La Paz de Susan

Link here to La Paz de Susan, Sister Susan Dewitt's blog about working with PazSalud and living in El Salvador from 2009 through 2013.

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Christmas gifts

Every year, just before Christmas, PazSalud delivers gift baskets to some of the families that we have been working with over the years.  Each basket is filled with healthy staples for the family to enjoy during the holidays.  Sharing the gift of food during this special time of year is one of the ways PazSalud continues to be a presence in our past mission communities and be a catalyst for change in the lives of needy Salvadorans.

Rosita and daughter


Sandra and family

Monday, December 22, 2014

Mission preparation

Among the mountain of details involved in planning a PazSalud mission one of the most important is coordinating daily lunches for the team.  We need to ensure that the food is healthy and prepared with the hygiene standards to which most Americans are accustomed.  Starting early in the morning and working long days means that good food is integral to a successful mission experience.

Maira and I met last week with a group of local cooks who are experienced in cooking for large delegations.  We discussed menu options and the various hygiene standards to which we’ll ask them to adhere.

Maira meeting with the cooks.

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Estanzuelas Committee

During a General Medical Mission in a Salvadoran community, PazSalud’s medical team identifies individuals that need special attention beyond what the mission can offer.  We undertake to work with these people – typically children – and assist them in accessing greater health care in El Salvador.  During our mission in Estanzuelas, Usulutan in 2013, we encountered six such children and have been working with them ever since.

I recently had the opportunity become involved with an experimental committee forming in Estanzuelas; the site of our 2013 mission.  PazSalud teamed up with the local government and several Salvadoran NGOs to create the Local Committee for Children’s and Adolescent’s Rights.  This committee is designed to work with local youth, helping them with basic health, education and living needs.  Our hope is that we will be able to connect our patients from our 2013 mission with this local committee and extend our assistance to helping other Salvadorans in great need.

The mayor of Estanzuelas speaking to the crowd

The panel of local NGOs

One of our volunteers from 2013 providing the entertainment

Monday, December 8, 2014

Tamanique volunteer meeting

An important part of the planning for every PazSalud General Medical Mission is preparing the local volunteers for the 6-day experience of hosting and executing a large-scale medical event for their community.  This generally involves multiple meetings of team-building exercises and training sessions to help them identify their volunteer roles and what their specific tasks will be in addition to an orientation on the overall project.

To begin the process, I recently met with local volunteers to explain who PazSalud is, what we do and what our medical missions typically look like.  I will build on this meeting with our local coordinator and try to meet with the volunteers on a regular basis until the start of the mission.

Talking to the volunteers

An introduction and team-building exercise

Watching the PazSalud video on the 2013 General Medical Mission/2014 Eye Surgery Mission

Monday, December 1, 2014

Blankets for San Pedro

Every year a former PeaceHealth employee and her sisters hand-make and donate quilts to PazSalud to distribute to needy families and individuals from our mission communities.  This year I worked with Yessenia – our local coordinator from CIS who helped us with our General Medical Mission – to identify some folks in San Pedro Perulapán who greatly needed and appreciated this small gesture of friendship and solidarity with the people of El Salvador.  It was a joy to see so many happy, smiling faces at receiving something they will treasure for years to come.

Meeting the women and children of San Pedro Perulapan

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Day of the Dead

Although the Day of the Dead in El Salvador isn’t celebrated with the same flair as it is in other Latino countries, many people here do spend the day visiting and decorating the graves of their loved ones.   I had the honor of celebrating the occasion with Sonia and her children who repainted the gravesite of Gema; Sonia’s oldest daughter who passed away a few years ago from lupus.  We went to the rural cemetery where Gema is buried and the photos capture the way in which Salvadorans traditionally adorn the tombs of those who passed.
Sonia and children decorating Gema's grave.

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Water filter training for San Pedro Perulapán

During PazSalud’s General Mission, our physicians identify patients with water-borne diseases and prescribe water filters for their use at home.  PazSalud purchases filters for these patients as well other locals then, working with CIS, they provide the training and follow-up needed to ensure the water filters are used and maintained correctly.

CIS water filter promoter, Luis, recently met with patients in San Pedro Perulapán to train them in the need for, the assembly of, and proper use of the Sawyer water filter and I attended to represent PazSalud and maintain our connection with the community.  PazSalud is committed to working with our mission sites long after our teams have left and providing low-cost water filters is one of the many ways we honor this commitment.

Luis training patients on water filter assembly, use and maintenance

Assembling the filter

Some of the filter recipients with filters ready to go

Monday, October 20, 2014

Visit to San Rafael Hospital

It's never too early to start planning the 2015 missions so our local coordinator, Maira Romero, long-time PazSalud friend and nurse, Rosy Melara, and I went to visit San Rafael Hospital in Santa Tecla in August to talk to with them about the eye surgery mission we would like them to host in May.

We met with the new hospital director, Dr. Yeerles Luis Angel Ramírez, to introduce ourselves and PazSalud and talk about how we could work together in 2015 to provide cataract and pterygium surgeries to the patients of Tamanique (the location of our 2015 General Mission in February).

Then on Kathy Garcia’s recent trip to El Salvador took the opportunity to tour the facilities in greater detail and begin mapping out our patient flow and personnel location.  Rosy, a long-time San Rafael Hospital employee, joined us to introduce us to her former coworkers.  This will be PazSalud’s fifth time working in San Rafael Hospital so at this point it feels like a second home.

Maira, Dr. Yeerles, Rosy

Operating room in San Rafael

Rosy and Kathy touring the operating area

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Children's Day

PazSalud held a medical mission in San José Villanueva in 2012 and we returned on Saturday to celebrate Children’s Day with some of the less fortunate children in town.  Long-time PazSalud friend, Rosy Melara, and her church group put together a mini fiesta for a group of kids and their parents complete with toys, games, pizza and a clown and invited us to participate.

PazSalud is committed to working with our mission sites long after our teams have returned to the U.S. and this was a fun way to continue that commitment.  It was truly a memorable afternoon.

Rosy Melara (left) and Sandra (pink shirt)

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Special Order Glasses

During every PazSalud General Mission we screen hundreds of patients' vision and fit them with reading and/or distance glasses donated to us by various sources in the U.S.  Invariably we encounter patients who need specific prescriptions that we don't have among the thousands of pairs of glasses we bring to the mission site.  When this happens, the optician volunteering with PazSalud fits the patient with a pair of frames, obtains the prescription from the optometrist, brings the frames back to the U.S. and sends them to the laboratory they typically work with.  Through the generosity of the laboratory that makes the lenses and the efforts of the optician, the special prescription glasses make their way back to me in El Salvador where I get the fun job of delivering them to the patients.  Everyone was thrilled to receive their glasses and deeply grateful to PazSalud for the gift of better vision.

Monday, September 22, 2014

Post-surgery eye exams

After every eye surgery mission PazSalud works with a local ophthalmologist to provide two 'controls', or follow-up eye exams, for every patient to ensure their surgery was sound and everything is healing on schedule.  This year we were fortunate to work with Dr. Jule, an excellent physician who, along with his son, runs a private eye clinic in San Salvador where they saw our patients.

We completed both controls in June and I'm happy to report that our surgeries were exceptionally successful.  Many patients even see 20/40 in their operated eye.  Dr. Jule provided every patient with a careful exam and took the time to time to answer their myriad questions.  Some patients needed additional eye drops, some had their stitches removed and because of pre-existing medical conditions, some were slower to heal than others.  But the vast majority of our patients talked about their overwhelming joy at being able to see again for the first time in many years.

Dr. Jule's son examining a patient

Dr. Jule and a patient

Checking the healing process

Our patients in Dr. Jule's waiting room

Happy patients

Monday, September 15, 2014


On one of Kathy's recent trips to El Salvador we were invited to visit ASAPROSAR; a local NGO based in Santa Ana.  The mission of ASAPROSAR is to work with the neediest families in El Salvador to improve their quality of life and empower them through health care, youth leadership training, environmental and nutritional education, micro-credit, and community development.  Among their many development programs, ASAPROSAR specializes in visual health and has a permanent clinic in Santa Ana that Kathy and I visited for the day.  The scale of their efforts is impressive and their dedication is inspiring and perhaps PazSalud will have an opportunity to partner with them on an eye surgery mission one day.

Entrance to ASAPROSAR

Eye clinic entrance

Exam room

Eyeglasses shop

Kathy and a nurse in one of their operating rooms

Operating room