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Mending Kids Takes Muse on Mission

Glendale medical nonprofit Mending Kids took a team of surgical volunteers to Guatemala last month to provide free ear, nose and throat procedures to more than 100 local children. Accompanying them were 11 high school seniors from Muse School in Calabasas, a sustainability-focused educational franchise founded by Suzy Amis Cameron and her sister Rebecca Amis. “(These missions) shine a light on the work our medical teams do and in many instances turn (students) in the direction of exploring future studies in medicine and global health delivery,” Mending Kids Executive Director Isabelle Fox told the Business Journal. Also important, she added, is that “kids start talking about Central America … and learning Spanish and medical Spanish.” The crew of surgeons, anesthesiologists and recovery nurses, led by Namrata Varma, a pediatric otolaryngologist at Miller Children’s and Women’s Hospital in Long Beach, set up shop in Moore Pediatric Hospital in Guatemala City from Nov. 16 to Nov. 23, providing tracheotomies, tonsil removals, ear surgeries and sinus work. “(The procedures) aren’t necessarily life-changing, but kids miss school because they suffer from a series of infections,” Fox said. “We’re helping a bunch of kids get back to school.” Also a factor is the dearth of ENT care in Guatemala. There are just four ENT surgeons in the country and they work in private practice — not every child who needs aid is able to afford it. Fox said patients come from all over Guatemala to receive care from Mending Kids, including one child who has received four surgeries in four years from the nonprofit. This was the organization’s ninth annual ENT mission to Guatemala. Fox compared the Muse students’ roles on site to that of a production assistant on a film set. “They run around making sure that we have all the records of the (patients), they transcribe and document, they play with the kids before going into their procedures or clinics. We can’t undervalue that,” Fox said. “Most of the (students) work with our clean water outreach project, too. For patients who live in rural areas and don’t necessarily have access to clean water, we send them home with water filtration systems. The students are the ones that set up the water systems and show families how to use them. … They all end up feeling some sort of empowerment because they did something that helped children for the better.” This is the fourth consecutive year Muse students have joined Mending Kids on its annual ENT mission to Guatemala. Accompanying the student volunteers each year is Jeff Martin, humanities teacher and program coordinator for missions at Muse School. “These missions have changed my perspective on what it means to be an educator and how to connect with and value each individual student. The learning and growth that occurs on these trips transfer back to the classroom in confidence, stronger voices and community,” he said in a statement. Other schools in the Valley have taken notice and reached out to Mending Kids, hoping to add similar opportunities for social work in developing countries to their curriculums. De Toledo High School in West Hills, for example, went on its first joint mission with the nonprofit in early November, sending three students and a science teacher on a colorectal mission to Tanzania. Fox said Mending Kids is looking to open up more opportunities for student participation next year. “It could be that Muse students come with us on a mission that takes place over the summer outside of the school year,” Fox said. “The de Toledo teacher called me about sending more students in the summer. She wanted to send juniors … so they could write about it for their college applications.” In addition to its annual trips to Guatemala, Tanzania, Peru and Armenia, Mending Kids is exploring the possibility of adding a cardiac mission in Namibia and another to Costa Rica for its 2020 calendar.

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