While Americans are concerned about changes in the U.S. health care system, the people in Pueblo Nuevo, Guatemala have no such worries. For them, there are no such things as private physicians or insurance policies. But there are many patients with health concerns that are never treated or are handled by local “doctors,” who have little or no training, and without the benefits of technology and medications.
That’s where Sylvania residents Dave and Pat Mallory come in. They are volunteers with SEWHope, a local group that brings medical care, friendship, and hope to people who desperately need all three. Political turmoil and geography have contributed to the poverty in Guatemala. Most people have limited or no access to education, and speak one of many local dialects, rather than Spanish, which limits their access to jobs. The Mallorys and other volunteers who have worked with SEWHope are helping to organize community-led initiatives so the villagers can provide themselves with clean water, medical screening, latrines, garden foods, dental care, and other necessities we take for granted in the U.S.
Trained to help
Dave Mallory is a family practice physician. He treats patients of all ages and is proud to claim his now 104-year-old Sunday School teacher among them. Pat is the 7th grade science teacher at St. Joseph School in Sylvania, where she is able to use her training as a medical technologist and patient educator to share her love of science. Together, they have raised four children, the oldest just beginning his medical residency and the youngest looking forward to her junior year in high school, while the middle two are preparing for careers of their own. Both parents were active in their children’s lives as Scout leaders and coaches, and both serve on committees at their church. Pat explains, “As Christians, we are called to serve others, and that is what drives Dave and I and what we foster in our children through modeling this behavior…the reward for them is a sense of accomplishment, pride, and success, not material items.”
Dave served on the Board of Make-a-Wish Foundation for many years, and chaired their annual Celebrity Sports Auction for 18 years, helping to raise $2 million for the local chapter. When he left that position, he was introduced to SEWHope, and now serves as co-chairman of their auction, donating some of his original oil paintings and glass pieces for bid. He has traveled a number of times to Guatemala, several times with Pat and their three oldest children, and has discovered that even the smallest effort can be a big help.
“On one trip, I worked testing the water in the village. Until we got filters for their water, the residents had to visit a well, which is downhill from a cow pasture. We know that many health problems can be traced to poor water quality. The filters mean that the villagers will be able to have safe water to drink. Something so simple, but they didn’t have it.”
Pat has worked as a medical technologist in the village, doing lab tests and screening for diabetes and for anemia in the children, a common problem in a country marked by multiple parasitic infections. She was impressed by the people’s patience. “Sometimes I made balloon figures by blowing up a rubber glove and drawing crazy people pictures. The people were waiting in long lines, but they never asked, ‘How long?’ or ‘Am I next?’ Some waited all day to be seen. Any language barrier was quickly dismissed with a warm smile and a hug.”
Assistance in the works
Thanks to volunteers like the Mallorys, the villagers won’t have to wait long for other medical “marvels.” They help raise funds for vitamins, nutrition programs, computers, books, clean water projects, and sponsorship for local high school students. A new free-standing center for birthing has recently opened, and projects like cervical cancer prevention and safe stove programs are finding financial supporters in the United States.
David Mallory feels that his experience in Guatemala changed his life and he was glad to share the time with his family. “It would be hard to describe the level of fulfillment I have received from working with this organization. My parents raised me to volunteer and make a difference. I have always tried to donate to good causes and to be active in my community, and I have felt pretty good about myself until now. I realize that there is severe poverty in the U.S., but I don’t think there is anywhere that we can’t go to a drinking fountain and drink clean water. The challenge for me will be to put my words into action.”
The Mallorys invite others to join them in helping the villagers of Pueblo Nuevo. “You don’t have to be a doctor to make a difference,” he noted. “Anyone can visit the website, pray for the workers and the people, and help in any way possible.”
More information is available at