A BYU swimmer takes healing and hope to the people of El Salvador.
If you get sick easily you might want to close your eyes for this part,” warns William H. Betz, ’03, with a tone that says he’s slightly joking but also genuinely concerned. Although the video of a doctor lancing a massive and inflamed boil on a young boy’s back is rather gruesome, something about Betz and what he does is absolutely captivating. Betz shot the footage during his first trip to Central America—the first of many on his road to making people’s lives better.
Although volunteering in medical clinics in El Salvador has become a familiar part of Betz’s summers, he admits that scenes like this one take some getting used to. Betz, a business major and a former captain of the BYU men’s swim team, has spent time each of the last three summers in El Salvador giving vaccinations, suturing wounds, and even delivering babies. After his first trip, Betz discovered a major need for more medical supplies and decided to take matters into his own hands.
Last year he and a friend bought an old 15-passenger Chevy van and loaded it up with medical supplies to distribute to hospitals and clinics throughout El Salvador. The van, which had seen its share of working days, had numerous problems and constantly overheated on the way down. “It was a pure miracle by our Heavenly Father that we made it,” says Betz, who grew up in Logan, Utah.
In August, on his third and most recent trip, Betz and several friends loaded a 650-pound operating table, a mammogram machine, a wheel chair, clothing, and Church-donated hygiene kits into two large trucks. “It’s amazing how much people want to give,” says Betz of his ward’s generosity in contributing clothing and other goods for the people of El Salvador. This time around Betz’s trip was endorsed by the American Red Cross. The organization, highly regarded in Central America, helped make the trip across borders a little smoother than it would have been otherwise.
Betz wants to continue his annual trips to El Salvador, but in addition to helping with medical needs, he would like to set up schools in hopes of reducing poverty. “You break the chain of poverty with education,” he explains.
When Betz isn’t busy serving the people of El Salvador, he’s helping the BYU men’s swim team extend its run of four consecutive conference titles. During his time at BYU he has contributed to several BYU relay records, and in March, Betz was named the Division I National Swimmer of the Week—the first in BYU’s history. This year, having completed his eligibility, he will serve the team as an assistant coach.
Swimming isn’t the only thing that comes naturally to Betz, who confesses that he could swim even before he could walk. Betz’s friends assert that he is one of the most genuine people they’ve ever met and will go out of his way to help anyone.
Although Betz humbly defers such praise, it is obvious that he has high expectations for himself. “The words of Gandhi—’My life is my message’—have always stuck with me,” he says. “I just want to make sure that when people look at me they know my priorities and what I stand for.”