Iowa MOST 2017 mission will begin this week!

This week marks the departure of the Iowa MOST team for the 2017 mission to Huehuetenango, Guatemala. It will be the 12th year of this successful Rotary project, thanks in large part to the amazing partnership between the Iowa medical team, District 6000 Rotary Clubs, the Rotary Club of Huehuetenango, and Dr. Oscar Marroquin, and his partners, staff and hospital which generously make room for the team, in many ways, while we are there.  Many individuals have made key contributions which have led to the ongoing success of this project–if you are reading this now, then you know you have made a difference.  Thank you.

Behind the scenes, team leader Deb Dunkhase, Dr. John Canady, and many others have been taking care of the myriad details to ready a team of 37 people and the required supplies to conduct an international medical mission.  I am a “newbie” so I have been catching up on some of the history of the project, and am excited to be able to experience the power of Rotary’s motto of “Service Above Self” first-hand.  What I know from my time as a Rotarian is that it’s the partnerships between communities and people that makes Rotary projects so impactful.

I hope to capture and share some of the stories–of families impacted by Iowa MOST, of the volunteers, and of Rotary and Rotarians–as these stories unfold.  The team hopes to be able to perform surgeries on 40 to 80 children (and possibly some adults as well).  While the incidence (1 in 600) of cleft lip and cleft palate in Guatemala is not much greater than the incidence world-wide (1 in 700), the remoteness of the highlands and the extreme poverty of the indigenous people there have resulted in many children living untreated.  This can make eating and drinking very difficult, lead to other dental and medical problems, and cause social isolation and prevent children from receiving an education.  The good news is that with a 1.5 hours surgery (sometimes with later corrective surgery), these children’s lives can be transformed.

When I think of how cost effective a single Iowa MOST mission is (each mission costs about $46,500) and how much it makes a difference in the lives of the kids who will receive treatment–not just now but for the rest of their lives–I am simply awestruck.  I think of my beloved niece who is 2 1/2 years old and I can imagine the joy and gratitude of being able to do something for her that would literally change her life and give her the opportunities that would lead to her being able to someday make a difference in her own community.  Take that magic and multiply it by 40 to 80 each year for the past 12 years.  Wow.

That leads me to Deb Dunkhase’s words at our team orientation meeting: It’s for the kids.  Thanks again for all of you in the past and present who have made this project possible; I’ll report back next from Huehuetenango!

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