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Camila is 4 years old and suffers from cerebral palsy which she contracted aged 1 year and 2 months as a result of an intraparenchymal hemorrhage. Her illness means that Camila is unable to move or communicate with anyone around her.
Tatiana is Camila’s mother and primary carer. She gave up school and then work for Camila and, until recently has been working at a local market selling honey and coffee in order to pay for the medication Camila needs. Camila is in constant need of attention and therapy and it falls on Tatiana to make sure she gets all the treatment necessary to deal with her illness.
MEDLIFE have been working with Camila and her family for over a year and since then have been able to contribute to the medication Camila needs. However, one of the biggest issues Tatiana faces is having to balance earning money to afford Camila’s treatment with being around to care for Camilla. Tatiana told MEDLIFE that one of the most useful things would be for her to be able to work close enough to home that she could bring money in whilst also being able to take care of Camila.
One of the pillars of the MEDLIFE ideology is sustainable development and support, therefore, MEDLIFE made it our mission to make this hope of Tatiana’s a reality. We fundraised to buy a sandwich cart for Tatiana that would allow her to make and sell sandwiches directly outside her house. After raising the $1000 required thanks to the support of the University of Puerto Rico at Rio Piedras and individual donors, last week we were able to deliver the sandwich cart to its new owner.
Tatiana told us what a difference this would make to hers and Camila’s lives. She told us how “[Camila] needs help almost every hour of the day. I can’t leave to work or go out with anyone. This cart will help me get back my independence and will enable me to earn the money I need to deal with Camila’s condition”.
This year’s summer volunteer affairs interns were lucky enough to be Tatiana’s first customers and enjoyed chicken and beef burgers and vegetarian sandwiches from Tatiana’s cart on Friday afternoon. Volunteer affairs intern Alexa Friedman said “being one of Tatiana's customers really showed me how the work MEDLIFE does is personal and sustainable. It made me proud to be interning for this kind of non-profit.” This opinion seemed to be shared by many of the interns who seemed happy to be able to partake in what will hopefully be a life changing moment with Tatiana, Camila and the rest of their family. Tatiana Gerena, another intern told us how “being able to support Tatiana from start to finish was so great. Her sandwiches were delicious and I have to admit that I went back for seconds!”
MEDLIFE has been involved with the Cuna Jardin Virgen del Buen Paso nursery project for over a year now and in this time have refurbished much of the interior to create a more hygienic space, have built a wall to enable the children to have a safe area to play and created a slope to allow easy and safe access to the nursery. Last week, the MEDLIFE mobile clinic was working on developing a garden in an area of land outside the nursery to allow the children to have a green space to run around in and play in the fresh air.
Our summer volunteer affairs interns and volunteers at last week's mobile clinic were out in the field helping with the conversion of this area of wasteland into a green space that is safe for the children to play in. After removing all the dirt and trash from this area, the process of constructing the garden could begin.
During the week we got a chance to visit the children in the nursery to find out more about how this area will benefit them. The nursery has around 350 children attending every day aged six months to five years old. There are six classrooms to separate the children according to their ages and abilities. The youngest children spend most of their time playing with toys and learning about the world around them.
The elder children do more active learning. One class was being taught about how to behave in school, another was practicing handwriting and others were creating pictures for their fathers for ‘Día de los Papas’.
Each class we visited sang us a song and some even included a dance! All the children seemed so happy to be spending time with their friends and teachers and to be able to perform to us.
For Tatiana Gerena, it was even more special to see this project in its final stages as her brother, Rolando Gerena, was the volunteer affairs intern who began the project last summer. Rolando (known affectionately as Roly at the nursery) fundraised via social media after he saw the state of the play area outside the daycare centre on a visit he took with fellow interns.
The nursery is located in San Juan de Miraflores, a district that contains some of the most impoverished communities in Lima. The headteacher explained to us why it was so important for the children to have this area to play in due to the state of the community around the centre. “It is not a safe community and the parents want to know that they have somewhere safe to leave their children. Many of these parents work every day and so knowing their children have a safe building and a good place to get fresh air is very important to them”
We also spoke to some of the children who told us how they were looking forward to the park being finished. 4 year old Luciel told us “When it is raining, I like to play inside. But if it is sunny, it would be nice to be able to play outside”.
Previously, the only outside playing space the daycare centre had was a small playground that was fenced in. Now the children have a large green area to run around in, get fresh air and enjoy the outside.
On the day of the inauguration, all the children were very excited to see the completed outside area and the finishing touches that had been added to the wall. The day had a feeling of celebration and festivity about it with balloons hanging around the nursery, speeches from different parties and performances from the children.
The headteacher told all the volunteers and MEDLIFE interns what the garden meant to the school. She said “I want to thank you all so much for all your hard work. It means alot to us to see people like you coming here and caring enough about our small community to build something like this for our children.”
Marangu is a lush green rural Tanzanian town tucked in the shadows of the mighty Mt. Kilimanjaro. Residents walk its unpaved roads with loads of produce in tow, shouting “jambo” (hello in Swahili) to passersby on the way to sell off whatever surplus they may have of maize, coffee, plantains, avocadoes, or mangoes, the economic mainstays of the community. The trip is long to get to the market or hospital, several kilometres of walking and then hitching a ride on the public bus. In the rainy seasons, monsoons pound the roads into sludge and a 4x4 is necessary to gain access to the town.
When MEDLIFE visited for a 2016 Mobile Clinic, we found little infrastructure, and what did exist was in a state of dilapidation and disrepair. Modern bathrooms had been constructed at the local primary school by another NGO, but they had neglected to follow up with the community. The plumbing was not functioning, and no one in the community had the resources to bring in a plumber. As a result, the bathrooms had sat and festered, unused.
Many of the houses were very poorly constructed and offered little shelter from monsoons. One particularly dismal case was brought to our attention when during a mobile clinic, an 84 year-old woman wrapped in colorful cloth came in named Elianasia and asked us for help with her bathroom.
MEDprograms Associate Amber Pariona was on clinic that day and followed her through the jungle to see her bathroom. It was hard for Elianasia to walk so far, her leg was causing her pain. She lived all alone, all of her children had gone seperate ways and were not caring for her. Her husband died tragically in 1962. When Amber saw the rest of her house, she was surprised she was only asking for a bathroom.
Her kitchen was a fireplace sheltered by some wood poles and tattered rags, the bathroom was a hole in the ground covered by a small wooden board, which was being slowly devoured by ants and appeared it may collapse into the hole next time it was used. She did not have a room anywhere that could provide shelter from the rain. During monsoon season, she slept on a wet bed and tried to cook in the rain.
Before Amber left, Elianasia spit into her hand and rubbed it on Amber's forehead as a way of giving her a blessing. Elianasia left a strong impression on Amber, whom she remembers for having the best laugh in the world; high energy and contagious despite her circumstances.
After visiting Marangu, and meeting community leaders, MEDLIFE decided to do several projects in the community. MEDLIFE is going to bring in a plumber to fix the bathrooms at the local school, as well as construct offices for the teachers there so they have a space to work. Finally MEDLIFE is going to construct a new home for Elianasia, who deserves to live in a comfortable and safe home.
"I will be very happy if you can provide for me a house where I can stay," said Elianasia. "I am praying for you, so that god may bless you in everything that you do, thank you very much."
Thank you to GoodLife Travels for donating the money MEDLIFE needs for these projects! GoodLife Travels is a travel agency that donates at least 5% of all profits to MEDLIFE to make projects like this possible.
MEDLIFE is excited to announce a new project in Kirua, Tanzania. We did our first clinics there in August of 2015, and the community organized itself to work with us more. At a community meeting they asked us for help with the schools infrastructure.
Kirua is a rural agricultural community in the region of Kilimanjaro, Tanzania. Maize, bananas, mangos, and avocadoes make up the staple crops of the area, which the locals grow for food and sell of the extra in local markets. General infrastructure is undeveloped in rural Tanzania.
There are no paved roads that serve the village of Kirua, villagers must hike many kilometers to arrive at a road that is served by public transit with access to a major town.
Only 7.5% of people in rural communities have sanitary bathrooms. This means that a lot of waste drains into the river and contaminates the community's only water supply. A whole host of health problems like diarrhea and parasites, which were treated frequently in the clinics MEDLIFE held there, are caused by the contaminated river water.
The great importance of improving sanitation was summed up on a United Nations page about a global initiative to end open defecation: "Cross-country studies show that the method of disposing of excreta is one of the strongest determinants of child survival: the transition from unimproved to improved sanitation reduces overall child mortality by about a third. Improved sanitation also brings advantages for public health, livelihoods and dignity-advantages that extend beyond households to entire communities."
The quality of public education in general in Tanzania is very poor. According to a world bank report, about 25% of the population between the ages of 15 and 24 remains illiterate. Many schools are extremely overcrowded, with an average of 74.1 children per classroom and 50 students per teacher. One reason for this is that the infrastructure of the schools themselves is seriously lacking. Just 3% of schools have the basic services like electricity, water, and sanitary bathrooms. In the report, improvements in all of these measures were correlated with improved test scores. While only correlational, it does not take a great leap of the imagination to see how a school with basic services would create a better learning environment.
When a meeting was held with the community, they told us how they needed help with the school. The school serves 120 children. It is a simple school house, nothing but a room to teach in, no bathrooms, water, or electricity. They don't have enough desks, so many of the children must work on the ground. The children's meals are cooked over an open wood fire outside. Each kid has to collect some wood for the fire on their way to school.
They cook Ugali over the open fire and 3 large stones. Ugali is a staple dish made of corn flour that has the consistency of dough, along with beans. The Ugali is typically rolled into a ball and used to pick up the other food being eaten, like an edible utensil. The problem with the open kitchen and eating area is that it the wind blows dust and dirt into the children's food, causing diarrhea.
They told us that what they needed most was a kitchen and bathrooms for the school.
After listening to the communities concerns, MEDLIFE decided to do three projects at the Kirua primary school: a dining hall, a kitchen, and a bathroom project. MEDLIFE is also donating 29 desks and chairs so the children do not have to work on the ground. The kids will live a healthier lifestyle and have a better learning environment. MEDLIFE is proud to be able to help develop the community of Kirua, but we cannot do it alone. Please help by donating here.
MEDLIFE is thrilled to announce that the Empower Union Santa Fe Project has been funded and completed. Union Santa Fe is a community located high in the hills of Lima. MEDLIFE has been doing projects there for a long time. We have completed several staircase projects, constructed a daycare, and now we are proud to have brought electricity to this community.
7% of people in Latin America live without electricity, but in Peru 33% of people live without electricty, one of the lowest elecrification rates in Latin America. That means 530,000 people in Lima live without electricity.
Because of this project, 350 people will no longer have to live in darkness! One child told us that he loved not having to eat dinner in a dark home lit by a single candle. Electric lighting in the streets will improve safety, hardly anyone left their homes at night here because they felt it was too dangerous to be outside without light. Both because navigating the steep, loose, rubble strewn hills in the dark is difficult and because of crime.
Here are some pictures from the inaugeration day, where MEDLIFE staff and the community got together to celebrate the project.