A little girl, about the age of five, wearing a red sweater tattered with rips and painted with dirt, has a tummy ache. Sadly, this tummy ache is a familiar routine for her. She has not eaten for two days and has a look of pain and grief dancing upon her youthful face. When approached by an unfamiliar woman, she objects at first but allows the woman to help her. The little girl is handed a few small, round, pink discs of Pepto-Bismol to chew. Within an hour, a smile shined through the soil prints on her face; a piece of fruit, a granola bar, and a few cups of fresh water were consumed; and she was playing like a normal five year old. This was all made possible because of 13 volunteers and the generous donations of a few NAMA members.
During the month of January, 13 individuals from all different backgrounds came together to make a difference in the lives of the coffee pickers and their children on the Santa Elena Estate in Costa Rica. Engineers, students, doctors, publishers, editors, friends, and now family, put their own lives on hold in the United States to volunteer to operate a mobile medical clinic for four days.
Medical Mission for Santa Elena
Children from all over the 750-acre farm came to have their health complications examined. Just a few shy faces showed up at first, but as the word got out, many more faces seemed to trickle in as the days went on. On the third day, the clinic saw 84 people, and by the end of the fourth day, a close to 200 people were examined.
Nurse practitioner Cindy Elliott, of Abundant Health Family Practice, was very patient and gentle with the children. Some cases were mild; stomach aches due to their eating habits or muscle strains from carrying heavy loads. However, some cases were more severe; a ruptured ear infection and even a possible appendicitis.
Do What You Do Best
The other 12 volunteers put into practice what they know best. Britta Dieffenbach, a high school senior in Pennsylvania, plans to go to college to be a physician’s assistant or work in the medical field. In fact, she spent a week with Cindy at her practice in Arizona getting some hands-on experience in the field. Britta played a key role in taking down patient information and keeping track of what medicines were distributed. Britta said that “I wanted to go on the medical mission trip because I wanted to see a different side of the medical field. I knew we werent going to be doing anything in a clinic, we were going to the patients instead of the patients coming to us. Also, I thought it would be a fun, new adventure.”
Britta’s mother, Sara Diffenbach, also took part in this medical mission. She and Kerri Goodman, owner of CoffeeTalk Media, captured and documented many photographs of the beautiful children and families on this farm and captivating their charm and personalities.
Patricia Dasher was Cindy’s “right hand woman” on this trip. Also from Arizona and good friends, Patricia was Cindy’s “voice.” She translated for Cindy and alleviated any of the language barriers there may have been between the families and Cindy. Patricia gave these families a familiar tongue of interaction, which may have eased the foreignness, making them more willing to be helped and examined.
Gail Fields and Tina Elliott helped gather the children to get a brief description of what problems the children had to prepare Cindy for further procedures. Not to mention, these two women always had the group laughing and in high spirits with their jokes and stories.
Jason Marsden, Executive Pastor at the Alive Church based in Tucson, Arizona, and son Andrew Marsden attended the trip. Jason, Andrew, and Blake Elliott, son of Cindy and Todd Elliot, kept many of the children occupied while they were waiting to be seen by the doctor. A soccer ball was brought and was kicked around between the volunteers and the children on the farm. The ball was left behind for the children to play with in the future.
Todd Elliot, NAMA’s 2013 Vending Operator of the Year, got the group of volunteers to where they needed to be. As simple of a task as that may seem to be, driving on the crazy roads of Costa Rica and in the mountains was not always nonchalant. Todd and Kelvin Dasher, a 15+ year locomotive engineer for Union Pacific Railroad, aided in the set up of equipment for the mobile clinic.
Think Before You Drink
Being my first time at coffee origin, I learned a lot about the culture, the coffee process, and more importantly, I learned much about myself. You do not realize what you have and how good you have it until you see others who are struggling. Many of these children, in these countries where coffee is grown, do not have a matching pair of shoes. They often go barefoot or sometimes just wear a single shoe on one foot. Clothing is shared amongst family members and toys are far and few between. Clean water is a luxury and often not within reach.
Luz Marina Trujillo, a third-generation Columbian Coffee Farmer and owner of the farm said, “there are so many hands that touch that coffee bean.”
You see, when you’re sitting on your porch drinking your morning cup of coffee, you need to think about where your coffee actually comes from. Without these individuals who pick the coffee and their families, your morning cup of coffee would not exist. Sustainability for coffee starts on the farm.
Trujillo continues, “Here at Santa Elena, we are a family. It is a circle that cannot be broken.” She tells the group of volunteers, that because of the work we did, we are all a part of the Santa Elena family.
Thank You Greatly
On behalf of the group of volunteers and the Santa Elena family, we would like to thank those who donated money for supplies and other various contributions. Because of you, the many lives that were touched on the four-day medical mission were made possible. Thank you to our donors, Jim Gordon, Kelvin Dasher, Paul Schindelar, John Walker, Rodney Nester, Charles Schleyer, Scott & Mariellen Ekstrom, Abundant Health Family Practice, Gourmet Coffee Service Inc, Thomas & Sandra Elliott, Todd Elliott, Follett, and Vistar – Patrick Hagerty.
Along with the soccer ball that was left behind, flashlights, t-shirts, additional medical supplies, a hope of a brighter future was also left behind. The individuals and their families, who interacted with us volunteers, unintentionally gave us a gift. They taught us to love fully and appreciate what we have. While we aided them with basic medical needs, something that to most Americans seems like a commodity, they gave us a gift that cannot be monetarily bought.
This group, along with others, plans to return next year and hopes to help many more individuals on the Santa Elena Estate. Stay tuned for more information on how you can help make a difference to those that make our java-jolts possible.