Hoosier United Methodist-related Mission Guatemala opened its clinic this past November at San Andrés Semetabaj, Guatemala and will make plans for a dental clinic since a retiring Newburgh dentist said he would donate all his equipment to Mission Guatemala.
The clinic is currently open two days each week. As knowledge of the clinic grows and patient numbers increase, the Rev. Tom Heaton, an Indiana Conference United Methodist pastor and director of Mission Guatemala, said he hopes the clinic will be open additional days during the week.
During a mid-December interview with Together, Heaton said, “Our greatest healthcare need in Third World Counties like Guatemala, is hunger. More than one-third of residents here die of diarrhea and pneumonia, especially babies.”
Heaton says most Guatemalans eat only two meals a day and have a 40 percent malnutrition rate.
Dr. Edgar Ejcalon, 33, is the clinic’s doctor. Ejcalon has been practicing medicine for seven years in Guatemala. His home is the town of Chimaltenango. Heaton says Ejcalon shares Mission Guatemala’s excitement about the clinic opening and the low cost high quality health care they are trying to provide the indigenous Mayan people of Guatemala. His salary at the clinic is being paid for a year by the Sugar River United Methodist Church of Verona, Wis., which also helped establish the new clinic.
Ejcalon said, “With the low cost consultation and large supply of low cost medicines, we are providing a great service”, Ejcalon speaks two Mayan languages and Spanish which is also a great help.
Patients pay a fee of Q10 (about $1.25) to see the doctor and Q20 (about $2.50) to obtain the medicines they need. Heaton says the clinic is able to offer these low fees through the generous donations of many people that offset the actual cost. Many people in the region live off of less than one-dollar-per day. No one is turned away for lack of funds.
Deborah Cumes is the clinic’s secretary/receptionist. She is a native of San Andrés and speaks both Spanish and the local Mayan language. Cumes also serves the San Andres women’s weaving cooperative as the secretary. Heaton says Mission Guatemala is pleased to have someone as pleasant and happy as Deborah greeting the patients who arrive at the clinic. The clinic has a goal of serving the more than 25,000 residents in the San Andrés area.
United Methodist churches that contributed to establishing the Mission Guatemala Clinic include: Bluegrass in Evansville, Calvary in Brownsburg, Castleton in Indianapolis, Christ in Lafayette, Grace in Franklin, Nashville UMC, Newburgh UMC plus John’s Creek UMC in Atlanta and Roswell both in Georgia.
Teams from these churches are headed to Mission Guatemala this month. They include: The Promise UMC in Fishers, Shiloh UMC, Castleton UMC, Asbury UMC in Columbus. More than 40 United Methodist churches in Indiana support this new mission effort.
The exciting news this past month was the announcement that retiring Newburgh dentist Dr. Thomas Scholl, after practicing dentistry for many years, decided to retire and donate all his equipment to Mission Guatemala. Mission Guatemala is currently trying to arrange for packing and shipping of all the equipment to Guatemala.
Heaton said, “If all goes well, by mid-year the dental practice may become a vital part of our health ministry in Guatemala. The need for a dentist and dental care in the rural areas of Guatemala is tremendous.”