Guatemala receives unprecedented NGO and private sector collaboration for successful USSOUTHCOM-sponsored humanitarian exercise
By Dialogo June 25, 2014
From March to June 2014, people lined the streets awaiting free medical treatment during a joint Medical Readiness Training Exercise (MEDRETE) and humanitarian aid mission at Caserío Los Limones, in Zacapa, Guatemala, conducted by U.S. Air Force, Army and Guatemalan Military during operation Beyond the Horizon-Guatemala 2014.
In partnership with Guatemala, the U.S. Southern Command-- through its component and executive planning agent, U.S. Army South executed the focused humanitarian assistance operation to conduct various engineering assistance, medical, dental, and civic action programs.
“The biggest issue is going to be patient flow through the site, getting people in and out quickly so we can treat patients,” said Army Reserve Maj. Phillip Sanchez of the 145th Multi-Functional Medical Battalion, a medical planner for the MEDRETE. “We have about 35 medical personnel and three medical providers from the host nation.”
The MEDRETE site at Los Limones ran from April 21-26, offering free medical treatment to locals. On its first day, the site received over 600 patients seeking various forms of treatment including dermatology, dental, family and general medicine, pediatrics, obstetrics and gynecology, and optometry, in addition to also offering a pharmacy.
Air Force Capt. John Mallya, a dentist with the 22nd Aeromedical Squadron said, “The overall training purpose, with the humanitarian aid thrown in, makes it really an honor to come and assist people and knowingly have their support.”
But Beyond the Horizon-Guatemala 2014 would not have been such a success had it not been for the unprecedented support from both the international and domestic private sector, including non-governmental organizations (NGO) such as Food For the Poor (FFP), Latter-day Saint Charities (LDSC), and The MESSAGE Program (TMP); the Centro Universitario de Oriente; and the Guatemalan brewery Cervecería Centroamericana.
FFP, a U.S.-based organization seeking to improve the health, economic, social and spiritual conditions of people in the Caribbean and Latin America, assisted this year by providing thousands of Spanish textbooks and children’s shoes for the Beyond The Horizon schools as well as other schools and orphanages in need. They also provided medication and medical equipment and supplies for Finca Estanzuela, a town still dealing with the aftermath of a large chemical explosion that happened last year.
“The donated school materials will be very helpful," says Ms. Nora Flores, a teacher at the Escuela Oficial Rural Mixta Conevisa. "Previously, we had to buy papers and pencils for the children because the parents did not have any money to buy them. This will keep the kids interested in coming to school.”
Latter-day Saint Charities (LDSC), which seeks to care for the poor and needy by conducting relief and development activities throughout the world, donated brand new school desks, chairs, tables, white boards and other equipment for all of the Beyond The Horizon schools, in addition to pallets of school kits and medical modules full of high-demand medical supplies.
LDSC Elder Michael Bingham, who was present at the closing ceremony in Zacapa on June 12, said, “Having served in the US Air Force myself, I appreciate the fact that US Southern Command sees the value in working with NGOs and faith-based organizations. It's all about helping those in need. By working together, we're able to do so much more."
The Medical/Dental EMS/Fire Supplies Shared Around Globally with Education (MESSAGE) Program (TMP), a not-for profit organization that secures donations of supplies and equipment in the United States to help out those in need overseas, donated four containers of medical supplies and equipment to Guatemala.
USMC Captain Joshua Miller, Civil Affairs Officer with the Second Civil Affairs Group said, "Working with NGOs like Latter-day Saint Charities and Food for the Poor was a key part of this exercise. Without them, we would've had to turn over empty school buildings. Because of the donations of brand new school desks, chairs, tables, whiteboards, and school supplies coordinated by the SOUTHCOM J9 team (Partnering Directorate), these classrooms are ready to be put to good use."