GLENS FALLS -- Twice a year since 1995, the volunteers of the Glens Falls Medical Mission have traveled to the same tiny Guatemalan village in the hopes of improving the public health of the people of Nueva Santa Rosa’s.

And after all this time, they feel like they’re making a real impact.

"We’re seeing a healthier population. People are taking better care of themselves," said seven-time mission volunteer Daureen Shoemaker. "They seem more aware. We do a lot of teaching while we’re there."

Like most tropical populations, the people of Nueva Santa Rosa are faced with the constant onslaught of digestive parasites, malnutrition and poverty.

"The No. 1 thing we ask for when people offer to help is children’s vitamins," said mission foundation President Dick Cipperly. "But it is improving. Last year, almost everyone had shoes for the first time."

Each April and October, about 45 volunteers from the Glens Falls area travel to the South American village for more than a week to staff a medical clinic. As many as 2,500 local people pass through the clinic when it opens.

"We leave people with six months worth of medicines, if it’s something they need every day," Cipperly said.

The mission annually spends between $30,000 and $40,000 on drugs and supplies. The annual fiesta fundraiser typically accounts for $12,000-$15,000 of that amount, leaving sponsors or the volunteers themselves to make up the difference.

"I’ll keep doing it for as long as I can afford to," said Shoemaker, a local cardiac nurse.

Shoemaker estimates it costs her about $1,200 to make the trip each fall.

While many of the volunteers have medical backgrounds, it’s not required to make the trip.

"All we need are people who have energy," Cipperly said. "We encourage people to bring their kids, too."

Anyone interested in partaking in an upcoming mission can apply at www.gfmmf.org.

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