Two years ago, Amy Desilva, NP, of MGH Emergency Services, had never been to Guatemala. Today, the Central American country is like her second home.
Desilva first visited Guatemala in 2006 as a volunteer with Partners in Development (PID), an organization that serves poverty-stricken individuals in the western hemisphere's two poorest countries – Guatemala and Haiti. Joining a group of volunteers from her hometown church in Ipswich, Mass., Desilva spent a week there, helping establish a health clinic in the small village of Concepción in San Antonio, Suchitepéquez. There, she coped with conditions that are unheard of back at the MGH – the clinic building had only a mud floor, lacked water and electricity and had no storage facilities, forcing DeSilva to keep patient records and medications in her suitcase. Despite the challenging environment, the work left her inspired. Since her first trip, she has returned to the village five more times, participating in a range of projects, including women's health exams, diabetes and family planning education classes and the establishment of a pharmacy and lab. And with a new initiative to track the effectiveness of a parasite treatment program in the works, Desilva knows she will return again in the future.
COMFORTING ARMS: Desilva with a young Guatemalan child
"I feel blessed that I am able to make these trips and that I have been able to meet such lovely people," says Desilva. "Even faced with such extreme poverty, they have the spirit to smile and a desire to give. I've seen and been a part of remarkable changes in this one small community."
A scene in a Guatemalan village