Sarstún Medical Missions

Refuge International’s Medical Mission trips to Sarstún, Guatemala provide life-changing healthcare for the locals and life-changing experiences for volunteers.

Located on the river between Belize and Guatemala, Sarstún is an isolated community greatly in need of basic healthcare and education systems.

Their “road” is the river and the “highway” is the Gulf of Honduras; the nearest healthcare facility is a two-hour boat ride away in Puerto Barrios. The cost for the journey from Sarstún to Puerto Barrios is about $100 round-trip and is often too expensive for the local residents to afford.

Mission: Improved Education

When Refuge International first visited Sarstún, the school was a 10-year-old block building missing the solar panels that once provided lighting. With many holes in the ceiling, student’s desks had to be arranged to avoid the puddles created by frequent rainstorms. The teachers didn’t live in the area, so their attendance was sporadic and there were no school supplies, not even pencils. Parents had long ago stopped bothering to send their kids to school. After several meetings with the Ministry of Education and local municipality, Sarstún now has six full-time teachers and over 170 children enrolled in school. Refuge International uses donated funds to pay the salary for two teachers, and many donors and mission trip volunteers provide school supplies for the students.

Mission: Improved Health

Refuge International, in collaboration with Faith in Practice and many individual donors, constructed a medical clinic in Sarstún that is now open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year, and serves nearly 10,000 people annually. The medical facility, its staff, and medical mission trip volunteers have become a beacon of hope and well-being in a place where many people would not otherwise be able to access even basic healthcare.


Emergency Transport & Safer Childbirth

The Joseph family, residents of Longview, Texas, donated funds to purchase an ambulance boat or “ambulancha,” which transports patients to the clinic or to the larger hospital in Puerto Barrios, if necessary. As a result, the perinatal mortality rate in Sarstún has dropped to near zero, now that women with complicated births can more readily be transported for advanced care.

Lifesaving Antivenin

The Sarstún region is home to one of the most venomous snakes in the world, the fer-de-lance or “ultimate pit viper.” Now, because there is a full-time professional nurse in Sarstún, the Ministry of Health agreed to provide the clinic with critical antivenin medication, often making emergency transportation to Puerto Barrios unnecessary and survival more likely.


Healthy, Worm-Free Kids

After receiving deworming medications on a regular basis through our Adiós Lombrices program and regular medical mission trips, the children in Sarstún are growing and will be much taller than their parents. Here, 6-year-old Andy Castro opens his mouth to show his teacher that he has taken his dose of Albendazole.

Good Dental Care Supports Overall Health

Preventative and restorative dental care for children and adults is an important part of our mission in improving overall health. Medical mission volunteer Dr. David Boyles, DDS and a team of dental assistants and hygienists visit Sarstún and provide check-ups, fillings and extractions both in the clinic and in local villages. 


Mission: Improved Water

When the first Refuge International medical mission team arrived in 2003, a majority of the Sarstún community was suffering severe health effects from dirty water systems. Many residents died each year, unable to receive medical care at times when it was needed most.

We knew the first step to improving health in Sarstún began with improving the quality of the drinking water. Refuge International teams have drilled six water wells and provided numerous water filtration systems where wells were not feasible. Now, the community has regular access to clean, drinkable water and are healthier as a result.

Since that first trip, Refuge International donors and medical mission volunteers have made amazing strides in improving life in Sarstún.