It is the season to think big for a good cause

With reporting by Chris La Pelusa

Toys for her grandchildren – Check.
Presents for her children – Check.
An autoclave for Guatemala – …?

Okay, that last one isn’t really on Rose Cimarusti’s Christmas list (and it’s a little harder to check off than a scarf for a friend), but this N.33 resident is trying to raise $3,500 in donations this holiday season, nonetheless, to afford Big Bertha, a Field Sterilizer, or autoclave, to aid in Refuge International’s help to impoverished Guatemalans.

After returning from her third medical mission to San Raymundo, Guatemala, with Refuge International, Neighborhood 33 Rose Cimarusti undertook the goal of raising $3,500 to purchase a field sterilizer for medical operations for Guatemalan residents. (Photo by Chris LaPelusa/Sun Day)

After returning from her third medical mission to San Raymundo, Guatemala, with Refuge International, Neighborhood 33 Rose Cimarusti undertook the goal of raising $3,500 to purchase a field sterilizer for medical operations for Guatemalan residents. (Photo by Chris LaPelusa/Sun Day)

“They [Refuge International (RI), a nondenominational organization located in Texas] give medical help to the Guatemalans,” said Rose. “It’s like a MASH unit. They [the Guatemalans] have nothing, and this facility was built maybe 9-10 years ago. It’s all paid for by donations.”

Twice yearly, in the last full week of February and October, and this year adding a third trip in August, volunteers from Refuge International, like Rose, donate their time and services to three villages. Rose’s first trip was in February of 2010, and she was motivated by the need of the people to return again this year.

“The Guatemalans know when we’re coming, where we’re coming, and what type of doctors will be there. This past time I went in February, we had an ob-gyn who did surgeries, we had two general surgeons…. This past time we did 44 surgeries in a week, and there were three doctors in the room,” related Rose, who, despite not having had a career in the medical field, assisted in pharmacy, surgery, and drew blood. The doctors usually consist of retired physicians who maintain their licenses.

“What we’re tying to do is raise money for a sterilizer …. It’s called Big Bertha … and you can use it in the field…. It is self-contained. Right now they [the two sterilizers within the country that RI can use] are all rehabbed. The reason they [RI} want that type [Big Bertha, a Field Sterilizer] is that it can hold a larger quantity and dimension of supplies. It is run by propane and [uses] regular water, so you don’t need power, which is helpful when you’re out in the jungle without electricity,” explained Rose.

Guatemalan residents wait for medical aid and operations at Refuge International compound. (Photo provided)

Guatemalan residents wait for medical aid and operations at Refuge International compound. (Photo provided)

The people in Guatemala come from meager settings—plain cinderblock homes Rose says might be half the size of her kitchen that have tin roofs and no heating. Their medical supplies are antiquated discards from the United States, and the only other sterilizers in the region are akin to a pressure cooker and are not available in all the villages.

“Either we’re there, or they get nothing,” says Rose. “It wasn’t a culture shock, it was a shame to see this.”

Rose says it is the difference RI makes on the people and their lives that keeps her returning and has motivated her to personally undertake the task of raising money for the autoclave.

Rose describes Guatemalan homes no bigger than her kitchen and made from cinder block and tin roofs. (Photo provided)

Rose describes Guatemalan homes no bigger than her kitchen and made from cinder block and tin roofs. (Photo provided)

“The people are very, very much appreciative …” says Rose. “[It’s] Just a wonderful feeling of giving back. You don’t want anything in return. It’s a feeling inside.”

RI is limited in the amount of fundraising it can do itself, so Rose and her son have undertaken the feat of raising the money themselves through the organization.

“When you’re a parent, a mother, and your whole life has been taking care of your kids, and then you retire and your husband passes away, and then you say to yourself, ‘Why am I here? What good can I do? How could I challenge myself?’ I thought this was a good challenge,” Rose says in summation of her involvement with RI.

“We’re not a fancy organization. We have whatever bus they give you. You bring your own luggage, pay for your own thing, and live in nothing much.” But the amount of help and care they can supply in just one week with the appropriate staff and supplies makes a massive, lasting difference to the village and its citizens.

If you would like to share in Rose’s joy this year of giving the gift of safe and sterile medical care to the needy people of Guatemala, you may make a donation on the Refuge International website, www.refugeinternational.com . Look for “Ways to Help” in the menu at the top of the page, and the donation can be made under the title “Help us Purchase ‘Big Bertha’ Autoclaves.” Donations may also be accepted by phone or mail.

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