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Last friday, the community of Laderas Nueva Esperanza was able to inaugurate a new water reservoir. The project was the result of three years of collaboration between MEDLIFE, leaders from Laderas and the sponsorship of the University of Wisconsin-Madison and University of California-Berkeley MEDLIFE chapters. Through fundraising efforts and donations, the UW-Madison and UC Berkeley chapters were able to contribute to the project and members were present to witness the inauguration.
Laderas, located in the foothills of Lima, is not serviced by SEDAPAL, the city water supply of Lima, and relied on purchasing water from private vendors at a higher price. The water reservoir will help the community by allowing them to store more water in a clean and sanitary facility.
MEDLIFE has completed over 207 projects in Peru and 74 in Ecuador. Many of these projects are either Stair Cases or Hygiene projects, both of which have been a core component of MEDLIFE’s work from the beginning.
The majority of these projects had GPS coordinates saved for them in an archive. We decided to map them to get a sense of the scope of MEDLIFE’s between 2004 and 2017. Included in the map are the locations of most of the staircases, bathrooms, and a few school projects. Keep in mind, around 100 projects are missing from this map because we don’t have the coordinates. Can you find the project from your Mobile Clinic? Look for the year and month of the clinic.
In the steep hillsides of Villa Maria de Triunfo and San Juan De Miraflores, a simple concrete staircase can change lives. Families living in the area have no access to running water and instead are forced to haul buckets back and forth to their houses from large plastic containers filled daily by passing trucks. This task is not only time consuming but incredibly dangerous as the damp winter climate transforms the roads and pathways into slippery, eroding descents.
Adults and children alike are slowed down by the downward climb on their way to school and work, and fall-related injuries are common and costly. By building stairs, MEDLIFE is able to make the cumbersome daily journey easier, safer, and faster. It also is an important step in securing land titles and access to the public water system.
In 2011, The World Health Organization (WHO) declared diarrhoeal diseases to be the second leading cause of death in low-income countries. The WHO and UNICEF estimate that functional, clean bathrooms can reduce cases of diarrhea by more than 33%; simply being able to wash your hands with soap can reduce cases of diarrhea by more than 40%. Yet, for approximately 2.5 billion people, or 35% of the world's population, there is no functioning bathroom at all. If rural areas do not have functioning facilities, they are slower to be expanded upon and improved.
For MEDLIFE Ecuador, bathroom construction projects are an integral part of the health care work that we do. Projects are typically focused on rural, majority indigenous communities on the outskirts of cities. These areas are geographically isolated from access to reliable potable water and improved sanitation.
When Delia Martin discovered that she needed surgery for her rare chronic disorder, Caroli Disease, her primary concern was not the physical pain and distress she would have to undergo- she didnt have the privilege of focusing on her personal suffering. She was worried about how she was going to feed her children while undergoing the lengthy recovery, during which she would not be able to hustle through the difficult commutes and long walks required to survive in Lima's informal economy, the primary source of income for those who live in the cities slums.
After meeting Delia in a Mobile Clinic, MEDLIFEâ's nurses visited her in her home and spent enough time with her to understand that her illness was not just a medical issue requiring a medical response. If we wanted to really help Delia, we needed to take things a step further and find a way to empower her to care for her family. After talking with her, we decided that in addition to paying for her surgery, we would give her a food-cart that she could make and sell sandwiches from. She could do it right in front of her house and while sitting down- so it would not interfere with her recovery, and she could continue with this work after she had recovered.
Delia's situation required a special response, and because of donations from our supporters, we had the ability to give it her. MEDLIFE brings this philosophy to all of our follow-up patients, and it is this approach that distinguishes us from a medical mission. We specialize our care and quickly adapt it to meet patients real needs, which we discover by building a personal relationship with them inside and outside of medical facilities over the course of years.
Delia is not the only one, in the MEDLIFE patient archives there are hundreds of stories like hers.
Maura Morales has been a MEDLIFE patient for almost two years. She was in a tragic accident while working as a moto-taxi driver that left her leg mangled, useless and in need of major reconstructive surgery. Maura's bad fortune continued when after finally getting the surgery using the public health system, Maura became the victim of malpractice and was left with an improperly reconstructed bone and an infection that threatened to take her entire leg.
When MEDLIFE met her, she was in need of another more expensive surgery and had no way to pay for it. She could hardly get to the base of the hill her house was built on to get to a paved road, there was no sidewalk or staircase and the steep dirt path was nearly unnavigable on crutches.
MEDLIFE began following her case closely, and our nurses got to know Maura very well, an inspiring woman with an unbreakable spirit who never stopped smiling and cracking jokes with them no matter how many steel rods were sticking out of her leg or how much pain it was causing her.
In addition to getting Maura on health insurance that would cover her surgeries and paying for what was not covered, MEDLIFE built a staircase in Maura's community. We went with her to every appointment, and even carried her down the staircase when she could no longer walk on crutches after her surgery. Then, we redesigned her bathroom, which was just a hole in the ground, to make it handicap accessible.
Maura is recovering and MEDLIFE nurses continue to visit her regularly.
John Caisaguano was 3 years old when a simple toddlers fall went horribly wrong and caused him to lose his eye. After 10 years and thousands of dollars, it still remained a gaping hole is his face that made him the subject of ridicule in school, caused chronic pain and was at risk for infection.
John needed a prosthetic eye.
Adequate prosthesis of any kind are hard to come by in the impoverished mountain communities of the Ecuadorian Andes. The barriers to access are significant for those families who attempt to seek healthcare up to modern standards in the cities. For subsistence farmers, long trips, expensive travel costs, long waits and a baffling bureaucracy all conspire to prevent even the most determined from getting the treatments they need. That is why ten years after the accident, John was still without a prosthetic eye.
MEDLIFE was referred to Janet by the family of an old MEDLIFE patient who we had helped get a heart surgery to correct a birth defect. The family was contacted by a man in a nearby village whose daughter, Janet, had the same problem, and our old patient's family put them in contact with us. MEDLIFE nurse Maria set out to go find the family. After hours of driving around remote indigenous villages looking for the family, who had no cell phone, she tracked the father down in a market selling produce. He brought us to his daughter who was helping her family work the fields. MEDLIFE was able to get Janet an appointment with specialists in Quito and she will be getting her surgery soon after preparatory procedures are completed.
MEDLIFE began when Nick Ellis decided he was going to find a way to get Darwin a heart surgery, who was then a young boy with a similar condition living in the same region of Ecuador. Today MEDLIFE is still finding these types of patients. Janet's surgery will be the fifth heart surgery that MEDLIFE has done for children in the Ecuadorian Andes.
This holiday season, MEDLIFE is trying to raise the money that will allow us to keep specializing our care in 2017 for our patients who require a unique effort on our part to help them. MEDLIFE has been able to support many patients this year and we are eager to help many more this holiday season. All funds from our Holiday Campaign will go to specialized care for our patients.
A heart surgery for Janet, prosthetic eye for John and food cart for Dehlia are just a few of our patients cases supported by MEDLIFE's Project Fund. What separates MEDLIFE from other organizations is that 100% of all funds raised during this campaign will go straight to patients, assisting them with medical costs and continuing their healthcare in our sustainable follow-up program. We appreciate all of your support and hope you have a wonderful holiday season! Find out more here!
Pompinchu's house was located at the top of a slippery dirt track making it very difficult if he ever wanted to leave his house. Over the past week MEDLIFE, with the help of some community members from the Laderas community, has been constructing the staircase up to Pompinchu's house. On Friday, a group of interns and nurses went with Carlos Benavides, director of MED Programs Peru, to paint and inaugurate the staircase.
Whilst we were at the project site, we also decided to help Pompinchu with a few other changes he wanted to his house, redoing the paint, replacing the walls to his bathroom and decorating the side of his house with a character who is very important to Pompinchu.
As well as interns and nurses, some of Pompinchu's family members who live near by also came to help us with the final stages of staircase construction, including his young niece who was particularly excited to see all the bright paints we were using to decorate her uncle's house!
After completing the work on the staircase and other parts of the house, we were lucky enough to partake in a private viewing of Pompinchu's once famous show 'Comicos Ambulates'. Pompinchu explained "much of the show is based on satirical political humour but as Spanish is not your first language I'm going to stick to something more simple" before showing us a series of slight of hand magic tricks and engaging in some friendly banter with his co star 'monstro'.
We finished the inaugeration with the traditional smashing of a champagne bottle over the staircase and a few speeches. It was a delight inaugerating this staircase for Pompinchu who was incredibly entertaining all day and had us all joking around with him as we worked.
We will be continuing to work with Pompinchu and support him with his treatment and hope that having this staircase will make accesing his home easier and allow him to get out of the house more to continue entertaining.