by Lucie Roy

Morinville lawyer Andrew Lawson and a group of friends from Calgary, riding under the name Old Guys in Action, have raised $44,000 for Cause Canada’s (Christian Aid for Under-Assisted Societies Everywhere) efforts with maternal health in Guatemala.

Lawson made a presentation on his fundraising trip to Guatemala at the Morinville & District Chamber of Commerce Christmas Luncheon Dec. 2.

The lawyer and avid runner/cyclist said the $44,000 raised by Old Guys in Action will multiply to $260,000 due to 6.5 times matching contribution from the federal government.

.In October, the four guys cycled 320 kilometres through the mountains of Guatemala. The challenge was not so much the distance but what it that distance includes: the ups and downs of the terrain, valleys, volcanoes and an elevation equivalent to Mount Everest, both up and down.

The Gateway to Heaven portion drops roughly 1000 feet. Lawson dubbed Day Two as “thrills, spills and never ending hills.“ On the sixth day, the roup came across a road closure that had a nine marching band competition taking place. Wanting to reach their destination of Antigua before dark, they walked their bikes through it.

Lawson said they encountered varying elevations and climate during the trip. “They started off at 12,000 feet and about 10 degrees and raining, down to 35 degrees with no wind and blistering sun,” he said. “So [it was a] great variety.”

But the physical efforts were worth it.

“Why are we there? The purpose is to raise awareness and support for the program across Canada, implementing or addressing the levels of maternal health needs,” Lawson said, adding there is only one auxiliary nurse that visits the satellite clinics in different outlying areas, often high in the mountains where the needs are greater. “The second challenge is the primary clinics are under equipped. One clinic only had a chair and baby weight. The third challenge is government provides enriched powdered milk for mothers that are feeding their babies, but there is not enough to go around. The fourth challenge is that to be entitled to a supplement, you must be under-nourished. But by that time [it is] often too late.”

The current need, Lawson said, is for more and better equipment as well as more personnel to assist. The program will renovate and staff 57 Maternal Newborn Child Health (MNCH) centres by 2020, institute health training programs through local women’s MNCH committees, and provide pre-and post-natal counselling.

Cause Canada has been working in Guatemala for 30 years and are entrusted by the Canadian Government to manage a $4.4 million, four- to five-year program that will directly benefit 68,000 mothers and babies, and directly and indirectly benefit another 160,000 men, women and children.

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