Anita Giagnocavo - Reaching out with Hands of Hope
October 31, 2008
Anita is a graduate of Fanshawe's Nursing program. A life dedicated to serving others took on special meaning after her husband visited Guatemala with a church group to build a school. After hearing about the difficult lives that many Guatemalans lead, Anita made a trip herself and was so moved that she decided to live there and help.
Speaking almost no Spanish and knowing very little about the local culture, the family began the hard work of providing medical care to people with no resources and few options. While delivering food and clothes to areas of Guatemala that were devastated by Hurricane Mitch in 1998, they realized the dire need for well-supplied, accessible medical clinics in the country's villages.
The family's first clinic was an Ontario school bus, which they converted into a traveling medical station - the only health care provider in an area populated by approximately 10,000 people. After an initially cool reception, villagers began to trust them, and the "doctor's office on wheels" was soon very busy with patients, many of whom walked for hours to get help.
Eventually they sold the bus to purchase land, where they built a modern medical clinic, complete with exam rooms, a dental room, a prenatal room, a pharmacy, and room for storage and teaching. With help from donations to the family's Hands of Hope Foundation, the clinic was stocked with medicine and supplies.
As the clinic began to grow, the family began to notice other pressing needs in their area, including running water and educational opportunities. With Gregory championing the cause, the village now has that running water, and Hands of Hope is sponsoring children who are unable to pay middle school fees. The foundation also supports students in higher education as they train to become nurses, teachers, and other desperately needed community builders.
"When I was a student I never dreamed I would use my education in a foreign country," Anita says. "However, I have learned that we only need to be willing, open to learning new things, and trusting in God to explore new horizons. This has been a most exciting adventure and I thank my foundation of education at Fanshawe College."
Anita will be giving a free presentation on Monday, November 3, 2008, from 4:00 to 5:00 p.m. in Room D1060 at Fanshawe's London campus.