Children Without Borders was founded in February of 2007 by George Whitelaw, an orthopedic surgeon who summers in Duxbury. In April of 2008, Whitelaw opened a clinic in a poor barrio of San Jose called the Solidary Triangle.
In the year since the clinic opened, the foundation has expanded to a second clinic in a barrio called Anonos. Children Without Borders also moved the groupâ€™s headquarters there.
Whitelaw is pleased the group had been able to do this despite a tough economy. In fact, several planned fundraisers were cancelled, leaving a summer fundraiser in Duxbury the main source of income for the charity.
â€œWe had trouble looking people in the eye and asking them for money,â€ he said, saying the groupâ€™s budget was basically cut in half.
Yet despite the financial setbacks, Whitelaw and the others involved in Children Without Borders pressed on with the second clinic, and expanded the organizationâ€™s relationship with medical schools.
â€œIf we werenâ€™t there to give medical care, none would be given,â€ he said.
An essential part of the success of the clinics, Whitelaw said, is getting medical students to come to Costa Rica to work. It was one of the first such students, a public health intern from Boston University, who helped Whitelaw understand that reaching the root causes of health problems in the barrios was just as important as doling out medicine.
One of the young boys who frequented the clinic seemed to be unable to shake a case of intestinal parasites. He would come into the clinic and receive medicine, and the parasites would go away, yet when he returned home, the illness would return. The case baffled the Costa Rican doctors at the clinic.
One day, Whitelaw was visiting the childâ€™s brother, a young man named Tito with a serious brain tumor. He noticed the younger child playing in a stream running through the back of the home â€“â€“ a stream that turned out to be raw sewage. An inexpensive piece of pipe was installed to direct the waste safely around the home, and the Children Without Borders doctors learned that sometimes, treating the cause is more effective that treating the disease.
â€œTo get to the root of the problems youâ€™ve got to have an integrated approach,â€ Whitelaw said.
In addition to working on water supply issues, staff from the clinic has held night meetings with local teenagers about issues such as prostitution and drug use.
â€œYou get much more bang for your buck if you get at the source of the problem,â€ Whitelaw said.
As well as opening the second clinic, Whitelaw is working to cultivate relationships with medical schools in the U.S. and with companies through the American Chamber of Commerce in Costa Rica.
Building on the success of last yearâ€™s Duxburyâ€™s fundraiser, the group will be hosting another event at the Clifford home at 33 Water Street, from 6-8 p.m. on June 25. No tickets are required, but Whitelaw hopes people will donate to the cause.
Whitelaw is hopefully that Children Without Borders will continue to grow and expand to other barrios in Costa Rica, and eventually other countries.
â€œThe world is shrinking. Taking care of people in Costa Rica is just as important,â€ he answers people who ask him why not help more locally.
â€œHere [good medical care] is available to anybody that wants it. Itâ€™s here and available if people are aimed in the right direction. In these barrios in Costa Rica, itâ€™s just not there.â€