feeling did not fade a shade from me for weeks.


I will never forget how the population made me feel. I felt overflowing love and respect for each and every patient that sat down in front of me. It confirmed everything I thought I ever wanted. This I took back home: I am a nurse to serve others humbly and unconditionally because, despite anything else, they are in need.

- Anila Bhatti, Gift of Health - March 2014

"Tres veces al día."

Tres veces al día.

The three words I must have uttered over 300 times today, script after script calling for Motrin for individuals with muscle aches, arthritis, or any other pain.  Despite the plethora of prescriptions filled and patients seen, one patient in particular stood out today.  An 8 year old Guatemalan boy came to the pharmacy area carrying his script for an antibiotic and cold meds, nothing surprising about that, until I read the patient history indicating he had muscular dystrophy.   The boy showed no sign of his illness until he walked away from the pharmacy and I noticed his gait.  I later came to find out from the physician treating him that the boy does not go to school simply because he cannot walk there.

And suddenly, something as seemingly obvious as “taking the simple things for granted” has a whole new meaning.

- Dr. Zujajah Shaikh, Gift of Health - March 2013

"His small hand grasped her finger, but his grip slowly loosened."

As exhausted as I am right now, this day has been yet another amazing experience with Humanity First. After not nearly enough sleep, each and every dedicated team member worked from 8 am to 6 pm running the clinic. Luckily, we were in an air-conditioned building that kept the heat from adding to our exhaustion, but the 10 hours on my feet seemed to last forever. At the same time, the day seemed to end much sooner than it should have. Getting the opportunity to see numerous unusual and amazing medical cases kept all of us motivated throughout the day. The instance that sticks with me the most is when a small baby came to the pediatrics room because he was wheezing and having trouble breathing. After giving him a breathing treatment, we sent him on his way.

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His mom brought him back, though, after his breathing worsened. He was having so much trouble that we had to arrange for him to be taken to the hospital. While that was going on, though, Deeana was giving him another breathing treatment. His frail body was motionless and his eyes were barely open. His small hand grasped Gabriela’s finger, but his grip slowly loosened. Watching this made me realize the fragility of his little human life. We were able to stabilize his breathing and send him to the hospital, but have no way of knowing what happened next. I can only wonder how he’s doing now.

- Shazia Ijaz, Gift of Health - March 2013

"It is amazing to see so many miracles of sight."

hfgiftofsight:

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Coming to Guatemala has been an abundance of life lessons that I will cherish forever. Thank you to everyone who helped get me here. I am extremely grateful for the Humanity First team. Everyone in Guatemala has been so kind and hospitable to me. It is amazing to see so many miracles of sight…

"I realized that dentistry is a form of art."

Yesterday I was able to work on and utilize my Spanish speaking skills, however today was my first day of being with the doctors. During the first half of the day I was with one of the Guatemalan doctors, Fernanda. I learned so much from this experience as she was open to explaining what each patient was undergoing. Problems ranged from gastritis to fiber deficiency to kidney stones. We even had the opportunity to listen to the heart beat of a pregnant woman’s baby!

During the second half of the day I rotated to dentistry with Dr. Ford. I have always wanted to be a dentist but after what I experienced today in clinic I truly fell in love with dentistry. I realized that dentistry is a form of art and it takes patience not only from oneself but also from the patient. This was the most hands-on experience I have had so far. I, along with my fellow peers, Rihana and Shazia, assisted Dr. Ford by applying gauze to bloody areas, handing the doctor instruments, loading syringes with anesthetic, sterilized the instruments and more than anything, providing comfort and a sense of safety to the next brave patient. We saw a lot of children who had baby bottle tooth decay. This occurs when liquids that contain sugar (like milk) are left in a baby’s mouth for an extended period of time without being washed out. This causes several cavities, usually on the top front teeth, making it very painful for children to eat.


The one patient who stuck out the most to me was a four year old girl. Four of her top front teeth were rotting, had dark pits and were nearly broken, a clear case of baby bottle tooth decay. The only option was to extract all four of the teeth. The girl was already tense up before Dr. Ford applied the anesthetic so we knew this case would be difficult.

Teja Neral, Gift of Health - March 2012

Chaos, mayhem, eye-opening, and enriching.

WOW. That’s just the first word I think of when trying to describe today. Chaos, mayhem, eye opening and enriching could also be used, but I think wow sums those up. Walking in to the school there was around 100 people already lined up. The feeling was indescribable. It was really a moment I will remember forever. We saw around 200 patients today. It felt like so many more because of all the kids running around and people coming with families of 15+. Complete chaos! I worked in the pediatric room with Dr. Salma and the pharmacy with Dr. Bell. I was so happy to discover that I do love pediatrics and want to keep it in mind for the future!

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It was really hard to see these kids come in and weigh almost half or less than half of what they should we weighing. I’d say about 90% had symptoms, usually stomach pain, caused by worms. Almost every patient we saw had something that could easily have been prevented with a healthy and clean lifestyle. It was heartbreaking to see these hurting kids that didn’t know anything different. The pharmacy wasn’t my favorite station (sorry dad!) but it was interesting to learn more about different medications. Dr. Bell has a lot of useful information to share. My favorite times are talking with the doctors/dentist about their experiences and humorous stories. Overall, I would say it was a life changing day that I will never forget.

Alissa Caramella, Gift of Health - March 2012