Forum Takes Construction Team to Peruvian Hospital, Starts GoFundMe

By on March 8, 2019

by Tom Finan
Executive Director, Construction Forum STL

In the five year history of Construction Forum STL’s history our journey has taken some twists and turns that were pretty far afield from what I originally imagined when I conceived back in 2010. We’ve gone from workforce recruiting in Normandy to building a soccer field for immigrant/refugee kids in the City and our current efforts on regionalism education.

Through a translator, this woman was telling Nurse Practitioner Irene White, “No one has ever done this for us before.”

Next month,  we take the furthest leap yet — to the Andes mountains of Peru near Machu Picchu. The Construction Forum Education Foundation will field a team of four to begin the process of updating a hospital with primitive facilities. This will include the labor and delivery area, emergency department, and standby power. We are raising funds on GoFundMe to help with this initial effort, which will probably play out over the next year or so. Click here to learn more.

On our team will be:

  • Dr. John Gaal, recently retired director of workforce and education for the St. Louis-Kansas City Carpenters Regional Council (and a longtime friend of mine);
  • Jerry Dahl, a mechanical engineer (and another longtime friend),  who has worked in a variety of extremely technical areas and is now a forensic engineer with Nederveld out of Grand Rapids, MI;
  • Dan Wolfington, an electrical engineer and husband to Eileen Wolfington of Kingdom House who will be a translator on this trip; and
  • Tom Finan, executive director, Construction Forum STL and Construction Forum Education Foundation.

By way of explanation, we’re making the trip at the instigation of my wife, Dr. Kathi Thimsen, an assistant professor of community nursing at BJC Goldfarb School of Nursing. I have a long history of getting involved in outreach projects because of Kathi. I became involved in a community garden in East St. Louis and a medical mission to the Amazon when we were still dating. The aforementioned outreach at Normandy High happened because of  her. We are building another soccer field at Kingdom House near downtown because she introduced me to the director.

In September of 2017 Kathi, through work she does in fighting human trafficking, met Lynda Burgman, founder of Kindness in a Box. Lynda, who worked in philanthropic circles here in St. Louis and is also an avid outdoors person (she climbed the Matterhorn at age 75 this year) founded a charity called Kindness in a Box a decade ago to combat the chronic stunting from malnutrition in children and other issues she witnessed when hiking the Incan trail near Machu Picchu.

Wheelchair in the hospital in Maras, Peru.

KIAB has done tremendous work with a number of programs. When Lynda met Kathi, Lynda mentioned that she was trying to find medical personnel to rejuvenate a small clinic KIAB had been gifted with, which had renovated. By April of last year, Kathi had formed Nurses2Peru, which took a team of 25 nurses, nurse practitioners, nursing students, and a couple of helpers including our granddaughter Abby who aspires to be a nurse, and yours truly as blogger/photographer/sherpa/team cook.

Over 600 people received treatment at four sites during a week there. Over 200 girls received “Days to Girls” reusable menstrual kits, as well sex education. Base assessments were taken for work on malnutrition and growth stunting.

The team from the St. Louis Region worked side-by-side with the team from the tiny hospital in the town of Maras. The hospital had only two  stethoscopes. lab equipment from the ’60s, only one baby warmer and no incubators (and spotty power) for its labor and delivery.

A trusting relationship was formed between N2P  and  Dr. Victor, the hospital director and his team.  Last December a team from N2P traveled to Maras and conducted classes in basic sanitation— hand washing with the aim of lowering the hospital’s 53% patient infection rate. Relationships have also been forged with the Peruvian national health authorities and universities.

In December Kathi told Dr. Victor N2P would begin the work on upgrades of the labor and delivery and emergency department, and in securing a backup generator. Our team will assess the situation and work with local people to begin preliminary site prep.

As previously stated Construction Forum STL has been an amazing journey over the past five years. Please join us as we take the heart of St. Louis Region people to the top of the world.

Click here for the GoFundMe link.


About Tom Finan