Seek trouble and it will probably pop up.
Serious trouble was what A Better World volunteer Maria Mihok of Red Deer found at the conclusion of her bicycle trip from Red Deer to Neuva San Jose, Guatemala earlier this month.
Mihok, 29, rode out of town on Sept. 15 on a solo tour she entitled Hope Cycle 3000, aimed at raising $15,000 toward building a new school for the village. She had planned to cycle approximately 3,000 kilometres to the United States-Mexico border, averaging 100 km per day, and then find other means of transport to get herself, her bike and her bike trailer of possessions to the village.
Plans changed along the way with Mihok adding a 2,000-km tour of the Baja Penninsula, where she cruised coastal highways with other cyclists on similar adventures.
Her odyssey eventually brought her to a village in Honduras where she would set up her home away from home, just across the border from Nueva San Jose.
By the time she got there, Mihok had exceeded her fundraising goal by about $2,000, leaving her with enough money to commit to other projects.
She connected with a friend and fellow A Better World volunteer, Red Deer nurse Carol Brouwer, who had been staying in the region and looking for different ways to help people in Guatemala’s remote mountain villages.
With the Neuva San Josa school project was well in hand, the two Red Deer women started touring other villages to see what sort of help they could offer.
It was in one of those villages that they found unusually high levels of sickness among the children.
Mihok and Brouwer arranged medical testing, which uncovered an outbreak of tuberculosis.
They had enough money left from the school project to embark on testing and treatment, but not without witnessing a share of tragedy.
A treatment regime had been set up for a nine-year-old girl named Evelyn, who was among those infected. She was put on a drug program, but her parents missed getting her to the doctor for an update. The result is that Evelyn’s infection has become resistant and she will likely die of the disease, said Mihok, who returned to Red Deer a few days ago to attend an emergency of her own.
She had received word that a close friend was sick and took a break from her work in Guatemala to fly back for a visit. It would be a final farewell. The friend died on Sunday.
Mihok is already packed for the return trip, where she will pick up on the testing and treatment program she had been working on with Brouwer, who has also returned to Red Deer.
Brouwer is to rejoin her in March.
Anyone interested in contributing to the fund or who would like to learn follow Mihok’s journeys online can follow her blog or connect with her through A Better World’s website, www.a-better-world.ca