Monday, February 8, 2016

Our Wish for 2016

If there were one thing that Children of the Americas volunteers could wish for in this brand new year, it would be this: We wish we no longer had work awaiting us in Guatemala.
Don't be mistaken: we love our adopted country. Some of us are so fond of it that we winter there, or have moved there full-time. Others find ourselves dreaming of the "Land of Eternal Spring" during our dreary stateside winters. When our feet are not firmly planted on "terra Guatemala", we miss the warmth of the climate and of the people. Wouldn't it be nice, we sometimes think, to just be able to go to Guatemala to soak in the culture, to visit with long-time friends and former foster children and to relax on black beaches or on verandas overlooking ancient volcanoes. 

The reality is that the need for donated medical care in Central America is just as pervasive as it was in 1986 when Children of the Americas was founded. Maternal and pediatric statistical parameters for longevity and all that encompasses a life of full capacity are improving thanks to concerted efforts and focus from organizations like ours. But the stark reality is that access to healthcare, no matter what developing country one lives in, is more difficult when financial means are meager. The poor are marginalized in all aspects of life, but the inability to acquire quality medical care is life hampering. 

This is where we shine. 
We receive, pack, organize and categorize supplies throughout the year. Our board meets, plans, communicates and strategizes weekly. COTA volunteers tweak budgets, work schedules and plan flights months ahead of time. All of this so that once a year, we can bring donated medical,surgical,dental and pharmaceutical care to our Guatemalan patients. 
Our methodology and the need for it speaks for itself. Last month we operated on 131 Guatemala women and children, saw 2,364 clinic patients and over 200 dental patients. Seventy-four Guatemalan citizens needed the expertise of our orthotics and prosthetics volunteers and our ultrasound specialist performed 226 scans for diagnostic workups. Prescriptions? The need was seemingly endless: 5,375 packets of medication donated.
Until the basic human need of health and well-being is available to all rural Guatemalans, Children of the Americas will continue do what we have done for thirty years:improving access to healthcare.  

Saturday, December 26, 2015

Dear Anonymous

Dear Anonymous Donor, 

I am writing to thank you for the donation you made to Children of the Americas. As you must have known, we are in the midst of our annual fundraiser, and while the days of 2015 wind down, so does the empathy for the medical needs of indigenous women and children in rural Guatemala. Somehow, and I have no idea how, you knew of the existing medical care crisis in Guatemala; the extreme lack of medical supplies, medication, operating room equipment and even simple bandages. 
Fundraiser link here
What you could not have guessed was our lagging stamina for convincing people that COTA is a worthwhile and life-changing organization that consists of an all-volunteer staff with big hearts. We fund raise all year long, but the holidays are especially demanding of our time. Competing for the donated dollar during this era of unprecedented worldwide humanitarian concerns is challenging, and emotionally draining. Many donors don't realize that the first quarter of a new year brings in very few donations for organizations like bills hit mailboxes and wallets tighten. Meanwhile, our medical team arrives in Guatemala on January 17th and our expenses will be at the highest level of 2016. 
 So thank you. Not only for the donation, but for boosting our spirits by showing that Children of the Americas is worthy of your hard-earned dollars. To do so anonymously is a testimony of your humble generosity. 
I hope, whoever you are, that you read this and understand that your gift was more than money to be used to help meet the health care needs of our Guatemalan patients. It was a validation of our credibility, as well as a boost of energy for continuing our efforts as we move into 2016. 
Sincerely, Children of the Americas Board

Thursday, December 17, 2015

Do You Wonder?

It is one month until the Children of the Americas medical team volunteers drive to their respective airports in the early morning hours and board their flights for Guatemala. The weeks before departure will be spent planning, packing and preparing for one of the most intense seven days any of us will experience for the rest of the year following a COTA team. In-between the "three P's" we will celebrate  school festivals, American holidays and all of the transitions that come with the end of one season and the beginning of a new year.
Those of us, and there are many, who have one foot in each country find ourselves already mentally in Guatemala, but we realize that many of our donors have never traveled to the Central American country that we work in. They may wonder about some of the things that make COTA special. 
If we had a wish list of things our board would like our supporters to know, it would look something like this:
We have amazing surgeons and OR support staff. Truly. 

Our surgeons, operating room nurses, anesthesiologists and techs come from all over the United States. They are highly trained, skilled and compassionate medical professionals who give no less to our Guatemalan patients than they do to their American patients. And they do so at their own expense for no financial compensation while still meeting the needs of their practices in the states.  
Our pharmacy is fully stocked and funded by a specific anonymous donor and by COTA funds. No patient in Guatemala pays for medicine, because doing so would mean that they would go without. From antibiotics to vitamins, each prescription is prepared and every patient is individually educated in their own language. Doing this for over five thousand prescriptions in one week is logistically challenging and takes a dedicated team of translators and four pharmacists.

Children of the Americas medical supplies are carefully selected, donated and purchased so that each of our patients has what they need. These medications are already packaged and have been shipped to Guatemala. Packing all of the above came together in a big way, cheerfully and carefully, one a rainy day in September that would have dampened the spirits of a less resilient group.

Our volunteers are amazing. No question about it. Some are retired, most still work at their respective professions, and a few are in school; but for one week in Guatemala we are a unit of over 100 people who come together for a common cause. 

 Children of the Americas supporters are working miracles with their donations. 
Our donors are loyal, compassionate and altruistic. Most of them will never see the women and children that they will benefit in rural Guatemala. Our supporters trust us to use their donated dollars wisely, for the purpose that they are intended, and we do. We do so faithfully, thoroughly and professionally. 
Now that you no longer wonder how and what we do, supporting us financially is an easier decision to make, and so simply done by clicking here:

 GoodGiving Challenge Fundraiser for COTA 

Making the world a healthier place is a great way to celebrate the holidays. 

Friday, December 11, 2015

The Number Five

 Five dollars doesn't buy much. If you remember a time when it did, you are showing your age. Fifty dollars will get a steak dinner for two, with wine, or a night out at the movies with pizza. Five hundred dollars finishes up most people's Christmas list, with a little to spare. Five thousand dollars? It is hard to imagine what our readers could do with that amount of green paper rectangles. With five thousand dollars, you are halfway to a new car, or better yet, departing for a cruise. 
At Children of the Americas, we look at money a little differently. We view financial donations through the eyes of our Guatemalan patients and the possibilities that exist for them if we have available funding. Patients like Angel, who came to the states through Children of the Americas and left healthier and happier than he had been in years. 

This is what Angel's dental x-rays looked like when we first encountered him as a patient in our dental clinic. The victim of a robbery in Central America, Angel had been shot in the face and the bullet penetrated his lower jaw, exiting via his cheek. Without funds for medical care, Angel suffered for years, and was only able to find a Guatemalan dentist who agreed to wire his teeth into his jaw. For two years Angel subsisted on liquids and hope that access to surgery to rebuild his jaw would somehow become available. By the time he found his way to a Children of the Americas team in Guatemala, Angel's teeth were floating in his gums, held in place by wires that were embedded in his mouth.

Getting this fourteen year old to KY for donated surgery, finding him a foster home (thank you Teresa and Ed Tackett!) and arranging donated OR time, oral surgery and dental bridges took funds we had to raise, hope we had to muster and bravery on the part of a homesick but determined teenager. The team of professionals who donated their time and compassion to restore Angel to health didn't think about financial compensation. Angel's Mayan mother in Guatemala had no money to thank us, but she used her gift of textile weaving to send us some hand woven "thank you cards."
With five thousand dollars, we could fund the travel costs of twenty more children like Angel; children from Guatemala who have no hope of finding surgical intervention in their own country and who have COTA professionals waiting here to help. 
We are halfway there. 
Giving the gift of health this holiday season has never been easier. The GoodGiving campaign runs for a few more weeks. Clicking on the link below allows you to be part of a future miracle. 

Monday, November 30, 2015

Why We Do What We Do

 Special thanks are in order to COTA volunteer Nate Whipple from Colorado. Nate is an active and enthusiastic member of our fundraising committee. Those of you who do not know Nate can be reassured that if Nate puts his trust in an organization, you can also. By creating the power point above, he was able to explain what we do and why we do it. The timing for explaining Children of the Americas to prospective donors is perfect. Our annual fundraiser continues until the end of December.
Donations made during this important period will be used for our upcoming medical/surgical/dental team in Salama, Guatemala. This child was helped by COTA because donors understood that a life lived with chronic health issues is a life lived with missing potential. Our donation portal can be found here: GoodGiving Challenge. After watching the powerpoint, and visiting our donation portal, if you still need some inspiration, you will want to remember that Guatemala has the highest rate of pediatric malnutrition in all of Central America.

 Children of the Americas Power Point


The vitamins and formula we donate on our medial team are life-saving. The infant on the left did not survive her health issues, which were exacerbated by malnutrition. With your help, we can help get 2016 off to a better start for other Guatemalan children.

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Transparency: Statistics and Smiles

The world of the internet creates instant connections, fast information and compelling press coverage. Those are the positive components of this wonderful and crazy time we live in where people expect and can obtain service faster than I can write these words. Want a document translated? Google Translate will do it for you in sixty seconds or less. Can't find your favorite restaurant in the behemoth geographic area known as New York City? Click your favorite directional app and the information is in the palm of your hand. 
In this new age that is lived in nanoseconds of gratification, we as a nonprofit can't afford (literally) to delay in getting information to prospective donors. Philanthropically minded people want to know who, where, why and when their money will/could/should be spent. 
In the interest of time, we won't give you graphs, lists and lectures. You can access information detailing our financial and administrative transparency by clicking on the GoodGiving logo to the right of this blog post.  
And just in case you still need some tangible evidence that Children of the Americas performs big miracles on little people, here is Celee. 

In this photo, taken when Celee was discovered in her village (left) she was wrapped in soiled rags that were tied around her stomach because of a birth defect that could not be surgically repaired in Guatemala. Celee's mother loved her daughter enough to trust Children of the Americas to fly her baby to New Jersey, live with a COTA foster family, get her donated surgery accomplished and return her when we were done working our miracles.  
Which is exactly what we did. A baby who was living in the mountains of Guatemala with a hole in her abdomen is now back in the arms of a mother who was both loving and desperate all in the same measure.  The trust Celee's mother had is something COTA has earned time and again...over 110 times in fact; one sick child who is returned to a Mayan mother at a time. 
Children of the Americas leaves for our next medical/surgical/dental team trip in two months. There will be more mothers with sick babies waiting for us. There always are. 
The portal to donate toward this upcoming mission trip is here. 

COTA Fundraiser Link
Transparency is a wonderful thing. 
So is Celee's smile.