A Day to Remember in San José Villanueva

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Today will be remembered as a monumental turning point for Speroway and the people of San José Villanueva.  And it’s not because we saw and treated 1,000 patients – we didn’t.  And it’s not because we performed 250 challenging dental procedures – we didn’t. And it’s certainly not because we provided food, clothing and toys to hundreds of families – we didn’t.  In fact, today, we didn’t see a single patient, fill a single cavity or distribute a single package of food.  Today, after over a year of planning and development, we opened our first permanent Speroway Medical/Dental Clinic in El Salvador.  An historic day indeed – with far-reaching impact that will endure long after our team has returned home.

It began over a year ago when we first considered the impact of moving from the kind of important but generally short term relief provided by our travelling one day clinics to a more sustainable model that would see local community medical resources available to the citizens in and around San José Villanueva on an ongoing basis.  That’s right – a permanent clinic – funded, equipped and staffed through significant financial support from Speroway and the local community Mayor and council.  It was an exciting dream that, through hard work, planning and perseverance, became a reality today.

At the official opening this afternoon, the Mayor of San José Villanueva was emotional as he told the story of the clinic and how it all came together through Speroway and generous grants from two supportive Canadian donors – the Pottruff Foundation and the Stiller Foundation.  All key stakeholders played important roles.  The Mayor, Pedro Duran, and his council contributed the land and, with the generous support of our foundation partners, Speroway designed, built, furnished and equipped this sizeable and beautiful building – all to serve the medical needs of the 70,000+ people living in the region.

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It’s a model clinic, designed and built with great care and planning.  There’s a large waiting room, several medical exam rooms, a fully equipped dental centre and all the associated services and resources needed to make this one-stop, full service clinic the envy of every community in the country.  Local doctors, dentists and support staff will manage the operation with additional medical/dental teams travelling down from Canada for one-week shifts to work and provide additional training and support.  It’s a remarkable way for Speroway to bring lasting positive change to a region of El Salvador that needs it most.  And, it’s a way for us to be here, in this special place, for much longer than a week at a time. Now Speroway will have a permanent presence in the community – an exciting development in the life of our organization.

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Key players like Speroway founder, Ken Dick, new President Ken Forbes, Dr. Tony Brown, Dr. Jack Cottrell, Dr. Channy Muhn, project manager, Delvin Fletcher and, of course, David Stiller, the co-founder of the Stiller Foundation were honoured by the Mayor with plaques and keepsakes in an emotional and heartfelt ceremony.  Then the beautiful wall plate was unveiled by David Stiller and Mayor Duran as the crowd cheered and cameras clicked!  After all that had been invested in that moment, there wasn’t a dry eye in the place!

So, in San José Villanueva today, while we didn’t see a single patient, we paved the way for thousands of local residents to receive primary medical care for years to come.  And it all starts tomorrow as we roll up our sleeves and mount a full day clinic in and around our new building.  Only this time, as we head home, the real clinic will remain, as an ongoing tribute to Speroway and our longterm commitment to healthcare in the region.  Yes, it was a pretty good day, to be sure.  Stay tuned for another update tomorrow night

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by Tim Fallis, Chairman of Speroway Board of Directors

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