During the Guatemalan Civil War in the 1980’s and 1990’s, dentist Phil Plunk spent several weeks serving in Guatemala. On each trip to pull teeth, Phil became more and more aware that the need for dental care in Guatemala couldn’t be solved through week-long service trips. What the people of Guatemala needed was easier access to regular care. So Phil packed up his dental practice and moved to Guatemala.
In 2001, Phil founded Project Salud y Paz and opened a small clinic in Camanchaj, Quiché, Guatemala. For the first time, comprehensive dental care, including cleanings, extractions and fillings, was available to people in the rural highlands. Phil worked with the local bomberos (firemen) to spread the word about the American dentist providing free dental care. Slowly, news of Salud y Paz reached more and more and people and the number of patients began to grow.
Since 2001, the clinic in Camanchaj has grown from one American dentist seeing less than 10 patients a day to one full-time Guatemalan doctor, two part-time doctors, a dentist, and a dental assistant seeing more than 50 patients a day. In addition, Project Salud y Paz operates a second clinic in Quetzaltenango (Xela-Urbina) and began partial operation at a third clinic in Cunén in early 2014.
Salud y Paz doesn’t just provide medical care. In 2009, Salud y Paz opened an early education center called Susanna Wesley School. Susanna Wesley School provides education, nutrition, and medical care for more than 50 children preschool through first grade.
Salud y Paz is now a joint project of International Hands in Service (a U.S. based 501c3 non-profit organization), the Iglesia Metodista Nacional Primitiva de Guatemala, and the United Methodist Church in the United States. As a part of the UMC, the project is a designated Advance Special (#14060A) of the General Board of Global Ministries.
International Hands in Service (IHS) through Project Salud y Paz provides a ministry of health services, health promotion and education to the people of Guatemala leading into a self-sustaining partnership.