Local team of fathers and sons headed to Guatemala to help build a hospital

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Main photo: The GEN2 team (front from left) Ben van der Staay, Brandon Rea, Justin Dellandrea, Caleb Chan, Daniel Bradbury, Robert Hill; (back from left) Mike Degazio, Michael Ankenmann, Stephen Hill, Dave Hiscox, Glen Nelson, Bill Coon, John Rea, Greg Stewart, Rob Alexander, Ray Chan, Ryan Rea, and John Van Gyssel. Absent from photo: Aaron Chapman, Cody Hiscox, Luke Alexander, Glenn Coon, Jeff Van Gyssel, and Jeremy Heyer

While Muskoka works through its options for future healthcare, particularly as it relates to the region’s two hospitals, a small village in Guatemala has a very different problem: it doesn’t have much of a hospital at all. But a team of local fathers and sons are helping to change that.

Nebaj is a municipality of about 53,000 people in the picturesque El Quiché region of Guatemala. Although the landscape is beautiful, Guatemala’s civil war in the 1970s and 1980s has had a lasting impact and many in the region are impoverished. A small clinic in Nebaj has been providing residents with medical care, but a permanent, full-service hospital is needed.

Local physician Dr. Greg Stewart and his wife Charlene, who have done previous work in Guatemala, led a team to Nebaj in 2017 to work on the hospital. Some of the young men Stewart once coached in basketball heard about the trip and said they’d like to be part of something like that, too.

“Greg starting thinking it over and thought, wouldn’t it be neat to put together a team of sons and dads to go work together on this hospital? He floated it by a few of the sons and a few of the dads and it kind of gained momentum from there,” said local pharmacist Bill Coon, one of the dads who will be joining the trip.

The team, which calls itself GEN2, will be heading to Nebaj in January 2019 for 10 days to work on the hospital. All are paying their own way there and will provide labour to continue building the hospital which is now about 25 per cent complete. Construction on the hospital is intermittent, however, relying on work teams like GEN2 to provide labour and funds for materials. Work on the hospital has currently stopped and the GEN2 team is the next team slated to be onsite, said Coon. It could be four or five years before it is finally complete.

Hospital in Nebaj Guatemala under construction in March 2018 (Screenshot from a video by alexistaylormusic / YouTube)

Hospital in Nebaj, Guatemala under construction in March 2018 (Screenshot from a video by alexistaylormusic / YouTube)

Hospital in Nebaj Guatemala under construction in March 2018 (Screenshot from a video by alexistaylormusic / YouTube)

Hospital in Nebaj, Guatemala under construction in March 2018 (Screenshot from a video by alexistaylormusic / YouTube)

The team recently held a fundraising BBQ and auction—Bucks for Blocks—to gather donations for materials.

“To the many businesses and individuals who supported us we want to say a sincere thank you. We will endeavor to represent you well in our international endeavor,” the team said in an announcement following their fundraiser. “The Ixil people were devastated during the guerrilla war and this project will be of life-saving benefit for generations to come.”

The team is still accepting donations at missionaryventures.ca/donate (specify “Bucks for Blocks” in the comments) if you’d like to support the project.

Learn more about the need for the hospital in this 2015 video:

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