Three weeks ago, on September 12th, a community event, hosted by the Tikal’ Peten Rotary Club and the National Hospital of San Benito, was held at the Hospital celebrating the completion of a multi-year Rotary Global Grant that provided life supporting and infant saving instruments for a Neonatal NICU, nursery, and maternity facility there.  The hospital serves a region 687,192 people including northern Guatemala and Belize.  Included in the speakers at celebration was the Mayor of San Benito, the Governor of the region, the Director of the Hospital, the President of the Tikal’ Peten Rotary Club, Moya Stenton, the District 4250 Governor Nominee Francisco Viaiu, District Governor Julio Grazioso, and PDG Carroll Greenwaldt, representing the International Rotarian partners from District 5830.  That District 5830 team of Rotarians was Dee Bandel and PDG Jo Ann Parkman from the Paris United Rotary Club and Bill Bartlemay, Mary Greenwaldt, and PDG Carroll Greenwaldt, Team Leader, from the Longview Rotary Club.  
The project began in 2012 with a visit by Greenwaldt and Rotarian Deborah Bell from the Longview Rotary Club.  Deborah Bell also represented Refuge International, a non-profit dedicated to providing medical care and support to the under served, indigent people of Guatemala.  At that time, despite an average of 23-24 births per day at the hospital, most of the premature and sick infants had no monitors or instruments to care for them.   Rotarians there and back home in District 5830 determined to “Make a Difference.”  The hospital identified priority needs and local Rotarians helped get the specifications and quotations from in-country, medical equipment suppliers.   Support was obtained from across clubs across District 5830 and Zones 30 and 31.  When the $140,000 project was approved by the Rotary Foundation in July of 2016, the equipment was ordered and was received at the hospital in February of 2017.  Staff was trained and the instruments were immediately placed in service, including, monitors, infusion pumps, perfusors, incubators, phototherapy and ophthalmological instruments.  In addition, three truck trailer loads of used hospital beds and other medical equipment were shipped from the US.    District 5830 Clubs supporting the project were the Longview, Longview Greggton, Marshall, and Carthage Rotary Clubs.  Late in the project development, the local Rotarians asked if money might be available to provide a lactation center for mothers who needed to return to the hospital to nurse their babies who were still patients.  The Texarkana Sunrise Club stepped up and we celebrated the grand opening of that facility as well.
The also provided for two weeks of training and materials that were delivered to 192 midwives across the same region by Dr. Kimberly Garcia of Case Western University and Deborah Bell this past Spring. 
From a newspaper article just received, local officials in San Benito are now saying that the infant mortality rate in the hospital has dropped by over 60%!  In addition, in births supported by the trained midwives, not a single mother has lost her life in delivery across the Peten’ since last spring!! 
While in Guatemala, the team visited two schools, passing out school supplies to children in an extremely impoverished area.  Ideas for future projects have returned with the team to East Texas.  One, a needed ophthalmological instrument needed to scan patients for retinal problems and cataracts was identified.  The Henderson Club and the Cedar Creek Lake Club have already provided funding to purchase that instrument which will help to prevent blindness in the region!  Others will be studied and we will be coming to clubs across the District to share the needs.  We CAN and ARE Making a Difference!!