History of MACLA Inc.

A brief 25-year summary of MACLA Inc.

MACLA Inc. was established in 1985 and has been a 501 (C) 3 tax-deductible charitable organization since 1987.

The patients treated by MACLA Inc. are among the poorest in the Dominican Republic. They have little or no hope for adequate medical or surgical care. They come from cold, lantern-heated sod and cement block homes among the canefields and coastal plains of the Caribbean. They come from all over the country to Santo Domingo where barrio homes are clapboard, garbage litters the street, and sewage flows in open gutters. Each patient has a unique history of hardships and suffering. They come on foot, on burros, and in crowded buses and cabs. Over the last 30 years, there seems to have been little change in their struggles. In general, their problems are the same as they were in 1985, but MACLA Inc. has made a significant dent in changing thousands of lives.

Since 1985, more than 400 Peace Corps volunteers from the Dominican Republic have helped coordinate the clinics and acted as translators assisting patients in pre- and post-operative areas. This is an energetic group of volunteers who we depend on as exemplary ambassadors of the United States. They are always young, eager, and brilliant. Most of the volunteers have stated that this medical mission work is one of the most important times that they have had in their two-year tenures as Peace Corps volunteers.

MACLA Inc. medical teams consist of operating room and recovery nurses, anesthetists, anesthesiologists, plastic surgeons, pediatricians and family physicians, physical and occupational therapists, and lay volunteers. Our volunteers have come from more than 30 states and give of their time, money, and efforts to provide the best care for our patients.

Over the years, we have been associated with more than six medical schools and a dozen hospitals in the Dominican Republic and Bolivia. We have helped train their residents, worked with their local physicians and nurses, and gained their respect. For 15 years, we have worked at the Padre Billini Hospital in the Colonial Zone in Santo Domingo. Generally the physicians and medical personnel in these countries are overworked, underpaid, and not given much respect by their countrymen.

Half of our trip supplies are sorted from disposed items from surgical centers and hospitals. We buy the other half of the equipment and medication for our patients. Initially, we sorted and stored medications and equipment in several of our basements; however, we now have a warehouse that the Dominican government allowed us to build on the roof of the hospital. Our office space here in the U.S. is also donated. Any equipment or supplies that we don’t need are given to the Sisters of St. Francis in Kansas City. They donate to several medical missions in different poor countries in Africa. Nothing goes to waste.

Our budget ranges from $170,000 to $240,000 a year, and 90% is received from private donors. No one is salaried, and our overhead for paperwork, office supplies, and mailings is 4%, 10 times better than most charitable organizations. The cost to operate on one person is still $500 and, of course, our patients pay nothing.

The challenges of delivering quality reconstructive plastic surgery in Latin America are considerable. There are also a unique set of rewards for the traveling medical teams — very little paperwork, no likelihood of malpractice or legal actions, and no insurance companies or HMOs to deal with. The immense satisfaction you get in operating on patients who would otherwise have no chance of undergoing any reconstructive surgery can be overwhelming. A happy mother, a smiling child, or a handshake is all we need to encourage us to return.