Disciples of Christ Church, Paraguay
Friendship Mission in Paraguay was founded in 1953 by the United Christian Missionary Society (predecessor of the Division of Overseas Ministries) and by graduates of the International School in Paraguay, the first Disciple mission in Paraguay, founded in 1917. The original purpose of Friendship Mission was to attend to needs of the urban poor living near the Mission and in Asuncion, the capital city of Paraguay.
With the commitment and energy of Disciples missionaries in the mid-1960’s, notably the work of Raymond and Betty Mills, Friendship Mission grew in vitality and the reach of its programs expanded. Besides offering basic social services to poor families, Friendship Mission began the first school for the deaf in Paraguay. The Friendship Mission Clinic was an important program founded in this period, along with educational opportunities for community children and adults.
Today Friendship Mission is actively engaged in programs which are critical to the community.
- Friendship Mission Clinic: Each year over 33,000 people are assisted by physicians and specialists at the clinic and receive outpatient services, laboratory, radiology, and ultrasound. Friendship Mission is well known in Paraguay for offering high quality medical attention at reduced costs.
- Betty and Raymond Mills School of Nursing: Approximately 35 new students begin studies each year to become nurses’ aids. At the end of the academic year, about 25 students have successfully completed the curriculum. As most health care providers in Paraguay work in the cities, the School of Nursing at Friendship Mission trains women from rural areas who will go back to carry out their profession in their rural home villages as primary health providers. While studying, nursing students do field work in the Santa Maria neighborhood from which the clinic at Friendship Mission draws many patients. One of the most recent areas of work of the nursing students in the community has been around the causes and the prevention of dengue fever. They also offer educational sessions on health-related matters to children participating in the Friendship Mission Street School.
- Work with the Elderly: Friendship Mission holds weekly meetings and activities for elderly members of the local community. The group offers times of fellowship for the members, as well as artistic opportunities, and a nutritious snack. The group celebrates members’ birthdays and participates in community fairs, where they offer food and their artwork, especially art in paintings on fabric, for sale.
- Work around Domestic Violence: Friendship Mission works with other church and social organizations to educate about issues of domestic violence. They carry out day-long workshops about the impact of domestic violence on women and children, and preventive community-based actions and programs that are available.
- School on the Street: Friendship Mission reaches out to children who spend most of their time on the street because they are working children or because they are children who live on the street. Over 300 of these children each year receive dental and general medical attention at the Friendship Mission Clinic, including services of radiology and lab analysis. Friendship Mission nursing students carry out workshops with groups of working and street children on hygiene and other health-related themes. Such meetings are carried out on Saturdays and also offer times of fellowship and recreation for the children. Several times each year groups of working and street children are taken to the Disciples of Christ Jack Norment Camp outside of the city for weekends of fun and fellowship.
- Holistic Welfare Assistance Center: This program began in August 2000 and consists of a team of professionals which offer therapy to community clients.
- Children’s Workshops: Sessions are offered in painting, puppet making/theater, guitar, and recreation to community children as well as to those participating in the School on the Street and children from nearby Disciples congregations. The classes take place on Saturday mornings. Special community fairs, music festivals, and celebrations are prepared by the children for the community. International School graduates help in this work with these children as volunteers.
The Friendship Mission had been treating the entire community, including those in outlying neighborhoods of Greater Asuncion and other cities with equipment purchased in 1986. There were frequent mechanical problems that were delaying important medical and dental care to their patients.
With $17,000.00 provided by Global Ministries, the Friendship Mission dental clinic acquired:
2 New Full Dental Chairs
2 New Leaded Vests for dental radiographs
1 Photopolymerizer Laser bleaching treatment
1 Bicarbonate jet injector
With the completion of this project the Friendship Mission Clinic is better equipped to serve more than 25,000 patients including about 6,080 dental patients and 1,300 children each year.
Betty and Raymond Mills Higher Technical Institute
The Betty and Raymond Mills School of Nursing is now named the Betty and Raymond Mills Higher Technical Institute. Training for nursing aides is offered there, and there may be other courses offered in medical technology in the future. The Institute currently has a total of 30 first year students and 22 second year students. Friendship Mission prioritizes the growing of a scholarship fund in order for this number of students to grow to approximately 60 to 70 individuals per class. Scholarship support is needed to help students. The average cost for a nursing student for the two year program is $1,400. This includes tuition, books, materials and uniforms.
The school is hoping that a scholarship fund may be reinforced in the near future to help the more economically challenged students find a way to complete their nursing training. This fund would then be repaid by the former students in order to support new students.