Skan: Local women travel to El Salvador

Five years ago, Dr. Barb Connor of Skaneateles, a medical doctor for 23 years, traveled to El Salvador for the first time to provide health services to people in need. She learned of the need from Bonnie Adams of Otisco, nursing coordinator for the migrant clinic in the Central American country. Two years ago Claire Howard of Skaneateles, a psychiatric nurse practitioner, joined them.

The three women spoke of their mission to El Salvador at a meeting of the Skaneateles Branch of American Association of University Women March 26 at The Athenaeum of Skaneateles.

"What we share," Adams said, "is a strong passion for mission and the people in El Salvador. We went there to let them know we care -- presence is most important -- and then to share our resources."

The annual mission, which is an exchange between Episcopal dioceses here and in El Salvador, began in 2003. Eight people went to five villages in five days. In January 2005, 2006, 2007 and 2008 the number grew, this year to 39 volunteers, who provide medical, vision, dental and more recently psychological care.

"We have developed a mutual love with the people who live there. Why these people?" Adams asked, answering: "Two percent are in the upper class; 8 % middle class; the rest live in poverty."

This year, Connor was accompanied by her 17-year-old son, Adam, a senior at Skaneateles High School. She described the experience, conditions and accomplishments:

"We all live and work together for that week. We go to many villages. The Bishop there advises us as to the most in need," Connor began "There are soldiers everywhere in El Salvador. Many people walk miles to see us. There are much less intestinal parasites from unsanitary water since we have been seeing them. There is an improvement in dental health. There is a lot of tooth decay in children as they suck on sugar cane. We give vitamins, birth control. HIV testing. There are many skin diseases but little diabetes and hypertension because people walk everywhere.

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