How far can you go in this world with only a 3rd grade education? It all depends on opportunity and desire. Our lead Eye Health Promoter (EHP), Felipe, has both.
When Felipe was about 10 years old, his village was destroyed by the Guatemalan military. All the homes and crops were burned, the animals and 17 people were killed. Frightened for their lives, the villagers fled to the jungle. Felipe, his parents and siblings hid out in the forest for 6-8 months with other families from his village, constantly moving to stay hidden from the soldiers. He told me they “had nothing to eat for all those months but roots and green bananas most of the time, and by the end of our hiding our clothes were just a few rags.”
They found refuge in Mexico where they lived for 12 years waiting for it to be safe to return to their village and their land. While in Mexico, Felipe’s younger brothers were able to go to school. But, Felipe, being the oldest son, had to stay home to help his father in the fields. They were subsistence farmers so growing corn and beans was how they stayed alive, for food and for items to trade. Education was a missed opportunity for Felipe. But, he still has the desire and the ability.
In 2005, Felipe started working with Enfoque Ixcán learning about eye care. He started as a volunteer, but now works as a contractor. This has become his career and he takes his work very seriously. He takes eye care to other villages, organizes eye surgery trips for patients, provides follow-up care for surgery patients and does vision screenings in the schools.
This has been a banner year for Felipe. During his days at the Enfoque Ixcán office he has checked over 250 people and taken 5 groups of patients (over 100 people total) on the 5 hour bus ride to the eye clinic. By the end of this year he will have helped with the follow-up care for over 70 cataract patients.
Since we bought him a motorcycle 7 years ago, he has put 100,000 miles on it, traveling the dirt and mud roads of the Ixcán to see patients in need. Felipe receives several phone calls each day from people with eye problems or questions. This year he has obtained training in patient care from the eye clinic where the surgeries are done, in addition to the ongoing training Enfoque Ixcan provides for him.
Felipe supplies the desire and Enfoque Ixcan offers the opportunity. He has become a caring health care worker and a proud and serious partner for Enfoque Ixcán.
Your generous donations allow Felipe to grow in his skills and make eye care accessible to his region of Guatemala. Opportunity and desire, a great combination.