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Walking through the "pueblos jovenes" of Lima is never an easy task either physically or emotionally. Working in these areas you will learn about people's stories and situations that can make you feel small and powerless, yet at the same you get to know incredible people who are full of hope and a desire for change.
During a Lima summer, it is excruciatingly sunny. The ground is dry and hot, and the relentless sun never lets you forget that you are in the center of a desert. Winter by contrast is humid and seemingly endless. Filled with grey skies and rainy days, the humidity brings the cold directly into the local homes and a chill cuts straight to the bone. For many of these families they have only a thin wall to protect them from these elements.
Such are the winters for Kiara, for which being inside or out of the house is the same; both places are wet, cold, and smell of garbage. At six years old, Kiara has learned to make due with her surroundings. Pretending that large stones are her own personal ponies, that the flowers she used to water are actually cactuses, and that her secondhand dolls have seen better days. Kiara's imagination has no limit, she continues every day smiling and doing her hair like a princess.
Dakota is different. She does not smile as much. At age four she does not understand much, but knows that things are not good. She knows that there are children who sleep in dry beds and whose houses are not full of holes in the walls. If you ask her if she prefers summer to the cold winters, she does not know how to respond. The heat is overwhelming, especially when you share the only bed with three other people.
They are two different children but at the same time are equal, as both have infinite love for their mother. Their mother tries daily to get ahead, to better her family's life. Mónica Coquinchi came to Lima from the Tigre River in the Amazon at age 18, after a five day boat ride and her first and only ride in a plane. They told her that Lima is full of jobs, success, and was her best option.
Love can at the same time be a blessing and a curse. Carlita, two years old, is proof that love forgives all, but can also be blind. Once you take off the blindfold, the truth can be painful. Two years of trial and tribulation to obtain sufficient food is the result.
But Monica's dreams and her preservation are what we really love about her. Her desire to improve her life is so strong that when she enrolled in a free course on Geriatrics. She was such a good student that her teacher let her bring her three daughters to class. Come graduation day, a friend gave her a new pair of shoes, another a nice blouse. But Mónica did not use either; she is keeping them for a more special occasion.
When it comes to beautiful things, perception is relative. For some it may be the sky at sunset, for others it is colorful flowers. For us, it is when we see Monica's eyes after telling her we would build her family a new house. A house without holes and with windows. Cool in the summer and warm in winter.
The Development Corps volunteers are changing lives, fulfilling dreams, and giving hope to people that things can get better. It reminds us that we should not give up and that we need to continue our efforts. We are proud to say that this Friday we will not just be inaugurating a house; we will be inaugurating a home.
"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.
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.
At the inauguration, students and community members spoke in sign language and acted out various cultural and literary traditions in sign. One of the students recited a quote in sign language by Mark Twain:
“Kindness is a language which the deaf can hear and the blind can see.”
The inauguration ended with everyone singing peaceful hymns in celebration. The students named the project “the magic stands”, expressing their gratitude for something they had wanted for so long. Now that this project has been completed, families can visit to watch sporting and cultural activities, instructors can teach sign language more effectively, and the community can unite as a whole.
Since MEDLIFE's operations began in Lima, we have always dreamed of building an office close to the people we serve. Now, thanks to your support through the MEDLIFE Fund, this dream is finally coming true.
Unión Santa Fe is a community located in Pamplona where we have brought more than ten mobile clinics, seven staircases, and both water and road projects. Additionally, this community is where our daycare center is currently being built. Throughout our years working on various projects with community members of Unión Sante Fe, they have always shown commitment, collaboration and unity.
Now, we are proud to announce that Unión Santa Fe will be the site of our first MEDLIFE operations office!
This new office will be used as the headquarters during Mobile Clinics, Mobile Schools and Development Corps. The space will also be used for meetings with community leaders, follow-up patients, and educational workshops. Finally, the new office will also create jobs for locals such as our future neighbor Selvestrina, who will maintain our gardens.
Thanks to everyone for all of your support! As MEDLIFE expands, we become more able to deliver more medicine, education and development for communities in need.
Stay tuned for updates!
Earlier this year, we visited community 15 A-1 in Villa María del Triunfo and met Nelly, a community member who fell down a steep hillside while she was pregnant with her now 2-year-old son, Christian. After hearing her story, we knew we had to do something to help this community.
Thanks to the sponsorship of the University of Puerto Rico -- Río Piedras (UPR-RP), we’ve now begun construction to build a staircase in this community that will prevent future falling!
Over the past few days, our year-long interns have made several visits to 15 A-1 in order to work with community members to construct the staircase. They’ve worked hard digging, mixing cement, and hauling bags of sand -- all while getting to know community members.
“Not only has it been incredibly rewarding to know your exhaustion at the end of the day is helping build the staircase more quickly, it has been so great to chat with the community members as we work,” said year-long intern Jennifer Clay. “I have learned a lot about some people who live there, and it is so fun to practice Spanish and laugh through the language barrier.”
For the folks at UPR-RP, it is rewarding for them to see that their sponsorship is actually coming to life.
“We are very grateful to be able to help this community and give Nelly and Christian some stairs,” they said.
Though the chapter did not have a large collection of money to give, they still wanted to help out a community in South America. Through a series of bake sales, movie nights, and other similar fundraising events, the chapter was able to raise enough money to sponsor this staircase. Although UPR-RPhas sent volunteers to Lima, Tena and Cusco, they have yet to visit this particular community of 15 A-1, and hope to visit one day soon once the staircase project is complete.
“We hope to be able to see the smiles of joy on the community members’ faces once they have these staircases,” the chapter said.
The project is slated to be completed next week. Thanks to everyone for all of your support!