Trip to Guatemalan orphanage open to volunteers


An Avoyelles Parish group will travel to a Guatemalan orphanage in November to try to make life a little better for the children in that facility.
Those wishing to accompany Dr. Donald Hines and Stacey Reed Laborde, both of Bunkie, can take advantage of low airfare if they sign up before Aug. 18, Hines said.
Hines and Laborde spoke to the Bunkie Rotary Club this past Wednesday about the work being done at Casa Aleluya in Guatemala and the orphanage’s needs. The orphanage is located about 20 miles northwest of Guatemala City.
  They said the airline is offering a group discount that would enable a person to get a round trip ticket. food and lodging at Casa Aleluya and passports for about $1,000.
Seats on the plane can be reserved with a $100 deposit.
“At Casa Aleluya, a person can volunteer with work, help in wrapping Christmas presents, painting, or just comforting a child,” Hines said. 
The group will also take a day trip excursion to visit the city of Antigua.  
The orphanage is run by former Bunkie residents Mike and Dottie Clark. They have operated Casa Aleluya for over 20 years.
Hines has been involved in providing medical care through a telemedicine system, as well as providing medical equipment for the orphanage. 
For the past three years, Bunkie churches, civic clubs and agencies have joined with others across the country to raise over $200,000  to purchase medical equipment, supplies and training for the orphanage.
More than 400 children currently live at the orphanage. Many are in need of medical care, Hines said.
One heart-rending case is that of a young girl who had been locked in a closet because she had birth defects --  a club foot and a cleft palate.
The staff named her Oneysi, because they were not allowed to know her real name due to a Guatemalan court order. Her father is now in prison in Guatemala.
“This child was not wanted by her parents because of her medical condition and the court sent her to the orphanage,” Hines said. “We started looking for solutions to get her the proper medical attention and our prayers were answered.”
With Hines’ help, another U.S. doctor plans to go the Guatemala City to perform surgery to repair the cleft palate.
Lauren O’Brien Harris, a Bunkie High graduate and a physician’s assistant at a Shriners Hospital, has made arrangements for Oneysi to have her club foot repaired in Shreveport after the surgery to repair the cleft palate.
The two surgeries to correct the birth defects will allow Oneysi to live a normal life.
“I gained so much by going to Guatemala and seeing the children,” Laborde said. “It touched me in a way that I want to go back and help some more.”
Laborde and Monica Armand of Hessmer accompanied Hines this past spring to train personnel in the use of the recently donated X-ray machine.
With the machine,  doctors can read the X-rays without having to go to a Guatemalan city hospital.
Laborde said one of the first X-rays taken was of a boy who broke his collar bone while playing soccer.
With past donations, a telemedicine laptop and computer programs are used by doctors in the United States to examine children in the orphanage. 
Doctors in Lafayette  work with the children on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. 
A Guatemalan pediatrician sees the children on  Saturdays.
  Before the pediatrician was found, Hines was performing a complete examination on a sick child from his Bunkie office through the telemedicine system.
“Telemedicine has been a tremendous help to the children at Casa Aleluya,” Hines said. “When a child would get sick and needed care beyond that of the mission nurses, it would  mean an all day or all night ordeal to get medical care. Telemedicine has greatly reduced the need for those lengthy trips to town.”
Since the project began, the clinic has been equipped with a hematology machine, a blood chemistry analyzer and a new dental X-ray machine donated by retired Bunkie dentist Dr. Oliver LaPrairie. 
Laborde said she reorganized the orphanage’s  pharmacy to enable medicines to be found quicker. Medicines are labeled in Spanish and English.
Donations from local  churches, service clubs and individuals have also been used to upgrade the pharmacy.
“Anyone wanting to see Casa Aleluya in person, this trip would be worth their time,” Hines said. “There is never a child without a smile.” 
Those wishing to participate in the Guatemala trip can contact Hines at 346-7500 or Laborde at 346-4784.
Mike Clark will conduct a non-denominational discussion of Casa Aleluya at First Baptist Church-Bunkie at 6 p.m. on Sept. 13.