The Catholic Church has a diocesan relationship with San Lucas Mission in Guatemala where members travel to help in any way they can. Father Avram Brown of Sacred Heart Catholic Church lived there one year with his brother and has gone back every year since to help along with their recruits.
Father Brown took members Dr. Maralee Bowers of Gridley and Clara Callaway, Sylvanna "Bunny" Grisso and Anaalicia Marquez of Biggs. Rosabelen Andrade, a senior at Live Oak High School also travelled with the group along with others. Dr. Bowers and Callaway worked in the medical field with newborns to geriatric patients, while the rest did humanitarian work. Volunteers ages ranged from 15 to 69.
The humanitarian projects included building stoves, a women's shelter, a children's playground and a rock wall. They also replenished trees.
"Father Brown has a wonderful relationship with the people there," Callaway stated.
Upon arriving, the volunteers stayed in a small motel in Guatemala with four crammed in one small room with two beds. When they arrived at San Lucas, their accommodations were simple, but clean. Guatemalans run the mission and fed the missionaries three meals a day out of a big kitchen. Their main cook has been there since the mission started 45 years ago.
Meals consisted of corn tortillas, lots of beans, fresh fruit such as pineapples and bananas grown there, along with papayas and huge avocados.
Because the water has the Aneba parasite, there is no clean water for the simplest tasks such as brushing one's teeth.
"They tell you to keep your eyes and mouth closed in the shower. We carried bottled water everywhere," Dr. Bowers stated.
Transportation was interesting for the group which meant they usually walked to their projects, took a three wheel taxi cab or had as many as 16 standing up in the back of a small pickup truck.
The ladies said customs was fairly simple, with a three hour flight to Houston and seven hours to Guatemala.
They wanted to take medical supplies with them naturally, but were advised they would most likely be taken at customs.
"We saw conditions easily preventable with vaccines," Dr. Bowers stated. We saw two and three-year-olds with Hepatitis A. We vaccinate for that here. The government controls the vaccines there and don't give them to small villages. We asked if we could send vaccines once we got home and they said no because customs would take them," she said.
This had to be hard for the two medical professionals to take. The clinic had a small lab where they can perform some tests. Dr. Bowers said the Mayans don't do liver panels, something that is very basic for her.
One dose of medicine for Malaria can be dispensed for treatment at a time. The rest is controlled by the government. It takes a week and two days to get a full dose and by that time the patients are very sick, according to Dr. Bowers.
Page 2 of 2 - "We learned there was not a lot we could do in 10 days," Callaway stated.
There are lots of people seen for intestinal parasites which they don't try to get rid of, they merely treat for five days to calm them down. For the rest of this story, please pick up a 9/12/12 edition of The Gridley Herald.