Our first clinic – Peronia, Guatemala.
Peronia is a deeply impoverished community of more than 85,000 people. It is located just outside of Guatemala City. Although it is the third most densely populated city in Central America, fifty-one percent (51%) of its population is younger than 20 years old, and seventy-six percent (76%) is younger than 35. Before Open Wide, there were no trained dentist in Peronia.
History of Peronia, Guatemala
The history of Peronia is as compelling as the story of the community involvement in building and supporting the Open Wide Foundation clinic. It’s a story that, sadly, repeats itself throughout the world; a story of war, survival and struggle for a better life. In 1960 the country was plunged into a 36 year civil war. An estimated 50,000 leftists and political opponents were targeted during the 1970s.
The indigenous Mayan Indians were singled out for special brutality and by the end of the war, 200,000 citizens were dead, leaving a wake of displaced people.
In 1996, at the end of the civil unrest, these displaced and broken families began to re-build. Peronia started as a camp of refugees and quickly grew to a city of over 85,000 inhabitants. As with any impoverished area with fewer resources than needs, struggles were around every turn. Eventually, a modicum of infrastructure appeared and churches played a large role in enabling the community to progress.
Since the establishment of the Open Wide Clinic in Peronia, progress has quickened; the national and local governments are taking notice. In September of 2012, the First Lady of Guatemala paid her first visit to Peronia in order to tour the clinic.
Several other projects that serve the needs of the people are in the works. One example is a career training institute is planned on the same property where the Open Wide Clinic is located and is currently under construction. Other initiatives include a new preschool, a literacy program for youth, a respite house for the infirm and elderly. The bank BANRURAL and a local fast food chain Pollo Campero have now opened in Peronia. Last year the ribbon was cut on a community park with an area for sports and youth activities.
All of this is a testament to the power of hope rekindled in a community.