Friday, June 12, 2009

Gwen is going back to Africa!:

April, 2009

Dear friends and family-

As many of you know, I had the incredible opportunity to go to East Africa last fall with a medical team working with the Maasai people in Kenya and Tanzania. We worked through an organization called Precious Life International (PLI) This organization raises sponsors to support Maasai girls enabling them to be enrolled in school, providing them with choices for their futures and protection from early arranged marriages and cultural atrocities. Among its other functions, PLI also organizes water projects and medical teams in East Africa.

Last year it was unclear prior to the trip what my role would be on the team. It was amazing to see how God put the gifts of each person on the team to work! I ended up organizing the pharmacy and even doing some consulting with the nurses on treatment of diseases.

As many of you know, I fell in love with East Africa and the Maasai people. There is so much need there, but there is also joy, hope, faith, and humor. I have no doubt that working with the Maasai will be an ongoing part of my life, in whatever capacity God has in mind for me. I still hope to find a way to specifically use my veterinary training to serve in the future.

I plan to return again to East Africa later this year with another medical team, and have also been invited to help with a Maasai girls’ leadership camp. This camp brings in guests to speak to the girls about pursuing careers and following their passions and dreams. Not only would I get to spend the week with the Maasai girls, but Kanoi (the girl I sponsor) will be there, which would be a dream come true for me!

Several of you have chosen to sponsor Maasai girls since my return. Thank you so much! If anyone else is interested in sponsoring a girl, please let me know! There are many girls currently waiting for sponsors so they can stay in school.

The dates for my trip this year will be August 21st (assuming I will be able to attend the girls’ camp) through September 12th. I ask that you consider supporting me on this trip. I would like to have a small group of people (5 to 10) to commit to being a prayer team for me, to begin praying now for me as I prepare and raise support, to pray through my time in Africa, and to pray as I readjust after my return. Please let me know if you are willing to be on this prayer team.

The cost of the trip will be roughly $5000 per person. If you are interested in providing support financially, checks can be sent to Eugene Christian Fellowship with a post-it/note specifying support for Gwen Boulton, Kenya 2009. These contributions are tax-deductible. If you prefer not to donate through the church, checks can also be mailed directly to me, although these will not be tax deductible. The deadline for the deposit on airline tickets is July 5th.

Eugene Christian Fellowship Gwen Boulton
89780 N Game Farm Rd 27047 Louden Ln
Eugene, OR 97408 Junction City, OR 97448

Serving Him,


Friday, March 27, 2009

Some of Kristin's Guatemala Pictures:

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Ethan's Interview with Karen McCowan of the Register Guard:

Team adds water systems, replaces fire pits

Posted to Web: Saturday, Mar 21, 2009 11:46PM
Appeared in print: Sunday, Mar 22, 2009, page A10

News: Last Seven Days: Story

SOLOLA, GUATEMALA — He’s only 18, but Ethan Pingatore of Eugene doesn’t think he’ll ever taste a better tortilla than the one he ate in Guatemala this month as a member of the Cascade Medical Team’s “construction crew.”

The 2008 South Eugene High School graduate was among dozens of nonmedical volunteers who spent the first week of March installing water purification systems and safer, fuel-efficient cooking stoves in rural homes miles from the Cascade team’s Solola headquarters.

“We went into a really small house, one room that was maybe 10 feet by 15 feet,” he recalled. “There were three little kids on the one bed, watching us. Afterward, the family wanted to make us lunch.”

Pingatore said he’ll never forget the sights and smells in the tiny home as the children’s mother used cut limes to cure the metal top of the new stove that replaced her family’s open-pit cooking fire.

“Then she started making tortillas — she even let me make my own,” he recalled.

The same week the construction team installed stoves in 71 homes, Cascade team plastic surgeon Dr. Bruce Webber of Portland performed a surgery that underscored the urgent need to replace open pit fires.

In a procedure that likely will be the first of several in coming years, he began to repair the burns that disfigured the face of Lidia Rosangela Pecher Chumil. The 15-year-old Guatemalan girl was terribly injured last year when she suffered a seizure and rolled in the cooking fire in her family’s home.

Several days after her surgery, Lida was feeling well enough to high-five Cascade doctors as she got some fresh air outside the team’s Solola recovery ward.

Parts for the simple stoves are manufactured by Guatemalans in Guatemala at a factory constructed by HELPS, a Texas-based nonprofit group that operates in Guatemala year-round and serves as the Cascade team’s in-country partner. The Eugene team’s fundraising arm, the Cascade Medical Team Foundation, raises about $30,000 each year to cover materials such as stoves, plus medications and other medical supplies.

The firebox is so well-insulated that the outside of the stove is cool to the touch even after the cook surface is operating at high temperatures. The stoves also include chimneys to vent smoke out of homes, preventing much of the respiratory disease that is a leading cause of death among Guatemalan children.

Construction team members also distributed 80 home water filters to Guatemalan families and schools.

— Karen McCowan

Article on Jody, Kristin and Ethan's Medical Mission Trip to Guatemala:

Mobilized medicine: A local team spends a week providing health care in Guatemala

Posted to Web: Saturday, Mar 21, 2009 11:46PM
Appeared in print: Sunday, Mar 22, 2009, page A10

News: Last Seven Days: Photo

Story photo and/or graphic

Karen McCowan/The Register-Guard

Fidelito Augusto Garcia Hernandez, 12, reacts to news that Cascade Medical Team surgeons will repair a hernia that has caused him pain for years. He sits between his mother, Maria Hernandez Tepaz (left), and Guadelupe Aguilar Tale (right), a nurse practitioner from his village who came along to translate for Tepaz, who speaks Kaqchikel.

Dr. Gary Halvorson of Eugene asks Catarina Chavez de Perez to describe the location of her kidney stone pain while her husband, Julian Mendoza Perez, listens to the conversation.
Story photo and/or graphic

Karen McCowan/The Register-Guard

The morning sun casts long shadows as Guatemalans seeking medical care arrived outside the gates of the college campus where the Cascade Medical Team operates its hospital and clinics.
Story photo and/or graphic

Karen McCowan/The Register-Guard

News: Last Seven Days: Story

Editor’s note: Earlier this month, Register-Guard reporter Karen McCowan visited the Guatemala projects of two Eugene-based nonprofits: NextStep Recycling and Cascade Medical Team. Today’s articles look at the work of Cascade Medical Team. Saturday’s articles looked at NextStep’s use of refurbished computers in rural Guatemala.

SOLOLA, Guatemala — Looking at the excited face of Fidel “Fidelito” Augusto Garcia Hernandez earlier this month, you might think the boy had just won a front-row seat to his national team’s next soccer match.

But that’s not what prompted the 12-year-old’s big smile. Fidelito was thrilled because the Eugene-based Cascade Medical Team had just agreed to repair the hernia in his groin the following day.

“I’m the person that feels the pain, and I’m very happy that the pain will go away,” Fidelito said in Spanish at the bustling medical center that materializes here once a year.

In a transformation reminiscent of the mythical village of Brigadoon, more than 100 Cascade volunteers descend each March on a quiet college campus in this highlands city overlooking volcano-ringed Lake Atitlan. And, for a week, so do poor Guatemalans. Hundreds throng each day outside the gates of the college, a former military hospital built during the country’s 36-year civil war.

This year’s Cascade team handled 1,647 patients at Solola March 1-7. They did 73 surgeries — repairing hernias, cleft palates and horrific burns, performing hysterectomies and removing cataracts. They provided 299 dental exams and pulled more than 500 teeth. They conducted 201 eye exams. And they did so despite losing all running water on day five of their weeklong stay. (That crisis eased when Solola “bomberos” — firefighters — showed up with tanker trucks.)

The 103 volunteers were the seventh annual team to pay $1,900 per person in travel and lodging expenses to come care for some of the Western Hemisphere’s poorest people, mostly indigenous Mayan Guatemalans. The Cascade group also worked with Texas-based HELPS International to renovate portions of the old hospital into contemporary surgery and recovery areas.

Solola is the capitol of a 659-square-mile Guatemalan province of the same name. The Cascade team comes to Solola because most of the province’s 310,000 people are poor Mayans living in remote villages with few medical facilities.

Fidelito, for instance, traveled by boat and then in the back of a pick-up truck from his Lake Atitlan village of Santa Cruz La Laguna. His mother, Maria Hernandez Tepaz, said Fidelito has suffered pain and swelling in his groin for at least six years. Like most rural Guatemalan children, Fidelito must do heavy lifting that can lead to hernias. In addition to the typical child’s chore of gathering firewood and carrying it on his back, Fidelito helps his father, a “lancha” water taxi operator, load heavy cargo such as 5-gallon water bottles, propane tanks and construction materials.

“We do not have money to pay for this surgery,” Hernandez Tepaz said. “We are a family with a lot of members and very little resources.”

Return trip for many

Many Cascade volunteers return year after year. Among them: PeaceHealth RiverBend neonatal intensive care unit nurse Ann Krenek. On this, her sixth trip, she worked outdoors in the chaotic triage area, asking each patient, “Where do you hurt?” to determine which team member they should see. Though Krenek speaks Spanish, many of her Solola patients speak only their traditional Mayan tongues. In a typical exchange, however, Krenek managed to convey to a Mayan mother that she needs to know the medical problem of the woman’s child. The mother answers by yanking down her daughter’s lower jaw to show Krenek the girl’s aching teeth.

The mother and daughter are among indigenous patients who form a colorful waiting line. The women and children still wear the traditional traj√© (traw-HEY) — colorful skirts, tops and belts woven and embroidered in hues and patterns as distinctive to each village as a Scottish tartan.

Many patients also still have traditional medical beliefs, said University of Oregon dentist Jan Halvorson, who extracted rotting teeth with her daughter, Sonja, a South Eugene High School senior, acting as makeshift dental assistant.

“Some think they have bad spirits in their teeth,” she said. “After we pull one, they hold a kerchief over their mouth to keep the spirit from returning.”

This year’s Cascade trip was a family affair for the Halvorsons: Eugene family physician Gary Halvorson joined his wife and daughter in Guatemala. Sonja, a graduate of Eugene’s Buena Vista Spanish Immersion School, recruited her parents after serving as a translator on a previous team. She cited the opportunity to “actually see another culture — to really get to talk to people, instead of just seeing landmarks.”

Jan Halvorson was the hardest parent to win over.

“I’m pretty obsessive-compulsive about a really sterile environment,” the dentist explained. But Halvorson quickly saw how much good she could do in less than ideal conditions.

“We saw people whose mouths are so swollen and full of pus that they are in a huge amount of pain and at risk of brain infection,” she said. “I took three teeth out of a 7-year-old boy, and he asked me if I would take another.”

Gary Halvorson, however, was sometimes frustrated at his inability to help patients, such as a woman in her 40s with a “huge, hard tumor” on her leg. The woman had previously traveled to Mexico where a doctor warned it might be cancer, he said. But she had no money for surgery. Now, years later, the tumor has grown so large she can no longer walk. She’d come hoping the Cascade team could do the surgery. But she’d become dangerously anemic from the fibrous growth’s internal bleeding. Halvorson had to turn down her request.

“In the U.S., if you’re anemic, they just give you a blood transfusion and do surgery,” he said at dinner one night in the team’s Solola “mess hall,” the college gymnasium. “But we don’t have that option here.”

Moments difficult and rewarding

For Sue Trezona, a nurse midwife at Women’s Care in Springfield, this repeat trip to Guatemala included the difficult task of telling several women they had terminal cancer. But there were rewarding moments as well, she said. She was among many Cascade volunteers happy that this year’s team included a medical lab technician.

“We can check for diabetes and rule out a lot of things,” she said. “We can also do sperm counts.”

That proved a boon in treating infertile couples, who can be ostracized in a culture that celebrates large families. Women bear the brunt of the criticism and abuse, Trezona said.

“In the past, I’ve had women tell me, ‘Every month when I get my period, my husband beats me up,’ ” she said. “Now we can let them know that it’s also the man who is responsible.”

The team also brings an ultrasound machine for pregnancy assessment and spotting tumors or other problems. This year’s ultrasound diagnostician, Susan Bodtker of Junction City, found her first year as a team member “really rewarding.”

“These people are just grateful that you are here for them. They hug you and thank you. Sometimes patients will even bless you.”

Among Bodtker’s highlights was relieving the fears of Elia Buch Ramos, who thought her fetus had died in utero.

“We have a heartbeat!” Bodtker told the anxious woman. Buch Ramos broke into a smile when Bodtker told her that the baby appeared to be a girl — welcome news for the mother of five sons.

Dr. Andy McIvor of Portland was part of a surgical team that spent most of one morning removing a huge “multi nodular goiter” from the throat of a Guatemalan patient.

“In the U.S., as soon as someone feels a little bulge, they go right to the doctor, but things are a little more neglected here,” McIvor said.

Wes Wever, a Guatemalan HELPS worker, said the Cascade team has rapidly become the largest of the dozen U.S. volunteer groups it works with. “This is an incredible team,” he said. “They’re very flexible and caring — it’s incredible the heart they put into what they do.”

Jan Halvorson credited the leadership of Cascade team leaders Robert and Tamra Orlando of Springfield. Tamra, a McKenzie-Willamette Hospital recovery room nurse, “smoothly runs what essentially becomes a hospital,” she said. And Robert, a logger with little formal education, calmly manages the personalities and behind-the-scenes logistics.

“Both Robert and Tamra put themselves out there raising funds, ‘herding cats,’ solving problems and calming the strains that, of course, arise,” she said. “They are remarkable people.”

Want to volunteer with the 2010 Cascade Medical Team? Write to P.O. Box 528, Eugene, 97440 or visit Tax-deductible donations may be sent to Cascade Medical Team Foundation, P.O. Box 1545, Eugene, 97440.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

This is Gwen Boulton - Steve and Merilee's awesome daughter. I met Gwen when she was about 10, when I began working at University Street Christian Church. Gwen is one smart, determined gal ... she always wanted to grow up and be a veterinarian, and now she is, in west Eugene.

Last fall (2008), Gwen went on a mission trip to Kenya and Tanzania, Africa. She fell in love with the children (no surprise there) and is looking for others to help sponsor Maasai girls so that they can go to school through Precious Life International. Precious Life International is a based out of Spokane, Washington. Please click on the link of the little African girl on the sidebar to find out more about how to help Gwen with this.

Thank you Gwen, for the difference
you make, and for your world service.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Received 2/25/09 from Jody Johnson:

"Cascade Medial Team of Helps International will be leaving for Solola, Guatemala from Portland the morning of February 28, 2009. We fly into Dallas/Fort Worth and then to Guatemala City. We spend the night, then board the buses for our site at Solola. This will be our 6th mission in the area, the 4th at this site. The area is now a school. It was originally an army base. The people ran the army off the base near the end of the war and it has been difficult for some people to come onto the grounds as they have terrible memories of the area. The school and medical teams have made this somewhat easier.

We are one of the largest teams of Helps International, based in Dallas/Fort Worth. This team is the largest team ever. We are 104 members strong. The majority of us are from Oregon, with other members from Washington, Colorado, Illinois, Kentucky, Pennsylvania, Massachusetts and Washington D.C.

We are a full service team. This includes medical care, dental care, eye care, surgical care and kitchen crew. Our team also has a full construction team. This team installs O'Neal stoves, called ONIL stoves by the Guatemalan people. The stove was designed by Don O'Neal from another Helps Team. The people use the three stone fires in their homes. This contributes to smoke in the homes and increased respiratory distress. Also, many children have been burned severely by falling into the fires. The new stoves take much less wood, which save the women about 2 days a week to have an efficient stove that will burn hot but not have heat on the outside of the stove. Stove pipes are also part of the process. There is an outside stove which is used for large pots of cooking.

Helps International also has started a cement floor project. Many of the illnesses are from parasites. The people have mostly taken over this project with assistance. Helps International has also started a water purification project.

Lois O'Neal, wife of Don O'Neal, started a school in
the village of Santa Avalina. This school continues to grow. The people of the area are a large part of the planning and growth of the school. They wanted their children to learn their own dialect/language and then learn Spanish, which as been done.

My grandson, Ethan, is returning for his second trip. He will tell you it has changed his life. He has been asked to volunteer longer term for Helps, which he is considering. My granddaughter, Kristin, will be with us for her first tip. We will return March, 11, 2009.

Please keep us in your prayers.

Jody Johnson"

We will keep you guys in our prayers, Mom. You guys have a great trip. Stay safe and well!

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Guatemala Bound:

This coming February, Jody, Kristin and Ethan will be going on the Cascade Medical Team medical mission trip to Guatemala. They spend their own funds and lots of time to volunteer for a 10 day trip. Jody is a RN and has gone down to help for many years (she is my mom). This will be Kristin's first trip (she is my daughter). Ethan will be helping to install the ONIL stoves, among other things. (He is my nephew.) This will be Ethan's second trip.

I will be posting information about their trip. For more information on HELPS, CMT and ONIL Stoves, click on the sidebars to your right.

Kristin and Grandma Jody


Thanks, you three,

for your world service!