The preparations for my trips to Guatemala start 2-3 months before departure. Eye drops donated by Alcon have to be ordered, glasses have to be made, sunglasses are ordered, patient records have to be printed, equipment has to be purchased. There are lots of details to check on. So with all that time to prepare, why is that during the week before we leave I find myself with too little time to get everything done? We leave tomorrow and I’ve barely started packing.
This 2 week trip can be divided into 2 parts. The first week is spent in Guatemala City. We attend Rotary meetings, visit the eye clinic, Visualiza, which performs the eye surgeries for us, make a trip to Office Depot for last-minute supplies, stop by the printer where we have our letterhead and envelopes printed. This trip we will have a meeting with our attorney, who is handling the process of our project becoming a certified non-profit in Guatemala. I have an interview with a journalist who is writing a story about our work in Ixcán. Then there’s lunch with the owner of the optical lab we work with in Guatemala. We will also plan some time to visit old friends and see some sights.
The second week is spent in Ixcán, 8 hours by van, north of Guatemala City. On a stop in Coban, the half way point, I’ll meet with the president of the local Rotary Club to discuss their possible collaboration with our project. We’ll be traveling with a delegation of volunteers from the United Church of Christ in Needham, MA and will be staying in the village of Santa Maria Tzeja, which has had a partnership with the Needham church since 1987.
Our week in Ixcán will be spent seeing patients, giving our eye health promoters additional training in eye care, restocking their inventory with glasses and eye drops and lining up lodging and meals for our August trip.
A very important meeting will be to discuss the final plans to build our own clinic/office in Playa Grande, the municipal center of the region. The local public health administrators will be showing us our building site, next to the new hospital which is now under construction, and working out a contract with us for the project, which we are excited to begin sometime this year.
I’ll write more from Guatemala, now I need to get back to my packing!