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Review for Opal House, Des Moines, WA, USA

Rating: 5 stars  

Since 2007 I have been an observer, watching Will and Diane abandon their challenging medical careers and comfortable lives in the USA and re-locating to the poor Mayan community of Agua Escondido on the hills above Lake Atitlan, Guatemala. They established Opal House as a charity organization, legally recognized in both Guatemala and the USA, through which they could help the local people in whatever ways God called on them to do so.

They bought a 70-acre farm with existing groves of avocado trees and coffee plants which had been largely neglected by the previous owners. They hired local workers to resurrect the farm, paying them more than the minimum wages customary in the largely coffee-growing region. It is now a working and productive farm, although the income is far short of the needs of their charity and mission work.

Besides micro-financing, rescuing single moms and sharing their clean spring water they have focused a huge amount of energy on providing nutrition and free Montessori education to local children at the recently expanded two-story well-equipped school built on farm property. This school recently obtained certification from the Guatemala government for kindergarten through 3rd grade.

Will has also generously donated his skills at free clinics for two half days a week at the hospital in San Lucas Toliman and another half-day per week at a clinic in Panajachel. He is becoming well known by clinics around Lake Atitlan and beyond in some distant communities. Every year for the last five years I have brought a surgical team to operate on all the needy patients collected by Will, mostly children with foot and lower extremity deformities, although now we have expanded into more pediatric and general orthopedics.

Through Opal House, Will and Diane change lives every day. There is also not a volunteer who has visited them whose life has not been positively impacted. Their vision is to serve our loving God by exercising charity to the needy around them, totally committing themselves to His Majesty’s Plan.

Role:  Volunteer

Review for Opal House, Des Moines, WA, USA

Rating: 5 stars  

Although I was not involved in the actual founding of Opal House I became aware of it during its formation when I was with Dr. Will Boegel on a Healing the Children surgical mission team to Hanoi, Vietnam in 2007 with both Will and my youngest son, Ryan. The idea sounded both lofty and ethereal at the same time. It seemed so radical for two people to give up their comfortable American life-style, exit their “comfort zone” and pour their lives and their souls into the hands of God, trusting in his/her design and providence.

A few years later, I volunteered to participate in a Rotary project in Guatemala with members of the LaConner Rotary Club close to my home. We had partnered with “Child Aid”, an NGO out of Portland, Oregon dedicated to promoting literacy, to ship a container of 23,000 Spanish language educational books to be distributed to schools and libraries in many towns throughout southwestern Guatemala, including a Rotary-sponsored traveling library bus. Our team of Rotary volunteers ended our project by helping to catalogue some of these donated books at a school library in Yepocapa. This was only a couple of hours drive from Lake Atitlan, so after the project, I decided to visit Opal House.

By then Will and Diane and a handful of temporary volunteers had done an enormous amount of building renovation and farm restoration. I was pleasantly surprised to find a working avocado farm high above Lake Atitlan (5,400’ ASL) facing NW where every day hidden coffee plants were being uncovered from the bushes in the shade of the avocado trees. Local people were being employed and paid more than the average local wages. The potential seemed endless.

Diane was helping take the children of very poor local single mothers into her free day care so they could be safe and get improved nutrition while their mothers could work. They taught health and sanitation to the neighbors in Agua Escondida and worked at finding a way to clean their water supply or share theirs from Opal House. Will was volunteering two half days a week at a free clinic in the Hospital Parroquia de San Lucas in the town of San Lucas Toliman, 20 km away. (The hospital has since been named in honor of the recently-deceased local parish priest: Hospital Obras Sociales de Monsignor Gregorio Schaffer.)

Probably the most impressive thing about Opal House is the beautiful chapel built on the edge of the vista of the lake. Through its panorama windows, one is exposed to an almost surreal scene of water surrounded by volcanoes with villages sprinkling the shoreline. Lights and stars twinkle at night.

Will and Diane quietly work their service to the local people, from micro-financing and donating useful equipment such as sewing machines to simply helping as needs arise for the local Mayan people. They have since built a two-story school and have a Montessori program for pre-schoolers, with plans to get certified to teach elementary grades. This is Diane’s pre-occupation.

My involvement expanded when Will asked if I would bring surgery teams for foot and ankle deformities and problems, relative to our specialty. This year marks the third year in a row that I have brought a team to San Lucas Toliman to deliver free surgical care to those in need. We come for a little more than a week at a time and have operated on 23-35 patients each visit, mostly children with clubfoot and neurological or post-traumatic deformities. Without Will accumulating these patients through his free clinics and contacts, these children would never get the care that changes their lives and opens up opportunities. Will does a tremendous amount of work before abnd after each of these surgical missions.

I have personally seen many good works done through this Opal House charity. The doors to Opal House are always open – to the curious and to those seeking a chance to provide humanitarian care to improve the lives of others less fortunate. For some, the experience is live-changing in and of itself. It has a tremendous impact on my own life.

Steve Miller

If I had to make changes to this organization, I would...

Try to widen the message of their work. They definitely could do a lot more with a broader base of financial support.

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Role:  Volunteer