Glens Falls Medical Mission Foundation.




GLENS FALLS -- Twice a year since 1995, the volunteers of the Glens Falls Medical Mission have traveled to the same tiny Guatemalan village in the hopes of improving the public health of the people of Nueva Santa Rosa’s.

And after all this time, they feel like they’re making a real impact.

"We’re seeing a healthier population. People are taking better care of themselves," said seven-time mission volunteer Daureen Shoemaker. "They seem more aware. We do a lot of teaching while we’re there."

Like most tropical populations, the people of Nueva Santa Rosa are faced with the constant onslaught of digestive parasites, malnutrition and poverty.

"The No. 1 thing we ask for when people offer to help is children’s vitamins," said mission foundation President Dick Cipperly. "But it is improving. Last year, almost everyone had shoes for the first time."

Each April and October, about 45 volunteers from the Glens Falls area travel to the South American village for more than a week to staff a medical clinic. As many as 2,500 local people pass through the clinic when it opens.

"We leave people with six months worth of medicines, if it’s something they need every day," Cipperly said.

The mission annually spends between $30,000 and $40,000 on drugs and supplies. The annual fiesta fundraiser typically accounts for $12,000-$15,000 of that amount, leaving sponsors or the volunteers themselves to make up the difference.

"I’ll keep doing it for as long as I can afford to," said Shoemaker, a local cardiac nurse.

Shoemaker estimates it costs her about $1,200 to make the trip each fall.

While many of the volunteers have medical backgrounds, it’s not required to make the trip.

"All we need are people who have energy," Cipperly said. "We encourage people to bring their kids, too."

Anyone interested in partaking in an upcoming mission can apply at

Copyright 2011 The Post-Star. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Read more:


Fiesta fundraiser draws volunteering regulars

A sombrero adorned pinata decorates the Guatemala store at the Glens Falls Medical Mission's 6th Annual FUNdraiser Fiesta held at the Glens Falls Civic Center on Sunday, April 6, 2008.

To order copies of staff-produced photos from The Post-Star, please visit

GLENS FALLS -- People of all ages gathered at Glens Falls Civic Center's Heritage Hall on Sunday to discuss the addiction they shared.

Many were talking about drugs. Those drugs, however, are for treating illnesses like diabetes, and the addiction they share is volunteering.

The sixth annual Family FUNdraiser Fiesta, hosted by the Glens Falls Medical Mission Foundation, was a family event featuring food, activities and prizes to raise money to provide medical care and health-related education for poor families in Guatemala.

Ann Dys, a nurse practitioner, laughed as she watched her 5-year-old son, Matthew, play on a bouncy-bounce.

"I work at Adirondack Pediatrics, and the whole office gets involved," Dys said. "I bring my child to spend money here, and he has a good time doing it too."

The people of Nueva Santa Rosa, a small town in Guatemala, have been inspiring volunteers to visit since 1996. Typically, each mission now consists of 30 to 40 volunteers and includes medical personnel, translators and general helpers who call themselves ATVs -- all-terrain volunteers.

Hannah Munger, an 18-year-old Granville student and proud ATV, said she is highly addicted to volunteering in Guatemala because it is so rewarding.

"You're not going there for you; you're going there for other people, but it's so fun," she said.

Munger was selling authentic Guatemalan merchandise at the event.

Among the handcrafted items for sale were a variety of worry dolls, intended to prevent worries or to take them away, and a selection of colorful textiles woven with a signature design unique to each family.

Because she only speaks a little Spanish and isn't a medical professional, Nancy Sutherland said she was initially hesitant to volunteer, but after taking the trip, she was hooked.

"It's just so rewarding. The people are just so glad to see you and are so thankful that we come down there," Sutherland said. She added that she found her organizational skills made her a valuable addition to the team.

Sutherland is now the president of the Glens Falls Medical Mission's board.

Board member Janine Cantalupo said the 10-day trips the volunteers make to Guatemala twice a year have a huge educational component.

The medical personnel treat more than 3,000 people in just five days, provide medications and then educate the community about how to administer the drugs, as well as about nutrition, birth control and other health-related issues.

"What we do when we're there lasts the whole six months," Cantalupo said.

People travel a couple of hours to get to the clinic, said nurse Daureen Shoemaker.

Shoemaker said she treats a lot of cases of malnutrition and burns resulting from cooking over an open flame.

Shoemaker has worked in pediatrics in both the U.S. and Guatemala and said the Guatemalan community is more appreciative of the services provided.

"We see more appreciation than in the good ol' U.S. of A.," she said. "In the U.S., people expect things."

Illnesses resulting from a contaminated water supply are another common, preventable problem that they often treat at the clinic, she said.

The World Health Organization and Pure Water for the World have done studies to address the issue, said Kay Walter, president of the Glens Falls Rotary. These organizations have confirmed that a large percentage of illnesses are due to waterborne diseases, Walter said.

"Kids are only making it to school 25 percent of the time because they are so sick," she said.

The Rotary has partnered with the mission to raise awareness and the funds needed to bring clean drinking water to Guatemala through Water Walk 2008, to be held on May 10 in Crandall Park.

"The medical mission has so much credibility in this remote region, they've paved the way," Walter said.

The progress in the health of the community that the mission has made over the years is clear, said Anne White, a nurse practitioner who has taken the trip to Guatemala each year for the past four years.

"It has made tremendous strides in becoming cleaner, cleaner and much more cleaner," White said.

More information about the Glens Falls Medical Mission Foundation can be found online at


Vol. 26, No. 1,109 - November 10-16, 2005

Report From Guatemala
Medical Mission first-hand

By: Whit and Joyce Butterfield

Hola de NUEVA SANTA ROSA, Guatemala our home for the next eight days and the site of the Glens Falls Medical Mission Foundation’s PROJECT GUATEMALA.  Joyce and Whit are with a group of 45 volunteer medical providers and support personal who will provide over 3,000 services during this last week of October. This is the 16th mission for our group to the region. Thanks to the insight of the founders of the mission: Dr Richard Leach, Dr. William Tedesco, Dr. Patricia Hale, Dr. Loren Baim, Dr. Richard Saunders, Mr. John Fitzgerald Esq., Vitty Marcinkevicius and the sponsoring Lions Club in the small town of Cuilapa, the mission is in its tenth year, providing medical care to many people of this rural mountainous state nearly two hours from Guatemala City.

Map of Guatemala City and Location of Nueva Santa Rosa.
Map of Guatemala and Location of Nueva Santa Rosa

This is when we find out if the planning over the past year by the mission board and the fund raising activities carried out by the Friends of the Mission were adequate. We know that this mission will be different than all others, as plans are being made to split our group and send a small contingent to the beach town of Hawaii, Guatemala. This group will join aid workers to bring needed medical help to victims of Hurricane Stan.

Friday October 21. After a long day of travel we all arrived at the airport in Guatemala City and started looking for others wearing the easily identifiable mission shirts and the funky hat.  When all 45 were rounded up we loaded a retired school bus with luggage. Our mission team would follow in a bus followed a truck filled with our Army guards to the small hotel on the Pan Am Highway (a narrow two lane road that passes through many Central American Countries).  Our drive from Guatemala City was a good way to get reacquainted with the country. We saw a great deal of damage from Hurricane Stan, which ravaged the area three weeks ago.  We’re reminded of the poverty, hard living conditions, outdoor cooking, smells of wood stoves, children in dirt yards, women walking the roads with heavy bundles of wood on their heads and backs, men walking along carrying their machetes to cut crops in the fields.

After finding our hotel rooms we leave for a short drive to the village of Cuilapa where we will visit the only hospital in the area.  We were not looking forward to this trip as our memories of last years similar visit were still with us. Then we left the hospital crying over the sad condition of the health facility. This year most of us left with smiles.  I guess this is relative, since several on their first mission couldn’t understand our happiness. Even though “Property of the Glens Falls Hospital” was still stenciled on furniture and medical equipment identifying the source of the discarded articles, we were encouraged that improvements had taken place.   There was not the smell of sickness, dirty diapers, and medical waste in the crowded rooms and patient wards. We did not see the fear of mothers as they held their very sick infant.  There was not that look from patients, who last year seemed to believe that we would be the ones to bring them help. The stuffed animals given to all the children were really appreciated. All patients enjoyed the magic of seeing their pictures in the playback mode of our digital cameras. We believe this difference is in large part due to a new hospital administration, and the commitment of President Berger to improve health care in his country. Our annual hospital visit still helps us realize why we are here and what is ahead for us in our clinics.  Back on the school bus and off to our “home” and a good meal. Into bed by 9:30, 5:45 breakfast comes soon!

Linda LaBlanc applying fluoride to a young patient.
Linda LaBlanc applying fluoride to a young patient.

Saturday October 22.  After a good breakfast we load the bus for our 45-minute trip through small villages, winding mountainous roads, past steamy volcanoes to our missions site in Nueva Santa Rosa.  As our bus and the ever-present army guards approaches the Cathedral in the center of the town we see adults waving and children running after the bus. Once inside the wall that circles the cathedral and grounds we are met by 15 to 20 Guatemalan people who will help us set up and supply the clinics, a very large pharmacy and other service areas. All clinics are set up by 1:00 and all mission members came to the pharmacy area to count and package medications under the direction of Mary Sutphen our pharmacist and Joyce who is in charge of an area where meds will be counted and prepared for the next week. Thanks to all the help the pharmacy was ready for tomorrow and the days ahead.  We left Nueva Santa Rosa at 6:00. After a good dinner there was a meeting for Joan Noble and Joy Willmen to discuss details for filling out forms and Whit explained how translators would be assigned.

Sunday October 23.  Today we arrived at the Cathedral for a ceremonial Blessing of the mission members. Padre Jose Solares also blessed each clinic. He is known for using plenty of water in this ceremony.  Some of us did have wet shirts!

By 8:30 all seven clinics were ready for Glenda, our Guatemalan employee and great asset to the mission, to open the huge steel doors to bring in the first 20 patients.  With the help of several local people we had enough translators for today! So we were off to a good start.  Registration began and patients were sent off to our Triage Leader Nancy West and her team of Joan Scott, Wendy Miller and Denise Fried where vitals and histories were taken and off to the proper clinic for treatment.  The newly initiated colored stickers on forms seem to be working!

Monday October 24.  Joyce spends her days in the pharmacy using one pill counting machine and directing several helpers who write labels and fill envelopes with the dispensed pills.  Whit runs the other machine when two are needed. So far we are staying nicely ahead of demand!  Whit also directs the cadre of GFMMF translators and those from Guatemala. While we seem to have many there are never enough.  Miguel Cortes is our senior translator and used primarily by Dick Cipperly, our team leader and president of the Mission’s Board, to help with official business i.e. talking to Guatemala officials and other local people who seem to constantly visit the clinic.  I am seeing how useful our Guatemalan Lion’s Club volunteers are with crowd control or taking a volunteer shopping for items we must buy locally. They also assist Jim Clark and Linda LaBlanc, Glens Falls Lions, in the eye clinic.

The dental clinic is always an exciting place to visit.  Today a husband and wife dental team from Guatemala City joins Drs. Ed Kampf and Alan Rosell and Mary Cloke their assistant.  It a fast moving group who do mainly extractions, for some U. S. dentists we are told they do more extractions in one week than they would normally do in many years!

Tuesday October 25.  Today I saw Dr. John Dier, a native of Glens Falls now practicing in Cooperstown, taking a history from an elderly man dressed in colorful regional clothing.  I noticed he was wearing high dirty rubber boots.  Latter I asked John about that patient and was told he was 83years old and had walked several hours to our clinic much of the way through wet streambed.  He said that route was much shorter than following the road.  These stories of people coming from long distances with large families to see the American medical people constantly humble me.  Quite often we are able to pay for a “taxi ride” to get people home.  Usually the price is equitant to a dollar or so. Yes money we donate really gets to the people who need it most.  It is not unusual for many of us to buy shoes at a local store for young barefoot children.  One of our team leaders, Dave McCarthy, has been nicknamed Saint Thom McCann for all the donations of shoes he makes to children!!

Dr. Nelson Miller, his wife Joanne and daughter Karaline were working in the Women’s Clinic when I noticed Karaline is doing much of the translating for her parents while at the next station Ann White’s translator is her daughter Wendi.  The third member of this team is Dr. Sitara Choudhury and Karen a nine month pregnant Guatemalan who has translated for several missions.  We thought her assignment was proper.  I also think she might have hoped Nelson could deliver her baby! 

Dr. Miller spoke of diagnosing a serious condition of a seventeen-year-old girl if left untreated would be fatal.  We were able to refer her to a surgical center where her needs will be met.

Wednesday October 26.  We are frustrated that our huge container caring medical equipment to be given to permanent area clinics and supplies we need shipped in late August 2005 is still held up in port.  We are told it is there with hundreds of other containers because dockworkers are dealing with situations caused by the hurricane.  Knowing of this possibility and the special medicines needed at the coast Mary Sutphen purchased the additional meds in the Glens Falls area that we carried with us. 

Our satellite group consisting of Dr. Paul Bachman, his daughter Sarah the interpreter, Dr. Marty Fried and his wife Denise a nurse and all-purpose volunteer Nancy Sutherland spent three days in the storm ravaged coastal town of Hawaii.  Some patients were brought to that clinic with injuries, but most were suffering from infections resulting from a compromised village water and sewer system.  The group traveled two hours each way by four-wheel drive vehicle escorted by military crossing washed out mountain roads, through river beds and finally to a primitive car ferry for a 20 minute trip through a canal.  One day the ferry ran a ground and fouled the outboard engine.  After getting off the mud shoal the ferry drifted while the “10 year old captain” and the military cleaned the propeller and got the vessel going.  We had another satellite group, consisting of Dr. Teresa Chang, a Guatemalan doctor and all purpose volunteer Lee Nagel, sent for a day to a remote mountainous area about 20 miles and one hour from the main clinic.  When the group arrived they saw about 400 Mayan people, twice as many as expected or could be seen.  This just reminds me how necessary our work is in this part of Santa Rosa Department.  While many patients come to us from further away this particular group do not ever leave their village so services must be brought to them.

I have enjoyed my work with the translators. Each day we have at least two Mormon Elders who are on their 24-month church mission.  They live in small communities around the clinic area, teaching children and doing community service.  They were wonderful to work with and how they stood out wearing bright white shirts and neckties.  Two or three women from the British Embassy joined us as translators for several days.  The several bilingual people from Guatemala City rounded out this very important group who joined Anna Miller, Evelyn Padilla, Anastasias Siplin and Wendi White, our mission translators.

Thursday October 27.  Today Joyce was, for the moment, caught up in the pharmacy and able to spend some time working in the Woman’s clinic.  She did some routine lab tests and record filling.  Maybe more time there another year.

Whit, Sally Hoy, Dick Cipperly, Dave the cobbler, and Miguel got away for a short visit to the Padre’s school.  Dick’s purpose was to see improvements made from last year and present a very generous check for use in the on-going building of the school from Glens Falls’ Christ Church Methodist.  As retired area educators Sally and I really enjoyed our visit, we can’t believe how much is done with so little in such crowded space.  Does anyone want to purchase and deliver a used school bus to the school?  This seems to be a real need and will be used to bring children beyond walking distance to school.

The work of all the volunteers is fast paced and demanding.  Dr. Angela Condy, Doreen Shoemaker and Janine Cantalupo in the pediatric clinic all handle mothers and children so well, very few tears even when shots are given.  Andy Sutphen a student from Ballston Spa is so eager to please in the pharmacy, where Betty Gilly-Nassivera directs us all and gets the work done. Nurse Practitioners Sandy Rexhouse and Laura Barelski are veterans to the mission, and plan to return to the next fall trip.

Tonight we were the guests of the governor of Santa Rosa at a “typical Guatemalan barbeque”.  This was a wonderful opportunity to thank our hosts, and many of the local people who help us so much.  The fellowship, food, singing, and dancing were a great way to say good-by, as tomorrow we pack up the clinics and head to Guatemala City.

Friday October 28.  As we pack up we all know that our time and resources were appreciated by hundreds of kind and loving people who need the services we bring.  We also know that this is the last time we will all be together as a group.  Tomorrow several people will be flying back to the states and their homes.  Some of us will say a few more days to visit other parts of this truly beautiful developing country.

Saturday October 29.  We are joining others for a day trip to Antigua, the ancient capitol that was quite recently uncovered beneath the rubble from a volcano.  The city’s architecture is unique its native people in bright colored dress are selling their crafts on the streets.  There are fine restaurants and plenty of entertainment.  Maybe this is why people from all over the world come as visitors or to find a retirement paradise!

Saturday, our final night was spent at a formal ball presented by the British and Commonwealth Association of Guatemala.  What an experience after coming out of the environment we lived in all week.  Many Consulates were represented as well as prominent international businessmen.  Thirty-five Glens Falls Mission members, the largest group present, had a great time.  The British Ambassador introduced us. Dick Cipperly made us proud as he addressed the group and thanked the British Embassy for the help they continue to give our cause.

We left on Sunday with about thirty of our group.  Most of who arrived home Sunday night.  We were among nine who missed our last flight and spent a night in Atlanta.  Actually we made the gate on time after being held up in the re-entering the country process only to find that our Delta flight had left the airport fifteen minutes early!

Now that we are home and reflecting on our mission we are left with a wonderful feeling for our fellow mission participations.  So many of them gave up so much to be a part of this effort.  So many area individuals and businesses have given so much to our mission and continue to do so year after year.  We will always remember the care and understanding our medical providers give to such helpless people.  What a privilege to be part of the Glens Falls Medical Mission.

^Back to Top

Home |  

© 2015 Glens Falls Medical Mission Foundation. All rights reserved. Page design by North Country Web Designs.