In January, May and October of each year, missionaries from Holy Family Parish travel at their own expense to Cevicos to staff a clinic that provides basic health care in the town and in the surrounding campos. Each group is made up of 10 - 14 adults, among them a medical doctor, nurses and other dedicated professionals. They bring medical supplies donated by parishioners, local pharmacies or by international health collaboratives such as MAP International. Our locally-based partners, Las Hermanas del Rosario del Fatima, arrange for the missionaries and local medical professionals to hold three or four medical clinics during their week there. Over the course of the week, missionaries may see nearly 1,000 patients at those clinics and during home visits. Clinics are set up in chapels and schools and often the entire population of the campo - newborn babies, schoolchildren, their parents, workers from the fields and elderly men and women - take this rare opportunity to consult with health care professionals - sometimes walking many miles over rough terrain to do so.
As George Lieser, mission Coordinator, notes,
"We have alleviated the painful stomach aches and skin sores that result from the parasites in contaminated drinking and bathing water for thousands of children and adults during the past nine years of medical missions."
Optometrists and opticians, traveling with thousands of donated eyeglasses, have provided vision screening to both adults and children and, in many cases, have enabled people to see clearly for the first time in their lives. Elderly patients are overjoyed when they are able to read their Bible again, and children who suffer from headaches are able to return to school with the help of new eyeglasses.
A parishioner who is an oral surgeon introduced dental care and fluoride treatments to the list of services provided at our clinic, and he has found that there is continuing need there for this type of care. Thanks to donations of supplies for preventive dental care, the mission is able to send each family home with toothpaste, floss and new toothbrushes. This is one of our programs where we see a real opportunity to expand our work.
The Holy Family Parish Mission supports a microfinancing program through which we provide loans to small business owners in Cevicos. Ranging from $500 to $1,000, these loans help form or grow businesses, including bakeries, small convenience stores, an artist, an upholsterer, a computer repair store, nail and hair salons, and seamstresses. These businesses are often woman-owned and provide the income that lifts families out of extreme poverty, allowing them to purchase adequate food and other essentials for their families. Owning a business and achieving some financial independence also enhances personal pride and a sense of accomplishment for our owner applicants.
All borrowers participate in a group of 6 or more other businesses and sign a contract that includes financial and moral incentives to not only repay their individual notes, but to ensure that all owner/borrowers within their group pay their loans in full. Our success rate on collections of the more than 60 loans given to date has been over 95%, allowing us to continue reinvesting the donations as we grow the micro financing program.
The Holy Family Parish mission supports the educational efforts of several young people from Cevicos who, in return for this support, have agreed to return to their community to work after completing their education. We currently have five individuals attending university whose education is being funded one semester at a time by the mission. We anticipate expanding these opportunities as our fundraising efforts will allow.