Cinderella Story Unfolding for “the Clinic in the dump”


Pictured: Manna Project International staff members  Christina, Kate, and Javier on the clinic building site
Fundraising to build a new facility for the former Clinica Base de Salud, which was located inside Managua’s city garbage dump, and served the residents in the dump, has been going very well.  The clinic has been renamed Villa Guadalupe Clinic after the newly constructed community it serves just outside the dump turned landfill.  Manna Project International, which supports the clinic, has purchased the land.  Manna Project and Dr. John Doty took on the challenge to raise funding for the clinic’s construction. 

The fundraising  goal is close to being reached, and it appears that it will be possible for the groundbreaking to take place sometime this year.  According to Lori Scharffenberg, Executive Director of Manna Project, “the momentum for the clinic has really taken off …, and we are all really excited to finally start seeing everything begin to take shape.”

Clinica Casa Base de Salud had to move suddenly in early 2013, when the dump was transformed into a landfill.  All of the former residents of La Chureca, the community living inside the dump, were relocated to the new community of Villa Virgen de Guadalupe (Virgin of Guadalupe Village) just outside the old dump.  The clinic has been operating out of tiny quarters in this new community.   To make matters even more challenging, the clinic is serving a population three times as large, because other groups were also relocated here.  It is apparent a new facility, adequate for the increased demand, is needed.

The Waiting Rm_Casa Base de Salud

Many patients, little room.

We are happy to report that each day is bringing the clinic closer to its “Cinderella” transformation.  The clinic hopes to break ground later this year.  Read more about the clinic.

January is Cervical Cancer Awareness Month!

Cervical cancer is the leading cause of death in Nicaraguan women who are between the ages of 30 and 60 years.  It is SO preventable and treatable if detected early!  But, in Nicaragua, so many women lack the information and financial resources to access prevention.
Austin Samaritans is helping address this situation.  Dr. John Doty, our Founder, was instrumental in initiating a program to screen and treat women in Nicaragua for cervical cancer.  In 2009 Dr. Doty worked with one of Austin Samaritans’ mission alliances, Fundacion Ortiz Gurdion, or FOG, to add the cervical cancer program to their existing breast cancer program for women whose annual income is less than $2,000 a year.  Read more here.

From left: Dr. Ortega, Gynocological Surgeon; Patricia Ortiz, Founder of Ortiz Gurdion Cancer Clinic; and Dr. John Doty.


Innovative Program Teams Doctors From Austin & Managua


Enrique can walk with more ease now.

He always had great difficulty walking. That was until Dr. J. Brannan Smoot, an Austin orthopedist, traveled to Nicaragua with an Austin Samaritans healthcare team to perform the reconstructive surgery that helped Enrique gain his balance.

Enrique, 18, has cerebral palsy, a neuromuscular disorder, which affected the tendons in his ankle and foot. Dr. Smoot, working side-by-side with his Nicaraguan colleagues, performed the surgery which transferred a tendon, fused two toes, and rebalanced Enrique’s ankle.

Dr. Smoot is part of an innovative healthcare program which teams medical and dental professionals from Austin and their counterparts in Managua, the capital of Nicaragua, to deliver medical services to those in need.

“Our program is based on a different model than the type many organizations use to deliver medical services in developing countries,” said Dr. Smoot. “Rather than sending doctors into another country to provide services independent of the medical professionals there, we collaborate with the doctors and nurses in Nicaragua.

“We learn from each other.  We learn about the challenges they face so we can teach techniques to them.”

The collaborative healthcare program is one of the initiatives of Austin Samaritans, an Austin non-profit, that supports established missions that deliver services to people in Nicaragua in the areas of health, education, and social well-being.

“Nicaragua is the second poorest country in the Western Hemisphere with 76% of the population living on less than $2 US per day ,” said Dr. John Doty, Founder of Austin Samaritans. “Nicaraguans face immense challenges.”

According to the World Health Organization, the Nicaraguan government spends only $254 per capita per year for health care. That compares to health expenditures in the US of $7,960 per capita per year.

As a result, many Nicaraguans suffer from untreated or inadequately treated disease or early death.

After seeing the desperate poverty and needs in Nicaragua when they made a mission trip there, a group of Austin citizens dedicated themselves to finding sustainable ways to make a difference. They started Austin Samaritans in 2007 to support effective, on-the-ground ministries, churches, and non-governmental organizations in Managua.

Austin Samaritans works directly with Nicaraguan health care providers to understand the culture, context, and constraints of medical and dental practice. Shared goals are identified and steps are taken to provide financial, material, and educational support.

“Austin Samaritans endeavors to make a difference by coordinating efforts and pooling resources for maximum impact,” said Dr. Doty, who closed his successful medical oncology practice to devote full time to the organization.

“We connect assets and talent at home to the needs abroad.”

An example of how Austin Samaritans connects assets and talents is the trip Dr. Smoot, Dr. Ted Held, Dr. John Harkins, and Dr. Brad Parker, all of Austin, made to Managua last April.

“Because of a lack of medical equipment in Managua,” said Dr. Smoot, “doctors have to make do with what’s available. The equipment we take for granted here may not be available there.”

Dr. Harkins agreed.

“We Americans don’t know how good we have it,” he said.  “The highest functioning hospital in Nicaragua may have three ventilators that help keep babies alive, but only two of the ventilators may work. Compare that with the main Seton Medical Center here in Austin that has 75 ventilators.

“In the US, a woman who has had a Caesarean section doesn’t particularly like to share a hospital room with another woman. In Nicaragua, there may be two post-surgical patients in a bed. And that bed is not in a room.  It’s in a hallway.”

Dr. Harkins, whose specialty is obstetrics and gynecology, said another critical difference between healthcare in the US and Nicaragua is the lack of good medical training for doctors.

“Medical education is at minimal levels,” said Dr. Harkins, who lectured on medical techniques in Nicaraguan hospitals. “When we return to Managua this fall, we hope to gain access to the medical school so that we can help train the next generation of doctors.”

In addition to the doctors returning to Nicaragua, others from Austin who have a heart to help those in need will participate in a mission trip which is conducted by Austin Samaritans each October and April. Volunteers making the trip, most of whom are not medical or dental professionals, will assist the organizations Austin Samaritans supports in meaningful ways.

Austin Samaritans assists efforts in three major areas:

  • Healthcare: supporting existing clinics in some of the poorest areas of Managua and connecting U.S. doctors, dentists, and other healthcare workers with their Nicaraguan counterparts for the purpose of sharing knowledge and expertise.
  • Education: supporting two schools, student sponsorship, and a tutoring program for elementary students.
  • Rescue: supporting programs that lift the most vulnerable members of society (malnourished children, young girls at risk of sexual exploitation, women desperate to leave the sex trade, and the homeless elderly) out of a cycle of sickness, poverty, and depravity.

One of the ways Austin Samaritans raises funds for its efforts is an annual golf tournament. This year’s tournament will be held Sept. 30 at the Forest Creek Golf Club in Round Rock. The shotgun start at 1:30 will be preceded by lunch.  After the tournament, there will be a post-game celebration and prizes.

To register for the golf tournament or be a sponsor of it, go to Registrations for players are due by Sept. 21 and sponsors signups are due by Aug. 30.

All donations to Austin Samaritans, including the golf tournament registration fee, are tax-deductible to the extent allowable by law.

For information about Austin Samaritans, including participation in the Oct. 19–26 mission trip, go to Mission trip registrations are due by Sept. 21.

Casa Base de Salud

I will be in touch by the end of the week, I’ll check in with our clinicians tomorrow to see if any new updates, but I definitely have a handful of stories in mind! I am including a link to a video a student group from Northeastern University created about one of our new ventures, a livelihoods project that is working out of the clinic to improve the economic independence of women through the creation of jewelry. This program is very linked to our health and nutrition programming in La Chureca as we work to support families holistically and address health, nutrition, livelihoods and education needs! The video is great because you’ll get to see some of the new community!