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.

Thursday, June 9, 2016

Book Donation to Children of Cojutepeque

PazSalud recently had the opportunity to donate over 200 used Spanish children’s books to a small library in the community of La Esperanza; a poor community in Cojutepeque, El Salvador.  The library was founded by Maryknoll lay missioner Rick Dixon and offers the families in this dangerous neighborhood a safe place to read, check out books and do arts and crafts.  The children were very excited to receive the books and quickly had them unpacked and out on the tables.  It was fun to watch them examine the book covers and illustrations, read a little and decide which ones to take home.  Before long, there was a line-up of kids with books in hand, waiting to check them out.

PazSalud has worked in Cojutepeque's hospital several times so this is an excellent way for us to stay in touch with, and give back to, this community.  If you would like to donate Spanish children's/young adult's books that PazSalud can bring down to El Salvador, please contact Kathy Garcia.

Rick and Kathy at the Maryknoll children's library in Cojutepeque

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Water Filters for Comasagua

PazSalud is committed to improving the short-term and long-term health of every community we serve.  During our General Medical Missions in February our physicians 'prescribe' water filters to families suffering the effects of consuming El Salvador's contaminated water.  With this list of patients, PazSalud works with CIS' community water filter program to raise awareness of the vital link between clean water and public health and to train families on how to use the Sawyer water filter.
Since our patients come from communities surrounding Comasagua this year, in addition to the town of Comasagua itself, we hold training sessions for them in their nearest community center.  The pictures below depict various groups of patients from several communities who were trained on and received water filters.

PazSalud donates 100 water filters and buckets to every community that hosts our medical missions and we help them get into the hands of people who need them the most.

Luis from CIS training people how to use the water filter

Assembling the filter

PeaceHealth Donations to San Rafael Hospital

PazSalud loves to donate used or new medical supplies from PeaceHealth to the hospitals we work with in El Salvador whenever we have the opportunity.  Public hospitals here are severely undersupplied/underfunded so they greatly appreciate even the modest supplies we donate.  These extra resources enable them to extend their reach in caring for the poorest Salvadorans who use the public health services.

The director and senior staff from San Rafael Hospital with the PazSalud/PeaceHealth donations

1st Check-Up

Two weeks after their surgeries PazSalud brings every patient back into San Salvador for a check-up with a local ophthalmologist to ensure the surgery was successful and provide them with any additional medications and instructions they might need.  To ensure the best outcome possible, we also provide them a check-up six weeks after their initial surgery as well.  

A few patients needed reminders of the importance of using their eye drops as prescribed and others needed supplemental medications but overall everyone is right on track in their recovery process.

Dr. Jule examining a patient

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Eye Surgery Mission - 2016

Congratulations and thank you to everyone involved in making PazSalud's 2016 Eye Surgery Mission such a huge success!  We had another great volunteer team this year that enabled us to perform our most  procedures ever during a surgery mission.  In total, we were able to perform 61 surgeries on 56 patients and we may be providing surgery to some additional patients that we weren't able to help during the mission week.

Thank you to all our donors as well whose generous gifts allow us to ensure that our very needy patients receive the resources and care required for successful outcomes at no cost to them.  Your help is invaluable and we couldn't do our work without you.

Dr. Jule performing a cataract surgery

One of our many happy patients

Sunday, May 8, 2016

Special Order Glasses for Comasagua Patients - 2016

Of all the services we provide during PazSalud’s General Medical Mission, one of our most tangible and rewarding happens in our optometry department.  Our team of doctors and technicians identify patients who have highly specialized and complicated prescriptions that we cannot fill from the supply of donated glasses that we bring to the mission.  These patients are given prescriptions, they select frames, and then our optometry volunteers take them back to the U.S. and have lenses specially made for each patient.  Then I get the fun job of delivering them; many who are receiving the correct glasses for the very first time in their lives.

A very special 'thank you' to Walman Optical who so generously made and donated the glasses and DeMeishah Warren from PeaceHealth Medical Group Eye Care whose determined efforts made it possible for our Comasagua patients to see the world like they never have before.

Friday, April 22, 2016

Eye Surgery Patient Meeting

We just finished up our second patient meeting for PazSalud's upcoming Eye Surgery Mission on May 14 and all our patients are ready to go!  We have a full roster of people selected from our General Medical Mission in Comasagua in February who will have either cataract or pterygium surgery so we're bringing down a full team of ophthalmologists, optometrists and support personnel to operate on roughly 65 patients in a nearby hospital in Santa Tecla.

Given the nature of this mission and seriousness of surgery in general, PazSalud holds two patient information meetings where we talk to them in depth about the surgery itself, what it entails before, during and after, and the logistics of their participation.  The meetings are a great way for them to ask questions about the process and decide whether or not they want to have surgery with us.  In addition, they allow us to gauge the patient's interest which enables us to better prepare our team with adequate supplies and proper scheduling.

Kathy Garcia (Director of PazSalud), Delmy (the local CIS coordinator), Rosy and Rosa (PazSalud volunteers and friends) and I helped organize and conduct the meeting held in the community center of Comasagua.

Kathy Garcia and Rosa registering patients for the meeting

Rosy talking to the patients about surgery

Saturday, April 16, 2016

Felipa - part 3

After moving in a week ago I wanted to visit Felipa to check up on her, see how she was adjusting to her new surroundings and give her some more house-warming items I'd been gathering for her.

I drove down to her house this morning (Saturday, April 16) and found her happily passing time on her new front porch, smiling and waving as I drove up.  I dropped off some food supplies, some housewares, and other things to make her new home more comfortable and we chatted for a while. She told me she loves her new house and is so much happier than she was before.  Her old shack rested on a rock pile and it was hard for her to come and go but her new place is on much leveler ground and with her fading eyesight and mobility, it's much easier for her to get around.

PazSalud will of course stay in touch with Felipa and her family and I'll keep you all posted here on her progress.

Settling in to her new home

Hanging out on her front porch

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Felipa - part 2

With still so much work left to be done on the modest new house we were building for Felipa, the team returned to the work site on Saturday the 9th to finish the job.  We ordered some additional material to complete the expanded scope of the project and got to work first thing in the morning.

Adding zinc sheeting to create the roof...

...and the walls

Coating the wood frame in termite poison

Building the door

With most of the construction done, we turned our focus to moving a boulder that had rested for decades in the spot where we intended to locate Felipa's primary walkway.  Two pry bars, 6 men and an hour later we were able to dislodge and remove the over 2-ton chunk of granite bedrock.  Felipa now has a clear path to the rest of the family compound and the nearby creek.

When I asked when Felipa was going move in to her new home her daughter said, 'as soon as you want to bring her!'  So we hopped in the PazSalud truck and drove just a little way up the road to help Felipa move her things.  When we arrived at her shack, I was surprised to see that it was actually in the process of being torn down by the new landowner and she was living in the half the 10'x15' shanty she occupied before.  Some volunteers and I gathered up her minimal possessions and brought her to her daughters home where we just completed construction on her new house.

Escorting Felipa to her new home

Testing out her new hammock

Me, Felipa and Maira

Felipa was thrilled and overwhelmed with her new home.  In contrast to her old one, her new house is larger, lighter, cooler and safer than her previous space and being located on the same land as her daughter and grandchildren is a huge bonus.  We hope it will be a comfortable and safe place for her to spend her remaining years.
Many of the volunteer team members
A huge 'thank you' to everyone from Tamanique who so generously volunteered their time and effort to realize this dream for Felipa.  Without their labor and their spirit, none of this would have been possible.

A special 'thank you' as well to Jim and Jan Streff and other PazSalud donors who allowed the project to even be imagined.  The total cost of giving a very special old woman a new home was roughly $800.  What may not seem like much to us in the U.S. can literally change a life in El Salvador.  Sometimes modest donations combined with communal effort and a simple vision can accomplish an amazing goal.  That's the work we strive to do every day at PazSalud.

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Felipa - part 1

PazSalud recently met an elderly woman named Felipa who lives on the Salvadoran coast not far from Puerto Libertad.  She was living alone in a dilapidated tin lean-to and had built her furniture out of rocks she collected from the nearby creek.  When the heavy rains fell they poured through the many holes in her roof, soaking her and her meager belongings.

Her visitors chair

My father came to El Salvador in October of 2015 and we visited Felipa to give her a PazSalud quilt.  He was so moved by Felipa's living conditions and her positive, resilient personality that he committed to helping her in whatever way she wanted.  Maira (the local CIS promoter) and I talked to Felipa and she told us that what she needed most was a new roof so we got some materials estimates, drew up a proposal and my parents, Jim and Jan Streff, generously donated the funds needed to help her.

Shortly after, I became engulfed in planning PazSalud's General Medical Mission and didn't have the time needed to focus on Felipa's house.  Meanwhile, life intervened and Felipa was going to be forced to move out of her shack because the property it was on was changing ownership and she was no longer allowed to live there.  Fixing her roof wasn't the problem; she had to find a place to live.  Her daughter, who lives nearby, invited her to live on her property but she was going to need to build a place of her own.  So Maira assembled a team of volunteers comprised of builders, carpenters and general laborers, put together a revised budget, got us a good deal on materials and supplies and on Saturday (April 2) I met everyone at the constructions site and we began to build Felipa new house.

We first had to level the land to create a foundation for her house, build a retaining wall out of rocks we foraged from the dry riverbed close by, clear some overhead mango tree branches that could be hazardous in the rainy season, construct the framework and begin applying the zinc sheeting we'll use for walls and a roof.

Even with 15 volunteers on Saturday and Sunday and working 10 hour days, we weren't able to finish.  I'll go back next Saturday (April 9) to hopefully finish the job.  We still have a lot of work to do but we need to finish before the rainy season begins (typically in mid-May) and help Felipa move in to her new surroundings.