IWU Nursing Spring 2014: Volume 7 Issue 1 - Page 12

New Life in Los Chilitos written by Tiffani Schmitz, MSM, RN Los Chilitos isn’t on the map. Most people who live in Guatemala have never heard of this village. Certainly few from the United States have heard of it. There is nothing special about this village. It isn’t home to anyone famous, any remarkable inventions, or any historical events. It is desolate, desperate, and dirty. If this village is so unremarkable, how has it captured the hearts of those from New Life Chapel in West Chester, Ohio? In January 2013, IWU SON alumna Tiffani Schmitz, MSM, RN traveled to Los Chilitos with her husband, Neil. They were to survey the needs of the village and develop a project plan, partnering with Hunger Relief International, for New Life Chapel’s summer mission trip. What they encountered was unexpected and life-changing. The community of Los Chilitos is located in the arid region of Cuilapa, Santa Rosa, Guatemala. It is 45 miles from Guatemala City, off a largely unpaved mountain road. There are 160 households in the community with a total population of 893. Nearly all residents live in extreme poverty with inadequate food and water. While the Schmitzes were visiting the village, they met the Cortez family. Señor The author met the Cortez family in Los Chilitos, Guatemala. Photo by Tiffani Schmitz. Cortez is the father of five children. He worked for a plantation as a crop harvester. This work is done by hand with a machete. On a good day, he might earn $1 to $2 dollars per day. This was barely enough to get by, but he and his wife made it work—until the accident. In most homes in Los Chilitos, the family stove is an open campfire in the kitchen. Cortez suffered a life-altering spinal cord injury while chopping down a tree limb for firewood. This injury left him a paraplegic and the family lost its only source of income. When the Schmitzes met him, Cortez informed them that his children had nothing to eat but leaves from the trees. 12 School of Nursing SPRING 2014 The weight of the revelation shared by Cortez was overwhelming. Tiffani remembered Matthew 25:40, “Whatever you did for one of the least of these, you did for me,” and Proverbs 21:13, “If a man shuts his ears to the cry of the poor, he too will cry out and not be answered.” Taking these scriptures to heart, she developed a plan for a return trip that summer. In July 2013, 42 people from New Life Chapel went to Los Chilitos to serve the community in loving, practical ways. When the church team arrived, the villagers were skeptical. They had seldom seen blonde hair or blue eyes or heard English spoken. They didn’t know what to make of the tall, muscular football players from the Midwest exiting the buses. But smiles, soccer balls, and good old-fashioned manual labor quickly broke cultural barriers. One of New Life’s projects was a nurse-led clinic. The team of four nurses and four ancillary healthcare workers wa