On Thursday morning I left Guatemala City for Antigua. I will explain more about my time in Antigua later, but for now I will focus on my time at Casa Jackson. Due to the devastation caused by the tropical storm there were no trips being made to any of the surrounding volcanoes- even the dormant ones. It became very obvious Thursday that I would not be hiking, mountain biking, etc from Antigua. I then begin to search for opportunities to volunteer in Antigua. The first place I tried told me I could help the victims of the tropical storms by digging out there stuff from the mud, but because of all the dead animals and humans this might be harmful to my health and some sort of health violation. As tempting as that offer was, I had to decline. The woman was nice enough to give me the number to some other agencies to contact about volunteering. Since many of the agencies only used volunteers during the week, finding a place where I could help on the weekend was a bit difficult. Eventually I was put into contact with Casa Jackson and was invited to check out the place/ get oriented with what they did on Friday afternoon in order to volunteer on Saturday and Sunday.
Casa Jackson is a hospital for malnourished children, which is a part of a larger organization called Asociacion Nuestros Ahijados (God’s Child). The children at Casa Jackson all have families and have been referred either by a social work organization or doctor to the clinic. Andrea, the volunteer coordinator informed me the main problem is lack of education throughout the generations on proper nutrition for the children. Some of the cases they have seen included parents feeding infants coffee and tortillas everyday or feeding a 3 month year old formula meant for 9 month year old child. Casa Jackson nurtures the children back to health (children under the age of 3 have almost a 100% chance of making a full recovery) but also educates the family about proper nutrition and resources to make sure that the home environment is changed before the children are discharged. Andrea told me the primary duty of the volunteers was to give love to the children, which worked out well because Tab has some love to give.
Although I was only supposed to get a tour and a better understanding of the operation on Friday, Andrea threw me into the mix with Fredy, if this was the US I would have to wait weeks to get the proper background check and clearance to volunteer. Fredy is almost 3 months old yet he weighs around 4.5 pounds. He is the smallest infant they had, holding and feeding him was the most frighten I have been since I arrived in Guatemala. I did not want to break anybodies child. All was good and I did not break him. When I return on Saturday, I helped with the feedings (the children get feed 8 times a day, wash and fold clothes, clean the floors and changed diapers. The children may have been malnourished, but you could not tell from their diapers. I promise you this one child was laughing at me because he knew I had to change the mess in his diaper. No bueno!
Saturday’s are also one of the two days that parents are required to come. So it was nice to see the mothers and some of the fathers interact with their children. Each of the children have a specialize diet prescribed by the nutritionist, who also meets with the parents on Saturday.
I am very glad I got the opportunity to visit Casa Jackson while I was in Antigua, it allowed me to see some of the issues affecting rural Guatemalans first hand. The kids were a joy to be around, although it was heartbreaking to hear them cry at the end of the shift when I had to put them back down in their cribs. The use of volunteers through human contact is a big reason why the children at Casa Jackson recover in 1-3 months versus years at other malnutrition clinics. I will be back again tomorrow morning to help out. The great thing about children is that they don’t care that my Spanish is very bad. It was however very interesting trying to communicate with the nurse about whether or not to burp the babies after feedings.
The driver of the toc-toc.
For more information- http://www.casajackson.com/