PHONE: 627-4521

DATE: 10-20-03


HCC Instructor, Steve Kirton, Volunteers in Guatemala

When Steve Kirton, HCC Electrical Technology instructor, returned from a two week trip to Guatemala, he brought back with him a few Spanish phrases, a pretty nice shoe shine, and a deep understanding of the gratitude and sincerity of the good people from the Chichicastenango area. Steve went with the Humanitarian Arm of the Samaritan’s Purse to rewire and upgrade a hospital. The 50 year old hospital was previously a hotel. Because of the hospital’s substandard wiring and primitive tools, power outages—of which there are many— were a challenge. The hospital only had a small generator for alternate power. Kirton, along with three other men from Waynesville hoped to remedy some of the problems.

The four men installed a new diesel generator, an automatic transfer switch, and a new electrical source in the hospital to provide a battery back-up power source for an uninterrupted power supply.

Two weeks was not enough time to completely rewire the hospital and the men didn’t have the proper materials to work with. This was the biggest challenge according to Steve. "We had

to improvise," he explains, "we developed the spirit of McGuyver." Local people

are not trained to do this sort of work.

Despite their time constraints, the group accomplished more than they thought they would. They rewired operating, preparation, emergency, and recovery rooms and put up light fixtures. A rebuilt steam sterilizer was installed and new electrical circuits were added in the laundry room, laboratory, and Director’s office. They left the hospital a set of tools to maintain the wiring. Rexel Electric Supply and Klein Tools donated the set.

Steve said one of the most helpful things in preparing for this trip was the help he received from his students in developing an all inclusive tool list. "From their help, I had what I needed," he said.

Chi Chi Castenango is the home of the Quiche Indians. Although the people seemed poor, they didn’t seem unhappy, Steve said. They seemed sincerely grateful. "When we were about to leave, they threw us a party."

The language barrier was not the only difference the group encountered. It was a whole different way of life. Steve said an older man noticed the watch he was wearing and said, "You Americans have all the fancy watches but we have all the time."

Steve found time each day to pay a kid to shine his shoes, sometimes even twice a day. Although the shoes he was wearing were in pretty bad shape, he couldn’t pass up the opportunity to give the kid what amounted to about 50 cents. (His shoes really did start to shine by the end of two weeks.)

This was Steve’s third trip with Samaritan’s Purse. In 1998, he rewired an orphanage in Belarus and in 1999 he wired a refugee camp for those fleeing Kosovo.

HCC Electrical instructor Steve Kirton, approaches life with a warm heart and a giving attitude which is evident from his charitable works. Here he is shown getting a shoe shine- —one of many he received from the same young man during his two weeks in Chichicastenango.