IMA’s Medical Outreach (1983-1992)
In 1983, a young Newport Beach mother of two, Tina Sechrist Randy, was watching a documentary about birthing practices in Africa. Her heart was moved as she compared her Westernized birth experiences to that of African mothers, who were dying of preventable diseases and infections during childbirth. Equipped with a determined heart and a basic knowledge of Lamaze and instrument sterilization procedures, Tina—along with her sister Sheri Ciotti and friend Mary Ann Heaps—planned a trip to Nigeria.
Later that year, IMA’s first operation outside of the United States, a birthing clinic, was established in Abak, Cross Rivers State, Nigeria. In 1983, a medical outreach program was initiated in India. Both efforts served to reduce the number of needless deaths and improve health care among women in those regions.
IMA’s School in Guatemala (1993-present)
After devoting nine years to the Nigerian project, and feeling a new tug on their hearts for the war-torn country of Guatemala, the founders of IMA handed over the birthing clinic operations to the people of Abak. Mary Anne Heaps left behind family and friends to prepare the way for the next IMA project, learning the culture, language and geography of the organization’s next place of focus, Guatemala City.
Mary Anne discovered that while Guatemalans had access to basic health care, only the very wealthy were receiving a proper education. She was also shocked to learn that while giving up a son to an orphanage was considered an act of mercy, daughters were kept home and expected to generate income through begging, child labor or prostitution. In accordance with IMA’s mission to help females wherever their programs existed, it was clear to the founders that their next project needed to be a school for girls that could help break this cycle of poverty and exploitation. IMA began educating impoverished girls in Guatemala in 1993 and added a grade each year until a full elementary school was established in 1999.
IMA partners with a Guatemalan family
When the original founders of IMA made the decision to move their ministry to Guatemala, unbeknownst to them, another story had been forming that would forever change the history of the organization. A Guatemalan woman named Haydee Del Cid Abel, who had recently moved to California, was searching for ways to give back to the country in which she was born. As part of this search, she had contacted the U.S. Embassy in Guatemala to see about securing medical donations from the United States. Shortly after this, IMA had also contacted the Embassy with questions about the need for charity work in Guatemala. The Embassy, seeing that IMA, International Medical Assistance, Inc., was looking for opportunities to provide medical care in the country, put them in touch with Haydee. This contact would open a new chapter in IMA’s story that would be driven by the life, leadership and influence of Haydee Abel and her Guatemalan family.
Haydee, her four sisters and older brother had grown up in one of the roughest, most violent neighborhoods in Guatemala city, an area called Zone Six. Guatemala City, as with many cities in Guatemala, is divided up into Zones, similar to American Burroughs or Parishes. Zone Six, then as it is now, was notoriously dangerous. Her father and mother, however, were devoted to God. And they believed in family and education. Despite the violence around them, their single-room home was filled with love and high expectations. Their mother understood that education was going to change the course of their futures.
Haydee was driven, smart and strategic. From the age of seven she had been buying and selling produce to make money all on her own. She learned the value of hard work and how to hustle. She also learned how to run a business. This entrepreneurial drive continued into her time in college where at the same time she was studying engineering she was also buying and selling real estate. These years of experience she had taught Haydee how to make money and by the time she reached out to the U.S. Embassy she was looking for ways to give back.
Haydee and the founders of IMA made an immediate connection. In addition to the shared vision of empowering women and educating girls, both parties were also committed to serving in Guatemala. In the first year of operations for IMA in Guatemala, IMA sponsored a class of kindergarten girls to go to school in zone one of Guatemala City. After that first year Haydee suggested starting their own school using her family’s original home in Zone Six where there was a huge need for education, especially for girls. IMA followed Haydee’s recommendation and at the same time hired Haydee’s sister, Cesiah Del Cid Barrera, who would later become the organization’s executive director in Guatemala and administrative lead for the newly-founded school. A few years later, IMA brought on another of Haydee’s sisters, Bessie Del Cid Contreras, to join the leadership at the school and serve in many capacities as needs arose.
Haydee’s leadership and vision led to IMA expanding its programs through the sixth grade. They also started an adult school for the mothers of the girls when they saw there was a need for their own education. When the school began to outgrow its Zone Six location, Haydee funded and built a beautiful new campus on a hill outside the city to make room for more classes and to provide a place for the students to exercise, play and grow food. With this new facility, she was able to partner with another private Guatemalan Christian school to share expenses and resources.
IMA has been tightly integrated with Haydee’s family, the Del Cid family, during its entire time in Guatemala. IMA’s history wouldn’t be complete without their stories, commitment and sacrifice. Besides Haydee, Cesiah and Bessie, many Del Cid family members have worked, volunteered and cheered on this vision that Haydee championed.
Volunteer and Trips Coordinator / Board Member
Sandy joined the board of directors and then stepped into the needed role of missions trip coordinator. She has led and participated in many trips to the school and has bridged a relationship with Mosaic in Los Angeles. Sandy is a pediatrician who offers a health perspective to the board in making decisions for the school. Sandy is passionate about serving others, specifically in times of great need, and has traveled to different parts of the world for disaster relief. She has involved her kids in this passion through authoring children’s books of her experiences and aiding them in finding their own ways to serve others.
Technology Director / Board Member
Business Manager / Board Member - Chairman of the Board