By Celine Klosterman
Sixteen years ago, one Iowa doctor and one nurse took a single case of medicine to El Salvador to treat poor, rural patients with little access to medical care. Last month, the annual service trip initiated by that physician included about a dozen health-care professionals and 25 volunteers who took thousands of medicines, vitamins and eyeglasses and three portable dental units to the country.
Members of Sacred Heart Parish in Newton and Cedar Rapids residents organized the effort. They helped 1,325 Salvadorans receive basic medical, dental or optical care during the March 17-24 trip, coordinator Veronica Mangrich said. A Sacred Heart parishioner and a chemotherapy nurse, she recently made her 17th trip to the Central American nation.
Six doctors, four dentists and two dental students set up a makeshift clinic at a school to care for people living in villages outside Berlin, El Salvador. Other volunteers, nearly all of whom came from Iowa, assisted the physicians and dentists with small tasks, served as interpreters, helped check eyes for vision problems, managed crowds and played with children, Mangrich said.
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