Helping Hands

Dave Schwab

Fri April 25, 2014 12:45pm

The Qualls are on their way soon to help the medically indigent in Guatemala thanks in part to financial help provided by their mobile home park neighbors. Otay Lakes Lodge HOA sponsored a fundraising pulled pork barbecue March 8 for Keith and Kathy Qualls, a prosthetic technician and an optician respectively, who are headed later this spring with a team of physicians to Central America with Helps International.
“We’re a huge park and we sponsored it (barbecue) and about 80 people came from all over Chula Vista pitching in bringing side dishes and desserts,” said Penny Vaughn of the Lodge noting Crossroads II, a South Bay resident group concerned about the quality of growth in the city, helped spread the word.
“It was a worthy cause, it worked out really well, and they (Qualls) met their (fundraising) goal,” Vaughn said. Begun in 1984 by a Dallas investment banker, Helps International provides enduring programs of practical, social and spiritual value to people in Mexico and Central America through a system of partnership and mutual responsibility.
The Qualls and their colleagues will be providing free health care — whatever is needed — to impoverished rural residents while they’re away.
This is the second Helps International trip for Keith Qualls, who noted he and his wife are volunteering their services, even having to pay the approximately $2,000 per-person cost of flying to Guatemala. But it’s all worth it, said the prosthetics specialist, who added he gets a real sense of accomplishment offering humanitarian services to needy people.
“I do strictly prosthetics and I hooked up a couple of years ago with a medical team out of Fresno and we helped about 30 people get up on limbs and get back to being a contributing factor in their families,” Qualls said, adding about 250 people total were helped on his last trip by a full-blown medical team.
“We had eye surgeons removing cataracts, dental surgeons fixing cleft palates and a prosthetics team fixing people up with arms and legs,” he said, adding Helps International also offers preventive care.
“Helps International teaches people how to farm their land to the best of their ability growing coffee and corn,” Qualls said. “They also teach them how to create a water purification system, as people down there suffer because water is so badly polluted.” Besides “triage-like” medical services offered, Helps International also provides people with everyday long-term aid with things like birth control.
“Things we (Americans) take for granted, don’t think twice about, have a huge impact on their lives,” said Qualls.
Kathy Qualls, an optician who’s going down with her husband this time to offer expertise in her field as well as to help out administratively, said Helps International provides practical, far-reaching aid to those served.
“They do things like putting clean-burning stoves in people’s homes,” she noted.
The Qualls will be going down with others in their medical team to Guatemala in May. Keith said the team will set up shop in an abandoned, boarded-up hospital that will have to be sanitized first before patients can be cared for. Once that’s done though, he said it’s amazing just how many needy people will be helped.
“Last time we had as many as 650 people standing in line for treatment, everything from people with eyeball cancer to people needing prosthetics,” he said.
Qualls said he got into the field of prosthetics almost by accident. It was after he got layed off and was sent to back to school for retraining when he was unemployed that he got introduced to prosthetics while touring a Shriner’s facility.
“I’ve worked at Balboa Medical Hospital and also worked with Wounded Warriors,” Qualls noted.