The story of our oldest patient yet, a 90-year-old woman, touched my heart. We met her during our 6th day of clinic (Thursday, February 25th) at a community called Los Llanos, near San Cristóbal de Las Casas. She had lost an eye while working in the fields, her other eye was failing her. Her leathery skin had scabs and rashes and her feet were covered with layers of dirt. She was tired and ridden with pain due to arthritis, but when she was offered the knee injections, she was hopeful that they would allow her to walk pain-free for a few weeks or perhaps months. Through the Tzotzil interpreter, we learned that she lives alone and is totally self-sufficient: she cooks, cleans, and tends to the sheep, which she pastures herself. In this way, she is able to get some income for her subsistence.
Her posture was erect, her hair was neatly braided and her clothes were perfectly clean. She carried with her a surprising mix of circumstances and traits. Her pain, her poverty and her apparent loneliness on the one hand, and on the other, a strong will to thrive despite these limitations. She was beautiful and admirable.
Final Thoughts from Lía Price
This was MDP’s 8th trip to Chiapas, México. Thanks to the generosity of our donors, the tireless work of every volunteer and the amazing collaboration of our many contacts in Chiapas, since 2010, MDP has traveled to this southern region in México eight times. One could think that after so many trips things become a little routine and that nothing could surprise us anymore. Nothing could be farther from the truth! We continue to be blessed with stories like Mayra’s, spellbound by the gorgeous vistas we encounter en route to and from the communities, the delicious food, the old and new friends who support us there, the sense of wonder in front of the experiences of our first-time volunteers, as well as the nostalgia awakened in every one of the returning volunteers.
In particular, during this trip, I was keenly aware of the robust and growing relationships between the people in Chiapas and us volunteers. Without these friends, MDP would not be able to effectively bring help to the many communities we serve. Below is a bit about each of them.
- Since 2009 (when serving in México was no more than a dream in our hearts), Padre Pablo, has been the instrumental link between Chiapas and MDP.
- For five consecutive years, on the night of our arrival in Tuxtla Gutierrez, a group of three sisters (Padre Pablo’s parishioners) and a Caritas volunteer meet us at the airport to take us to the Retreat Center where we spend our first night.
- For over five years now, our driver Vicente, has safely taken us to the most beautiful and remote corners of Chiapas. Vicente is our driver/guardian angel. He is always on time and ready to lend a helping hand to all of us, and happy to enlighten us with a wealth of information regarding the regional culture.
- For at least four consecutive trips, Tita at the Retreat Center in Tuxtla, graciously takes care of us for the night, cooks our dinner and breakfast, and bids us goodbye in the morning.
- Since 2013, the Tuxtla Walmart Pharmacy manager, Josefina, a young mother of two, has graciously donated her time to for MDP. Josefina fills our medication order. We email and text back and forth with Josefina for months in advance to guarantee that our medicine is ready to be picked up at 7:30 a.m. the day after our arrival in Tuxtla.
- The nuns of the Sacred Heart of Christ the King lovingly and safely fix all of our delicious meals while we are in Coapilla, including our to-go lunches.
- Our healthcare coordinator, Rodrigo, and his team of workers help us set up clinic in the different communities we visit. Most notably, Don Layo has become a steadfast volunteer with us ever since MDP began working toward obtaining his prosthetic arm.
- Norma of Cáritas San Cristóbal and Fr. Rafael of the beautiful Parish church of Santo Domingo have for over 6 years now, tirelessly worked to coordinate our clinics to remote communities around San Crisóbal. During every trip, Fr. Rafael guides us to at least one of the communities we visit, always providing much valuable information about the people we will encounter there.
- María, the comely 65 year old Tzotzil woman in many of our pictures, has volunteered as a Tzotzil-Spanish interpreter for the last four years.
- Each year, three or four Tzotlzil or Tzeltal interpreters volunteer a whole day in clinic with us.
- Mari Jose is a nurse in her mid-twenties who used to work for Caritas until last year and now continues to support us during her day off. Always with a smile on her face she helps us with the initial part of intake when she accompanies us to clinic.
- Our hotel manager, Cyntia, in San Cristóbal has worked with us since our first stay providing outstanding service and reduced hotel fees for our group and guaranteeing rooms for us even during their high season. We’re also grateful that Cyntia is always ready with restaurant recommendations for us to enjoy on our day off.
- For three consecutive years our hotel receptionist Lino has volunteered to serve alongside us on his free day.
- Dr. David Zepeda M.D., medical director of the Esquipulas Clinic, which serves the indigenous people of Chiapas, volunteered his time and energy to help us place a large order of medicine through a local supplier. Dr. Zepeda received, stored, and transferred the order to our driver prior to arrival.
- Raúl, a young visiting seminarian, volunteered with us for the first time this year and spent two days working with us in clinic.
- Then, of course, there are the many others who directly support us while in Chiapas. These priests, nuns, and townspeople are directly involved with the coordination of clinics in our various sites. This time around we were even blessed with the help of a young lady, only 14 years old, who served as a bilingual (Tzotzil-Spanish) interpreter! She did a great job helping with intake alongside Raul.
Each one of the over 35 workers and volunteers in Chiapas has indeed become like family to MDP. They welcome us with hugs and smiles; they express their thankfulness profusely and always ask us to come back – to not forget them and their people. As I look back on our days in Chiapas with profound gratitude, I can see the hand of God gathering each of us volunteers and workers to be His instruments. He leads us hand-in-hand along the way to serve. It’s a beautiful path!