Answering the Call
Luis Mendez never imagined going on medical missions to Guatemala. However, since 2009, he has led more than 40 mission-driven trips to the country.
It all started because he knew Spanish.
Representatives from Guatemala were visiting Middlesex through its relationship with the Middlesex Health Family Medicine Residency Program, and someone needed to help translate. Originally from Uruguay, Luis was happy to help, and at the end of the visit, he was invited to Guatemala. He went in November 2009 and has returned multiple times each year since.
“I fell in love,” he says. “I knew something was calling me.”
Each trip, Luis brings Guatemalans much-needed medical supplies, such as bandages and medical bags. He also comes prepared to teach those who live in Guatemala about emergency medical services and other health topics, and he started the first-ever health fair in a Guatemalan community. He has forged relationships with the Red Cross and fire departments and midwives throughout Guatemala. Sometimes, he travels alone. Other times, he brings Wesleyan students, colleagues or other area medical professionals with him.
“If you touch someone's life, it’s worth it,” he says.
Luis currently works in Protective Services at the Middlesex Health Outpatient Center. Before that, he worked as a patient care technician in the Emergency Department and is a former emergency medical service coordinator for the Middlefield Fire Department.
Luis is dedicated to helping Guatemalan residents live healthier lives and always looks for affordable ways to collect supplies to bring to Guatemala.
Luis says Guatemala needs assistance because it doesn’t have access to the resources or education that we benefit from in the United States, and he says he has taught thousands of individuals over the years. Based on the culture and resources available, he emphasizes the importance of CPR, maternal health care and nutrition, and he’s noticed positive changes in how Guatemalans prepare for and respond in emergencies.
“If I have accomplished something, it’s that,” Luis says.
Earlier this month, Luis returned from his most recent trip to Guatemala, and he is already planning the next. He, however, understands that traveling might become more difficult as he gets older.
“I’m trying to find people to continue the work,” he says.
If you are interested in learning more about these medical mission trips to Guatemala, email Luis at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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