Letter From Our Xalibe Associate: Rebekah Sosa
Last month I traveled to Guatemala with a group of 28 volunteers. We had a big task to accomplish: to help put the finishing touches on the largest regional hospital in the Polochic Valley. Hospital construction began in 2009 and has been a top priority for communities throughout the region.
We drove up the green, narrow hills into the Polochic where we were greeted by the locals upon arrival in Nueva Concepcion, a community just a short walk from Xalibe.
Our group got to work painting the inside and outside walls of the building and applying grout to the tile floor of all of the inside rooms. It was a big job, but we were motivated to work alongside the locals and inspired by the idea of what this hospital means for the community.
I remember visiting the home of an elderly couple with Patricia, Val and Robert during the Spectrum expedition in 2009. We were told that a woman needed help, she had a health problem was told that there were nurses in Xalibe. We hopped in a truck and drove down a narrow dirt road to a small home that consisted of a very basic wooden structure. The Spectrum team got to work right away, they asked for boiling water to clean the infection. I could tell from the look on their faces that this was a serious matter. The elderly woman they were assisting had an open wound, a bone in her leg was exposed and there were maggots crawling around and inside the infection.
We started the slow process of translating, from Quechi, the indigenous language of the area, to Spanish to English. Patricia told me to tell the woman that she needed to go to the hospital or she would likely be faced with having to amputate her leg. The Quechi translator spoke with the woman, he then told us that she didn't want to go to the hospital. She was afraid. It was too expensive and too far away. The Spectrum team tried to persuade her to go. Patricia reiterated that she likely would not survive if she didn't go get help, but the woman refused.
This has been the reality for many people in the region, they are faced with serious health issues and often lack access to even basic care. Health related problems often become so bad that by the time a person goes for help there is nothing that can be done. Healthcare facilities are just not accessable in the region, in most cases one would have to walk at least 3 hours to see a healthcare provider.
I think back to this experience from time to time, it really had a big impact on me. The woman we visited miraculously survived. She was very lucky. This new hospital will have a huge impact in the area. It will serve 25,000 villagers across 28 rural communities! It will change the culture of what healthcare means and the experience of going to a hospital. It will save lives.
I am very grateful to have been able to go and work on this hospital and to all of the partners and volunteers who have helped over the last 3 years. I hope to get to visit Xalibe and the new hospital with the Spectrum team in the near future.