Last month, two regional leaders from Providence St. Joseph Health (PSJH) in Southern California spent eight days in Guatemala, working on projects that aim to bring clean water and restrooms to impoverished villages. 

PSJH has partnered with Medical Teams International on a maternal and child health care program in 12 communities throughout the central highlands of Guatemala. Their goal is to reduce the leading causes of death for children under the age of two — respiratory illness, diarrhea, and malnutrition. The women often lead these communities, as many men leave their homes to find work. 

For over a week, the team worked closely with villagers to build 27 latrines and to educate mothers on hygiene, lessons the women will be sharing with neighbors to help reduce preventable diseases. 

Erik Wexler, chief executive of PSJH in Southern California, said he began the journey with some anxiety, wondering how the group would be accepted by villagers. But he left with a commitment to return. “I got far more from this experience than I gave,” he said. “I have a deep desire to give back because of all that I have. This will be a life work for me. I can’t just do this for a week or two weeks. There’s no doubt the depth of this experience led me to feel a life’s commitment to helping further.”

P.K. Khurana, the region’s chief strategy officer, also made the trip. “It’s really eye opening. Every night we would reflect on our experiences, and inevitably everyone recognized that in the U.S. we live in abundance and have so much to share that we often take for granted the resources at our fingertips. I have a renewed sense of our responsibility to care for the poor and vulnerable.”


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