Jo’s Nurses work in Chocola, Guatemala

2015 Jo’s Nurses with Refuge International

Chocola is a remote village in the mountainous southwestern region of Guatemala where there is no government assistance in education, health or roads.  Sadly because of the country’s political climate there is no help for the indigenous people.  They’re abandoned.

Dr. Sergio Castillo and his wife Veronica first visited Chocola about 15 years ago.  They were shocked to encounter villages in deficient conditions with advanced illness including malnutrition, infection, and waterborne illness.  They found an abandoned building in the heart of the community and started a hospital catering to the indigenous Mayan people.  In 2005, after the devastation of Hurricane Stan, Dr. Castillo partnered with Refuge International to help expand the care to the region. “To have a complete team of surgeons, nurses, anesthesiologists armed with medicine was like the answer to our prayers.  For me, it’s an honor to be able to help our people.  Refuge allows me to help others.  I’m like a bridge for the people with extreme needs and the services of Refuge.” Says Dr. Castillo.

Dr. Castillo is a very positive, inspirational, humble man.  He remembered all of our names and always greeted us with a big smile, thanking us constantly for helping his people.  I will never forget our second night there.  It had been a busy day, the usual torrential thunderstorms where playing their symphony on the tin roof.  After a delicious dinner cooked by Veronica we made our rounds in the hospital.  To our surprise the Inn was full.  Dr. Casillo had invited all the families to spend the night because they live so far away and the thunderstorms were so bad.  We had families sleeping in preop, postop, and even in the courtyard.  It warmed my heart to see such a gracious, giving spirit in action.

I would have to say that our first case was one of the most memorable and inspirational to me. He was an 80+/- (they don’t know their exact age) old hernia case.  Hernia’s are very common because they work so hard and do a lot of heavy lifting.  While I was caring for him his son came back and told us through the interrupter that he walks 8 miles two times a day to carry wood back to the village for cooking and their campfires.  Wow, was he in good shape.  He always smiled, never complained, took no pain meds and was so grateful for all we did.  On so many levels I feel that the indigenous Mayan people of Chocola have a lot to teach me.  They are truly an inspiration.  They are intelligent,

hard working, disciplined, humble, respectful, compassionate, loving people with a strong sense of family and community.  I feel that as we work together we can learn and help each other.  We can help them with our medical/ surgical and technical expertise and they can help us take a step back and realize what is really important in life.

Thanks again One Nurse At A Time for the scholarship that made this amazing opportunity possible to serve the people of Chocola, Guatemala.  Thanks also to Refuge International for their wonderful work in helping to provide healthcare, adequate nutrition, clean water and education to those in need.  I hope that other nurses will hear the call and want to help with the wonderful work that Dr. Castillo and his family are carrying out in Chocola.  Thanks again 

Bonnie Madeja