Lifelong Service in Guatemala
AMIGOS Alumni and Medical Missions
Like many other AMIGOS volunteers, Dr. Phil Johnson (’68 – ’76) began his journey in medicine after his AMIGOS experiences in Latin America. He served not only as a volunteer, but also a staff member later on, working across nine countries during his young adult years. The focus of AMIGOS programs in the 1960s and 1970s was on vaccination efforts and dental care. After experiencing this, Phil was inspired to pursue a career in Internal Medicine and Infectious Diseases. Over the past 40 years, he has worked devotedly to improve treatments for diseases and to pass this knowledge along to other health professionals.
Phil and his wife, Linda Johnson, have volunteered with the nonprofit Faith in Practice since 2006. The nonprofit provides healthcare to more than 30,000 people in Guatemala each year. They rely on the support of 2,500 volunteers and medical professionals who are organized into teams that travel to communities throughout the country to provide health care services.
Phil and Linda have brought fellow AMIGOS community members into the work of Faith in Practice as medical volunteers, translators, clinical managers, and more. This past April, Phil and four other AMIGOS alumni served together on a week-long trip to Retalhuleu in western Guatemala.
AMIGOS Alumni: (from left) Cynthia Pekow (’75 – ’76), Anita Jimenez-Belinoski (’80 – ’81), Toby Spoon (’75 – ’78), Phil Johnson (’68 – ’76), Seth Fritzhand (’15)
On this trip, a group of 27 U.S. volunteers and 20 in-country staff held a medical clinic and saw 1,800 patients, built and distributed 97 wheelchairs, and performed nearly 500 lab tests and filled countless prescriptions. Here about their trip and their AMIGOS inspirations…
“Two summers (47 years ago!) with AMIGOS broadened my horizons in many ways that have led to the joy I find volunteering with Faith in Practice. That first exhilarating experience as a teen learning to communicate in Spanish opened my world to new ways of thinking and understanding; that same thrill is present with each visit to Guatemala—18 trips so far. As was true in my AMIGOS summers, I appreciate the opportunities to interact with my team and the people with whom we work, and the richness that comes from these interrelations. I credit AMIGOS with giving me that first taste of the magic that comes with experiencing and appreciating another culture.” — Cynthia Pekow
“AMIGOS opened my eyes and heart to a world full of poverty and need, but also of hope and gratitude. It was the most influential experience that lead to my becoming a physician. With Faith in Practice, I am able to serve the needs of those who lack the most basic of healthcare and are so grateful for what we can provide. As Dr. Phil Johnson once said, “Faith in Practice is AMIGOS for grownups.” — Anita Belinoski
“Faith and Practice hit the same resonant frequency for me as a gray hair as AMIGOS did when I was a brown hair. The fact that five Amigos and Amigas were participating in the trips says something.” — Toby Spoon