Mission 2017 Agua Escondidas, Guatemala Feb 24—March 4, 2017

I started as the secretary for I Care International, Inc. in the summer of 2010. Since that time, I’ve participated in sortings, fundraisers, the Annual Dinner and the day to day operations of I Care. I send out all correspondence, receive checks and donations, pay the bills and am usually the middle person between mission leaders and mission participants. I prepare the Annual Report for the Annual Meeting and I send out this newsletter.

At my first Board meeting as secretary, I mentioned that I have friends from Honduras who would be willing to help host missions. I connected I Care with my friends and that resulted in a mission to San Pedro Sula, Honduras. As I sat home that cold, snowy winter I thought I would really like to be able to participate in a mission someday. Fast forward 6 years and I was finally able to join my first mission to Guatemala!

Although I had helped with the details of many missions, I really didn’t know what to expect from a mission. I had heard many stories of long, grueling days and very grateful, gracious local people. I had heard stories of chicken busses, and roosters and fiestas. I saw countless pictures of volunteers serving patients with big, toothy smiles and new glasses. And I also saw pictures of eyes very damaged from the sun, wind and family genetics.

I knew the names of several volunteers, but I had not met most of the 40 volunteers. There were 9 doctors and 2 nurses on the mission. A couple of us work in the eye field but most were people who had been on several missions and decided to keep coming back for more, and now I can see why.

We arrived on the first day of clinic to set-up. We had one large room with 2 smaller rooms connected to the larger room. We set-up registration, the nurses station, visual acuities, auto- refracting, space for tire doctors and lots of space for dispensing and fitting glasses. We bring a large inventory of glasses, close to 10,000 pairs, including sunglasses and readers. Then the people started arriving!

I worked in fitting glasses. I had my cheat sheet with several phrases translated to Spanish; How do tire glasses feel? Are they too tight or too loose? Can you see better with the glasses? Most of the people were very shy and a little apprehensive when they first walked into the clinic. By tire time they went through all of our stations, they were more comfortable and smiled and laughed with us. We were close to several schools and the afternoon clinics were filled with lots of students, many of whom were getting their fu st eye exams and glasses. In all 4 days of the clinic, we saw about 1200 people. We ran out of some prescriptions and made glasses for those when we arrived back home and shipped them back to Guatemala. Some people were referred to the local Hospilito for further treatment, most notably cataract surgery. Most people got the prescription glasses they needed and/or sunglasses, more often than not, their first pair. Everything 1 had heard and seen about missions were true. The travel and clinic days were long and grueling. I rode my first chicken bus and participated in a few fiestas. Roosters crowing were a part of the background sounds, all day long, and in the evenings we were serenaded by someone practicing the horn. I have lots of pictures of grateful Guatemalans with big, toothy smiles and new glasses. I have the memories; a little deaf boy with whom I was able to practice my rudimentary sign language skills, the shy, young girl whose face lit up as I gave her a small purse that I had brought from home, and the beautiful colors, culture and people I met along the way. I have a deeper appreciation for 40 people that could work together and serve 1200 people in 4 days in a remote village of Guatemala, all thanks to I Care International, Inc. I can’t wait to do it again someday!

Debbie Hennigan