Brother Pedro's Spirit Alive Among Poor of Antigua Guatemala

Social Works Assist the Country’s Marginalized Peoples

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GUATEMALA CITY, JULY 31, 2002 ( Following the example of newly canonized Brother Pedro of San José de Betancur, Franciscan religious shelter over 500 people, the poorest of the poor, in Antigua Guatemala.

The Franciscans assist people who have been abandoned because of physical or mental handicaps, including chronically malnourished children with cerebral paralysis, young people and adults with psychological problems, and elderly and blind people who are ignored by both private and public institutions.

In 1980, the year John Paul II beatified Brother Pedro, Franciscan Guillermo Bonilla began Brother Pedro’s Social Works in what was once St. Peter’s Hospital, a colonial building remodeled in the 19th century. The building had been ceded to him for 40 years, said Sister Teresa de Jesús Solis, the assistant director of the facility.

Today Brother Pedro’s Social Works offer a Nutritional Recovery Center for children with serious malnutrition; a home for children, youth and young women with cerebral paralysis; a home for adults with serious impediments, including the blind and invalid elderly; and a day-care center for children of single or working mothers.

The Franciscans also have a hospital complete with operating rooms and clinical laboratories. In addition, there is a special school for children with serious difficulties; a shop with new and second-hand clothing, and temporary housing for relatives of patients recovering from surgery.

According to a report of Brother Pedro’s Works, over 46,000 patients were treated in 1999.

Their care entailed a variety of fields, including surgery, orthopedics, physiotherapy, geriatrics, gynecology, neurology, pediatrics, psychology, psychiatry and ophthalmology. Services — all funded through donations — include electroencephalograms, electrocardiograms, X-rays, clinical laboratories, pharmacy, attention to patients’ relatives, and speech therapy.

Doctors from various parts of the world offer their services free to the Social Works. They include Americans, Canadians, Spaniards, Frenchmen and Guatemalans, Sister Solis explained.<br>
Members of Students International, a group of volunteers, cooperate in the care of malnourished children.

Typical among the malnourished children who seek help is Sergio. At 3 months of age he arrived from a village of Coban with a chronic pulmonary ailment, explained pediatrician Sandra Ajcajabon.

Sergio’s family is very poor and cannot visit him often, let alone look after him, Sister Solis explained. With treatment he has gradually improved, regaining his strength.

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