When she takes her holidays from work this spring, Sandra Burns is packing more than her desire to help people get the health care they need: She’s filling her luggage with basics we take for granted – like multivitamins, cough medicine, acetaminophen and even toothbrushes and toothpaste.
On April 2, she and her husband are joining Canadian Nursing Services’ mission trip to Guatemala.
“They have among the worst health care in the world, according to World Health Organization guidelines. Although they have a card similar to OHIP, they can not afford any medication so they don’t take the day to trek into town to the hospital,” said Burns, who works as a medical care coordinator with a local nursing agency.
“On my first mission trip two years ago, I did all the intake of the villagers. I wrote out the key questions phonetically, for pronunciation. My husband and I have since taken two Spanish classes and I am hoping for improvement in my comfort level on communicating with the lovely people of Guatemala.”
Each village she visited, she faced different challenges.
“(In one village, it) was worms that bury into their bodies through their feet as they have no shoes,” she recalled adding in other villages, because of a lack of clean drinking water, villagers drank pop. That created the ongoing problem of rotting teeth and a diet very high in sugar, which in some cases led to diabetes.
“On our last day in a village, I was a dental assistant. I sterilized equipment, loaded lidocaine needles and put the patients at ease. I would hold their hand while we would pull infected teeth,” she said.
The one constant: the gratitude of those whose pain she eased.
“They are beautiful people in a less fortunate country than ours and it is a blessing to be of service to them,” Burns added.
“It was that last day when I was cleaning up that an elderly woman whose tooth we had removed came up to me and gave me the sweetest embrace. So grateful to be rid of the pain from her abscess. It was in that moment that it home why we were there and it brought me to tears. Without Mission they are alone.
To support the mission trip, donate children’s vitamins, toothbrushes and toothpaste and generic painkillers. Financial support, too, makes an incredible difference, as the team can purchase vitamins and other supplies they need.
“A cash donation will help so we can stock up on children’s vitamins which they do not sell anywhere in Guatemala or buy the supplies that we are short on,” said Burns.
Contact the church office at 705-728-3991 if you want to make a donation.