Our Programs

Both medical and non-medical volunteers are a crucial part of our team. They are involved at every step of the way and perform a wide variety of tasks. The participation of everyone involved at the Guatemala Healing Hands Foundation is what makes it possible for us to reach our goals, and set new goals each year. The programs we are able to operate with generous contribution and volunteer effort include Direct Service Care, Educational Conferences & Workshops, and Community Development.

 

Direct Service Care

We work tirelessly for five days to provide the absolute best treatment in hand surgery and therapy.

 
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Following a mandatory screening day, where upwards of 200 children are evaluated by our volunteer surgeons to determine their best treatment plan, approximately 60-70 children are selected to receive surgery.

Children not required to have surgery are either scheduled for therapy or asked to return the subsequent year for follow-up and observation. Due to GHHF’s unique infrastructure and focus in the Guatemala community, we are able to monitor children year after year to insure they receive the best possible consistent care.

Depending on the severity and length of each case, surgical patients are provided with both in and outpatient care with costs covered 100% by GHHF. Most patients arrive in Guatemala City after lengthy bus travel, sometimes as much as eight hours, with just the hand-made clothes on their backs. Patients are given a clean bed to sleep in and three meals a day during their stay. Once a patient has been discharged, families receive detailed instructions explaining how to schedule follow-up care with an assigned local doctor and/or receive customized therapy homecare instructions, often drawn out with stick figures and symbols to avoid any translation confusion or assist patients who cannot read Spanish.[1]

GHHF encourages each patient to return the next year to allow for our volunteer surgeons to reevaluate their progress and determine if any additional surgery is needed.

Throughout the year, volunteer surgeons receive follow-up reports from the physicians in Guatemala who oversee our patients. Reports often include photographs and a personal statement from the patient. If a patient needs additional tests or care that we cannot provide in Guatemala, the process to bring the child to the United States is initiated. In the past, we have also facilitated in the transportation of biopsies from Guatemala to the US in order to provide the patient with the most accurate test results.

[1] 60% of the Guatemalan population speak indigenous languages, mostly of Mayan decent. These languages include Mam, Quiche, Kanjobal, Chuj, Quechi, Aguateco, and Kacchiquel. (Mikkelson, 1999)

 

Educational Conferences & Workshops

Our foundation has coordinated a one to two-day symposiums in an effort to bring American and Latin American hand professionals and students under one roof.

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In collaboration with the Guatemala Hand Surgery Association, the American Association for Hand Surgery (AAHS), American Society for Surgery of the Hand (ASSH), Touching Hands Project (THP), and the newly formed Guatemala Hand Therapy Society, GHHF has coordinated a one to two-day symposiums in an effort to bring American and Latin American hand professionals and students under one roof. Lectures and workshops cover a variety of topics from flexor tendon repairs to nerve injuries to our most popular orthotic hands-on workshops. Speakers include both American and Guatemala professionals and we have been proud to highlight MD’s who are the best in their fields, such as renowned hand surgeon Scott Kozin (former AAHS President, Shriners Hospital for Children) Rebecca Neiduski, dean of the School of Health Sciences at Elon University,  and distinguished physician Steven Shelov (Associate Chief of Staff at Cohen Children’s Medical Center and former Chairman of Pediatrics at Maimonides Medical Center and Lutheran Medical Center).

GHHF volunteer therapists continue to provide five days of hands on training through various site visits and workshops. Locations include both public and private facilities and local universities. Along the way, volunteers distribute unattainable plastic material used to fabricate customized patient orthotics.

 

Community Development

Our goal is to support sustainable development initiatives that strive to improve health through the principles of participatory community development.

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GHHF’s newest initiative was developed in response to Guatemala’s frightening malnutrition problem, lack of prenatal care, inadequate education, and alarmingly poor living conditions. All are major concerns for the fast growing population of Guatemala and are often the causes of the many birth defects seen in our rural patients. In an effort to provide preventative care to the people of Guatemala, GHHF has partnered with the village of Chichoy Alto, in the region of Patzun, Chimaltenango, to improve sanitation, health, education, and the overall quality of life for the 900+ community members.

GHHF’s goal is to support sustainable development initiatives that strive to improve health through the principles of participatory community development. This means community members of Chichoy Alto are required to collaborate and provide a portion of the labor necessary to implement these improvements.

Although GHHF remains dedicated to our mission of providing hand surgery, therapy, and education in Guatemala, we cannot ignore the heartbreaking reality of the people in this nation and disregard the reasons why we meet so many children with serious hand conditions and injuries. GHHF is committed to addressing the sources behind the problems we see. By caring for one town at a time, we will be able to build and monitor progress.