Medical staff and translators volunteer to serve in one of the poorest countries in the Western Hemisphere 

On Feb 14, 2015 a team of 18 volunteers including 7 physicians, 4 nurses and 5 Spanish-speaking interpreters arrived in Nicaragua, Central America, as part of the Hope Clinic International (HCI) mission team. The team, mainly from North America, served for two weeks in and around the city of Estelí, in the northern region of the country. They focused on care for children and worked with the Nicaraguan staff of Tim’s Clinic, HCI’s free children’s clinic in Estelí. The volunteers came on the mission at their own expense, paying for their own travel, usually from the USA, and for their accommodation. Three of the team were members of Sword of the Spirit communities.

Tim’s Clinic, established by HCI in 2005, is funded by Dr Roger Anderberg in memory of his son Tim. Every year the clinic provides infants and children in the region with more than 3,000 free medical consultations, distributes more than US$200,000 worth of free medication, and offers regular, coordinated follow-up care for children with chronic health conditions.

A translator at work
A translator at work

Supplementing the efforts of the clinic’s year-round Nicaraguan staff, the volunteers on the HCI mission team this February provided thousands of hours of service, and the visiting professionals treated about 1,000 children. They worked in outlying villages and in the very poor areas around the city of Estelí itself, connecting patients to Tim’s Clinic for follow-up care, as needed. The following descriptions by Marilyn Bahena, one of this year’s mission volunteer interpreters, captures what the team experienced on the trip.

  • A beautiful two-year-old boy with gorgeous eyes who had rickets because his mom was unable to give him milk. He drank fresca – fruit juice mixed with water and sugar
  • A five-year-old girl who was severely malnourished and her growth was stunted so she appeared to be only about three years old. Her bloated tummy and wispy hair made it very clear she did not get enough to eat. We guiltily gave her a banana from our lunch to eat on her way home, aware that the gift was woefully inadequate.

    Volunteers taking a brief break
    Volunteers taking a brief break
  • An 11-day-old boy whose mother was unable to breastfeed him and unable to afford proper infant formula. Mildred Corrales, director of Tim’s Clinic, went immediately to buy him a month’s supply of formula.
  • Finally, a 10-year-old girl whose thin arms and legs showed that she was not getting enough food. She told us she hopes to be a doctor some day to help other children.

God used these children to speak to me about the need to share more resources with the world’s hungry and sick, to be Christ’s hands to feed and care for “the least of these.” I thank God that Hope Clinic International serves Nicaragua’s children, blessing them in Jesus’ name with loving touches that include medical care and much-needed nutritional support. Hope Clinic International is truly being used by God to give hope to so many in true need.” Marilyn is retired chaplain of the Children’s Hospital of Michigan, in Detroit.

One of the thousand children seen by the team of volunteers

Hope Clinic International is an ecumenical, faith-based, not-for-profit organization devoted to the delivery of medical and surgical healthcare to the children of Nicaragua. Based in Southeastern Michigan, USA, it provides an opportunity for a wide spectrum of volunteers to contribute personally by their own actions in the care of those in need in Nicaragua. Many of those involved are members of Sword of the Spirit communities.

Sherry Snyder, a founding member of Hope Clinic International’s board of directors, and now its executive director, explains the challenges that parents in Nicaragua face in getting medical care for their children. “Families in this region live on less than $2 per day. They cannot afford to travel long distances for medical emergencies or treatment of illnesses. Despite recent efforts by the government to increase maternal and child health services to remote areas, children are still not getting the care they need.”

“In addition,” she explains, “surgical services for children are woefully inadequate due to insufficiently trained surgeons and lack of adequately-resourced children’s hospitals. Treatable medical and surgical conditions are often undiagnosed and become life threatening. As a consequence of inaccessible and unaffordable care, families in this country suffer hopelessness and despair when their children become ill. We are really trying to come alongside our brothers and sisters in Nicaragua, to share our medical resources, learn compassion and gratitude, bring a little hope that they are not forgotten and maybe relieve a little suffering.”