BILWASKARMA THEN AND NOW
Something exciting is happening in this remote, disadvantaged corner of Nicaragua. As a result of an intensive ten-year program in community medicine, 10,000 Miskito Indians in ten villages surrounding the Bilwaskarma clinic have experienced a dramatic improvement in their health and wellbeing.
What is Bilwaskarma? It is one of the Miskito villages on the banks of the Rio Coco, the largest river in Central America, separating Nicaragua and Honduras on the East Coast.
(Bilwaskarma in Red, Managua in Green)
Here’s the story in a nutshell. Bilwaskarma was selected by Moravian mission DoctorDavid Thaeler to begin his medical work in 1935, establishing the Thaeler Memorial Hospital, for a long time the only source of surgical care in the region. Among the accomplishments of Dr. and Mrs. Thaeler R.N. was the establishment of Nicaragua’s first nursing school.
The Thaelers served into the ‘60’s, followed by Drs. John Gilliland and then Sam Marx.
Pete and Joan Haupert followed in their footsteps and carried on the work from ’68-’74.
Tragically the hospital got caught in the crossfire of the Contra War and was destroyed in the early ‘80’s.
From then until the mid-nineties it remained a silent ruin.
(A Remnant, with the Bilwaskarma Moravian Church in the Background)
In 1996, the people of Bilwaskarma issued a startling invitation to come see the new 12-room Clinic they had constructed, and help them re-establish it as a source of medical care. And that’s what happened. The Clinic program was staffed completely by local Nicaraguan professionals, and supported financially and guided by an international team. Something was missing though, and that’s where the Outreach Program comes in. Here was the problem. Although Bilwaskarma was the source of care for all who could get there over the previous seventy-five years, the situation in the villages was unaffected, and until 2000 the child mortality stayed fixed at a horrific 1:3 deaths before the age of 5. The Outreach Program was instituted in about 2000, and continues today to provide a comprehensive, intensive program of education, promotion, village leadership organization, and statistical analysis. Monthly, a team from the Clinic visits each of the 10 villages and helps the villagers carry out endeavors that they chose themselves as their “felt-need” priorities.
And guess what—it’s working, statistically documented, and dramatically. That tragic child mortality figure mentioned earlier had been relegated to history. For example, in 2010, the preventable infant mortality was zero for the entire 10-village population. So, the program is truly making a difference.
Bilwaskarma Kids – That’s What It Is All About!
updated November ’12