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"Laderas de Nueva Esperanza” is a community that has never disappointed us. Full of hardworking, honest, and eager people ready to move forward for a better future.
We found out about a problem they had with the playground when Nancy Helguera, the community leader, asked for our help. Our assistance was important as this playground was used by dozens of children in the area.
We don't think twice about writing a blog and publishing the project on our "sponsor a project” section in the website. Never did we think that this recent project would be completed by our first group of Development Corps .
Participating Development Corps is demanding but very rewarding. This new form of project allows you to be a participant and to leave a mark that changes the lives of people for a long time.
For us who work with MEDLIFE it is a amazing to be able to meet old friends again in the community. We have recently been able to build 7 staircases in a single community and that allows us to remain much closer to its inhabitants.
Working in the communities allows us to meet amazingly humble people like Reynaldo, father of our patient Jimena. Reynaldo did not hesitate to leave his job as a delivery man for a week to be able to support our Development Corps without expecting anything in return.
Or like Mr. Fonseca who always full of wisdom and no doubt one of the leaders in all construction to occur in his community. If you ask him kindly, he will teach you all the tricks of the trade that he knows about construction.
This is our first group of Development Core participants and while they still have all week to complete their projects, we are sure there will be many new experiences for both the participants and the community.
Here at MEDLIFE, we're always proud to see our newest chapters hosting events and delivering Medicine Education and Development to their local communities. Our chapter at the University of Nevada, Reno was founded just last semester in September 2013. Since its founding, the chapter has hosted various events and fundraisers and sent a group of students to a Mobile Clinic in Lima, Peru in January. Last week, a group of 18 students from MEDLIFE Nevada and the American Medical Student Association participated in an event with Truckee Meadows Habitat for Humanity to help construct homes in that community. We interviewed Lucia Sanchez about the event, co-founder and president of her chapter who has participated in multiple clinics herself and has always been a great support to our organization. Read more about the chapter's service event below:
Why did you decide to host this particular community service event?
We decided to host this community service event with Habitat for Humanity because this organization gave our members the opportunity to give back to individuals of low income by providing development through the construction of houses. Their work is analogous to the development projects that MEDLIFE hosts when volunteers participate in mobile clinics.
Why did you think it was important?
Truckee Meadows Habitat for Humanity is a non-profit, volunteer based organization that helps provide low income families the opportunity to seek homeownership in the Truckee Meadows community since 1991. As a chapter of MEDLIFE, our mission is to provide MEDs (Medicine, Education, and Development) to communities around the world and in our very own community. As such, it is important for our chapter to give back to help touch the lives of those who deserve a place to live.
How did you get involved with Habitat for Humanity?
Our mobile clinic officer who focuses on community relations, Jake Eisert, contacted Habitat for Humanity and set a date for which we are able to volunteer.
Do you plan on doing this event in the future?
Yes, our members had a great time working with this organization and it was amazing to see the work that volunteers put in in order to create something that benefits so many people. Towards the end of our workday, the construction manager showed us a house that was completed 100% by the work put in by volunteers and it was absolutely breathtaking to see what the dedication of a group of individuals can do for a community.
What differences did you find working on this project in your local community compared to your project abroad with MEDLIFE?
The difference between working this project and the project with MEDLIFE is that we took part in a project that we did not necessarily see from start to finish like a stair project in Pamplona Alta. However, even though we did not take part of the whole process here, we still got the same feeling of excitement and joy knowing that what we made will help improve the lives of others. Whether it was plastering or putting up drywall, carrying buckets of cement or painting a mural what you are doing means so much more than you probably realize. That the smile on someone's face means that you have impacted them forever.
Like most 11 year olds, our patient Edison Tagua from Ecuador loves playing soccer and being active with his friends. But unlike his peers, he had long-suffered from a condition that prevents him from enjoying these activities to his full potential.
We first met Edison at a Mobile Clinic a year ago in the community of Achullay del Cantón Guamote near Riobamba, Ecuador when his father told us that Edison had difficulty running or engaging in other strenuous activities. After he was seen by a doctor at the clinic, we discovered that he had a heart murmur and was in need of further treatment.
Heart murmurs are the extra sounds that occur during a heartbeat. While most heart murmurs are not serious, some can be caused by various abnormalities or defects in the heart structure; these murmurs require further examination for possible treatment.
Living in a small house in rural Ecuador, Edison’s family comes from very low financial means. His father is day laborer and his mother works as a housekeeper. When MEDLIFE initially offered follow-up care for Edison, his family was very hesitant, as they had financial concerns and were also convinced that his condition could be fixed with a few home remedies. Finally, after speaking with MEDLIFE staff and medical professionals in Ecuador, and being informed that our organization would support them throughout the process, the family accepted our help and we enrolled Edison into our follow-up program.
His road to recovery began with a three-hour journey to the capital of Ecuador, Quito, where his surgery took place. On the day of his surgery, his entire family accompanied him to Quito and showered him with support as he was being taken to the operating room. Finally, after eight hours of heart surgery in Quito, Edison was in stable condition and is on a steady road to recovery.
Now, he will be able to enjoy the activities he loves: playing soccer with his friends, spending time with his family, and continuing to study in school in order to accomplish his goal of becoming an engineer when he grows up.
Every year around her birthday, University of Michigan student Leighann Cohen reminisces on her previous year and the events that inspired her to give back. Last August, Leighann had the opportunity to participate in the first-ever MEDLIFE volunteer trip to Tanzania, so for her 20th birthday, she decided to give back to the organization that gave her an eye-opening experience.
Instead of asking for material gifts, Leighann started a campaign that asked her family and friends to use that money and donate it to MEDLIFE instead. Her campaign started on her birthday, , and continued on until New Year’s Day of 2014. Over the span of three months, she reached out to an array of people, from close friends and family to sorority and fraternity networks at her university, to donate to her cause. She wrote a letter to her prospective supporters to explain her cause:
“As I begin the final month of my teenage years, I face adulthood with a new appreciation for the world and the billions of people I share it with. For my 20th birthday, I would like to do something different. Although there is always something one could buy me that would make me smile, the something that I really want this year is your help in changing the lives of people that are in need of change. For my birthday, I want to know that I have done what I can to give back to all of the people that have changed my life this summer,” an exerpt from her letter.
From all of the support she received, she raised a total of $1,235 for the MEDLIFE fund.
“My experience with MEDLIFE was one that truly gave me direction in life,” she said. “The communities we traveled to and the people we interacted with touched my heart. Despite the immense language barrier, every day brought new and exciting friendships and lessons.”
Her inspiration for the campaign started from her trip to Tanzania with MEDLIFE last August, and particularly from her experience in a community called Kikavu. The clinic in Kikavu was set up in an old dispensary that was once funded by a foreign organization who had since stopped their support. Because of this, Leighann’s group did not expect many people to show up for the clinic and thought that MEDLIFE would have to build back the community’s trust. To their surprise, nearly 300 children, adults and elderly were attended to at the clinic that day.
“I cried out of happiness as our bus pulled out of Kikavu,” she said. “I think that seeing this, especially on my first day of mobile clinics, solidified the true impact MEDLIFE's work has on underserved and impoverished people around the world.”
Leighann strongly encourages that other students fundraise for MEDLIFE in a similar manner.
“One's social networks most often are full of people with similar interests to yours,” she said. “School organizations are also a fantastic way to get the word out.”
Thank you, Leighann, for all of your dedication and support to MEDLIFE! We wish you much success in your future endeavours.
After months of planning and construction, a new MEDLIFE project has been inaugurated! A school in Riobamba for children who are deaf and hard of hearing now has a new set of bleachers to accompany its outdoor court: enabling a prolonged dream for many students to finally become a reality.
This project, which began in September of 2013, was initially requested by the parents, who noticed that the school was equipped with a spacious, outdoor court, but had no place for people to sit and watch various games and activities.
The parents also noticed that the original space for sign-language classes was extremely small: the children were forced to cram back-to-back in a small classroom. This hindered their learning experience, as their tight seating situation prevented many students from being able to see the instructor. Now, students are able to take their sign language classes in groups, sitting on the bleachers with a comfortable view of their instructors.
Holding true to our mission, our student chapters are constantly striving to bring Medicine, Education and Development to their own communities through various service events and projects. At our chapter at the Interamerican University of Puerto Rico -- San German, students decided to give their part by spending a full day wandering around the streets of Mayagüez, Puerto Rico on a mission to feed the homeless.
The idea for the project was initially thought out and planned for in one executive-board meeting. A few days later, the team of 15 students headed off to the streets of Mayagüez to hand out sandwiches to the homeless. In total, the chapter gave out 35 breakfast bags, which contained sandwiches, fruit baskets and water.
“As we met them, we started to talk to some of them and they shared their stories with us,” said Derecks Negron Torres, Fundraising Chief of the chapter. “It was an amazing experience."
The chapter decided to carry out this event because they noted the large number of homeless people living in their community. This project was a way for the chapter to ease some of their daily struggles.
“Each and every one of us is familiar with the large amount of homeless people in the streets of Mayagüez,” said Gladimar Rodriguez, chapter President. “We now have a group of students who are so motivated to serve in our community, so when the time came for organizing charitable activities, this was the first idea."
The chapter will continue carrying out this event on an ongoing basis. Keep holding true to our mission and we look forward to your continued involvement in our organization!
When we first met Ariana and her family during Mobile Clinics, we were unaware of the depth of circumstances that burdened them. Both Ariana and her father, Seferino, became Follow-Up patients for MEDLIFE: Ariana suffers from malformation in her heart and her father suffers from epilepsy. Ariana’s condition must be treated periodically to prevent medical incidents.
Seferino, his wife Nelly and their two daughters, Ariana and Maricielo, live in Villa El Salvador, a district located in the south of Lima and known for its large timberfactories. It’s also known to be a very underserved and underprivileged area.
Because of his work as a recycler, Seferino is able to find treasures where no one else would think to look. However, sometimes he finds value in objects that in reality, have little to no value. For many years, Seferino stored objects from the trash that did not serve any purpose, such as rusted pots, broken shoes, pieces of plastic and busted doors.
The house didn’t appear as a home, rather as an abandoned landfill. Their neighbors, bothered by the lack of hygiene that was found in the house, constantly complained to Seferino and his wife. Their neighbors were almost at the brink of banding together and evicting Seferino and his family from their home.
Because of the risk that Ariana and her sister were exposed to, MEDLIFE interns took the initiative to help clean up their house and take out the large quantity of trash that had been accumulated. The result was incredible.
It took them nearly five hours of hard work to get the house into decent shape. The effort resulted in more than 20 trash bags that were left outside of the house and taken out. However, the walls were still close to deteriorating and the furniture was still infested with insects and rats.
After this first renovation, our MEDLIFE staff member Elizabeth, decided to take some action. Elizabeth Shenk, known as “Biz”, started off as an intern and later became an Associate of Student Affairs because of her incredible work in the organization. Moved by Ariana’s case, Biz decided to start a campaign to construct and renovate a new house for their family, thus improving their quality of life. In less than one week, Biz received more than $2500 dollars in donations.
Biz first met Ariana last year, when she was just an infant, on a follow-up care visit.
“I was taken aback by the state of her home and the despair amongst her family,” Biz said.
“I started this campaign because we had another young patient last year with the same condition who unfortunately did not make it. For him, I wanted to help a family facing a similar condition."
What first arrived for Ariana were materials for her new house: walls, a new roof, and all of the necessary construction tools and materials to build a new house. The arrival came as a surprise to Ariana’s family, such a surprise that Seferino nearly fainted when he saw the truck of materials appear in front of his house.
“The most rewarding aspect was seeing Ariana and her sister Maricielo run up and hug their mother when they saw us carrying in the new bunk beds,” Biz said. “Looking back on last year when I first met Ariana, she couldn't even crawl, and now she is walking and playing in a cleaner environment.”
Lucia Suarez, field nurse and follow-up coordinator, was also very involved in this project, making back to back visits to this house and coordinating furniture arrivals and construction.
“The family is more unified and happy,” Lucia said. “It made me very happy to see their new house and all of the work that has been done."
It took nearly three weeks and various visits to the house to complete the construction project. Nearly everything was renovated -- walls, the ceiling, beds, mattresses, furniture, kitchen utensils, among other household items. Now, the house is officially complete and Ariana and her family will finally have a new opportunity to develop the quality oftheir lives.
Watch our recap of the Winter 2013-14 Mobile Clinics! Thanks to everyone who participated! Registration is now open for Spring Mobile Clinics! Sign up now: http://ow.ly/t55uX!
At our Mobile Clinics, we always encourage our student volunteers to bring extras from home that are not in use -- clothes, books and other similar materials. At our last Mobile Clinic in Riobamba, Ecuador two of our chapters went above and beyond and brought hundreds of pairs of shoes to give todifferent communities in the area.
For weeks before their arrival to Riobamba, students from the University of Puerto Rico -- Mayagüez and the University of Puerto Rico -- Rio Piedrasunderwent muchplanning and collaborationin order to successfully bring shoes to communities in Ecuador.
The idea to bring shoes to Mobile Clinics came originally from a student at Cornell University, Lorena Montalvo. After participating in two different MEDLIFE Clinics, she noticed a particular need for shoes in the various communities that we serve, especially for the children. After hearing about her idea, the two chapters in Puerto Rico decided to adopt the project and bring shoes to the communities at their trip destination of Riobamba, Ecuador, thus fulfilling the missions of the two organizations involved: MEDLIFE and Footprints, a new organization founded at Cornell University.
Thanks to various donations and the collaboration with the Boy Scouts of America in Puerto Rico, who held a Jamboree for the cause, the chapters were able to collect a total of 452 pairs of shoes to distribute among community members. The student volunteers were greeted with smiling faces from children and adults alike as they received their new pairs of shoes.
“It was any amazing experience seeing how the kids immediately put the shoes on once they received them, excited for their new gift,” said Eduard Valdes,President of Mobile Clinicsfor UPR - Mayaguez. “It made me reconsider the importance we place on material goods, something that media expertly infuses into people's minds as a necessity."
Congratulations to UPR - Mayaguez and UPR - Rio Piedras for successfully carrying out this amazing project, and we look forward to your future involvement and achievements with MEDLIFE!
The past four months working as a MEDLIFE intern in the Lima headquarters has been an amazing experience. Living in a city that is bigger than my whole country certainly has its ups and downs: from the near death experiences of crossing the roads in rush hour traffic to the excitement of the bustling markets that await you on the other side, filled to the brim with new, unusual fruits and vegetables, an array of crafts bursting with colour and hundreds of tupperware boxes (that make you wonder how you have managed without one of each size all of this time). Lima is different enough from Scotland that I feel excitement at the prospect of all of the new things I have yet to discover, but there are enough home comforts that I feel content here and am delighted in calling it my home for the year.
When offered the chance to spend time in Ecuador to help out with the clinics, I jumped at the opportunity to experience another country in South America and find out if my love of the people and culture that I have experienced in Peru could stretch across the border.
Touching down in the Quito airport, fellow interns Joey, Jennifer and I let out a gasp of astonishment at the beauty of the rolling hills and green landscape that lay below. After four months in a capital that was built on a desert, I had forgotten that not all trees have a grey, dusty green shade. After our short stay in Quito, we ventured three hours to Riobamba. Perched 2,800 meters above sea level, Riobamba lies in the heart of Ecuador's mountains and is surrounded by jagged volcanoes with snowy peaks. It is the base point for the week long mobile clinics that MEDLIFE hosts in the surrounding area.
Rising early each morning before the mist had risen, we embark on our journey into the mountains to serve the rural communities whose access to medical facilities is hindered due to the distance and limited transport options: foot, horse or the occasional truck. At over 3,500 feet, the landscape and views are striking as the rising clouds reveal fields of varying crops, giving the effect of patchwork quilt mountains. Endearing rosy cheeks with wide grins welcome the MEDLIFE bus as it pulls into the village and excitement spreads with the prospect of medical treatment on their doorstep. The stations are set up and the day commences. From the education stand comes the voices of doctors and nurses sharing advice with the adults on common diseases and preventative methods, while their children are awash with excitement at the prospect of receiving a new toothbrush in their choice of colour and being taught how to care for their teeth by these fascinating foreigners at the toothbrushing station.
Over in general medicine, doctors are diagnosing patients with the students at their side who observe and learn about the medical issues that face these rural communities. Not a whimper is heard from the patients at the dentist station, who commonly decline any anaesthesia while having multiple teeth extracted and cavities filled. Welcome relief from the goosebumps that cover our legs comes when the sun peers through the clouds, giving off an intense warmth that reminds us that in the mountains of Ecuador, we are near the closest point on earth to the sun. It becomes clear that the local community wisely chooses not rely on these brief sunny intervals for their source of warmth. Giggling at our shorts and light fleeces, the women reveal much slimmer figures than first appearances would suggest as they remove their layers of clothing for the weigh-in at the triage station. The mound of cloth that make up their outfits could rival my entire wardrobe!
A steady stream of patients walks or trots (3 to a horse) in from the neighbouring communities throughout the day to receive this on-the-doorstep medical treatment, some having not visited a doctor in years. The importance of culturally sensitive doctors who understand the culture of each community becomes clear as I note the differing health problems that the climate, education system, access to healthcare and diet of each community can present.
Winding down the day, the children of the community gather together for a game of football against the students as their parents are the final few to be seen to by the medical staff. Thoroughly exhausted from a long day of rewarding but challenging work and an intense game of soccer at high altitude, the students and staff file back on to the bus and embark on the windy journey down the mountains and back to the hotel. Even the striking views, framed perfectly in the bus windows cannot compete with the exhaustion that sweeps over the student as the bus weaves down the mountain paths. I am rewarded a couple of hours of calm in which I take the time, amongst the light snores, to reflect upon the community's sincere words of gratitude as we parted company, and I realise how lucky I am to be a part of MEDLIFE and the amazing work that the organisation does.
When MEDLIFE began mobile clinics in Tanzania we encountered many new medical situations, firsts and opportunities to show how we care. None a more heart-wrenching and ultimately inspiring patient than in the 14-year-old orphaned girl Mwajabu.
Mwajabu was brought to my attention after our August clinics as a potential Follow-Up patient. Although leprosy has been eradicated in nearly every country, the World Health Organization (WHO) states that there are still cases found in some parts of Africa and Asia. Mwajabu had suffered from leprosy nearly six years ago, but due to lack of proper follow-up care she was suffering due to extensive infections in her left hand, untreated burns and pain. Mwajabu had not been able to use her left hand for more than two years and had given up on school.
When I met her, her pointer and middle fingers were swollen with infections and her fingers were nearing contracture. Her left hand was no longer able to open or flex. Mwajabu said she was teased by other students and teachers in school because of her hand, so she left and only attended small local study sessions. When I met her she concealed her hand in her long head scarf and kept it close to her body at all times. It wasn’t until after lots of encouragement and reassurance that she finally revealed her hand. She felt ashamed and we knew we had to do something to help her.
Living in a small, predominately Muslim slum area in Moshi with her grandparents, Mwajabu lives without electricity or running water. She was taken into their home after being orphaned when she was very young. Her grandparents support her as best they can, but without jobs they struggle to meet her needs. Mwajabu alsos need to overcome her environment, as her community is not in an area that inspires hope. Her home is surrounded by poverty, joblessness and illegal liquor dealers who sell cups of hard liquor for 15 cents. These liquor dealers make it impossible for her to move freely and comfortably around her home by mid afternoon due to the state of the people around her.
We knew that this little girl, who had been robbed of her smile and turned inward, deserved better than what she was given. The first day we met her, we took her to the hospital in Kibosho, one of the largest hospitals in the Kilimanjaro region. After making arrangements, she was seen by two MEDLIFE clinic doctors, as well as a doctor who specializes in Leprosy. They designed a personalized plan that would involve medicine, some minor procedures, physical therapy and lots of home visits. That very first day she underwent her first procedure to relieve some of the swelling and infection. When we returned home, Mwajabu excitedly explained all the doctors and attention she received to her grandmother who was in disbelief and frankly so were we. The same girl that was lost in the mix in Tanzanian government hospitals now finally had a plan to get better, and most of all, had the optimism and excitement a child should have.
Over the course of the next three months, Innocent Massawe, a MEDLIFE clinic leader, and I visited Mwajabu's home three times a week, assisted with physical therapy, changed bandages and took her to the hospital weekly. With each visit we grew closer with her grandparents, met neighbors, shared meals and slowly got to know the shy reserved Mwajabu who had finally revealed the beautiful smile she had been hiding. Along the way, we discovered that this girl is charming, caring, sarcastic and just as sassy as any other 14-year-old girl. She would tease me as I changed her bandages and play jokes on me as we conducted her physical therapy.
After her last scheduled physical therapy session, her doctors said that it was no longer necessary for her to visit weekly. We would continue to do physical therapy and monitor the hand, but she had regained most of the movement in her hand. When I asked Mwajabu how she wanted to celebrate she said one thing, “I want to eat pizza”. So we went to the best pizza place in Moshi, talked, ate pizza, joked and celebrated. We returned home with Mwajabu and shared the news her grandmother. Her grandmother was in tears, not just because Mwajabu had regained the ability to use her left hand but because Mwajabu now has the desire to go to secondary school. She no longer fears ridicule from students or teachers and has the dream to one day become an accountant.