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Another demonstration of MEDLIFE's depth of commitment to our follow up patients. A huge thanks once again to the Universidad de Puerto Rico - Rio Piedras chapter (Medlife U.P.R.R.P.), for fulfilling this dream for Jimena and Katherine's family and neighbors! Read the interview with the chapter below!
How did you come across Jimena and Katherine and why did you decide to fundraise for this project?
Cómo conocieron el caso de Jimena y Katherine why por qué decidieron recaudar fondos para ese proyecto?
Our president, Vilmarie Vázquez, saw Katherine and Jimena’s case on the MEDLIFE website. We were struck as it was clear that there was a lot of need and especially with so many children, the security in the community is one of the most important factors. Having a safe area prevents accidents and, because of this we decided to sponsor the stairs.
Nuestra presidenta Vilmarie Vázquez vio el caso de Katherine y Jimena a través del website de MEDLIFE. Nos llamó mucho la atención ya que se veia que habia mucha necesidad y más cuando hay tantos niños. La seguridad en la comunidad es una de las cosas más importantes. Tener un área segura evita accidentes y por eso decidimos auspiciar las escaleras.
What was your plan for the fundraising campaign and what did you do to reach your goal?
Cuál fue el planeamiento para la campaña y qué actividades realizaron?
To raise funds we did weekly fundraisers that included pizza sales, cupcake sales, a raffle, lunch sales, amongst others. To reach our goal of $2,500 it took us around 4 months of hard work and we were able to save the money for a special project like this.
Para recaudar los fondos hicimos un fundraiser semanal el cuál incluía ventas de pizza, cupcakes, una rifa, ventas de almuerzo, entre otros. Para lograr recaudar los $2,500 tardamos alrededor de 4 meses de mucho trabajo y ahorramos el dinero para un proyecto especial como este.
What was the most emotional moment of this project?
Cuál fue el momento más emotivo?
Undoubtedly, the most emotional moment was when the girls made us a banner and gave it as a thanks to the university. It was definitely a very beautiful detail and all of us were very emotional. We also loved the video of the inauguration, all of us were very happy to see that the effort was well worth it!!
Sin duda alguna, el momento más emotivo fue cuando las chicas nos hicieron el banner dandole las gracias a nuestra Universidad. Sin duda, fue un detalle muy bonito y a todos nos emociono muchisimo. El video de la inauguración tambien nos encantó, a todos nos dio mucha alegría ver que el esfuerzo valio la pena!!
What kind of obstacles did you face throughout the campaign and project and how did you overcome them?
Qué obstáculos encontraron en el camino y cómo los superaron?
Doing fundraisers is always hard work, the time that we were doing them there were a lot of exams and deadlines for applying to graduate schools so it was a bit difficult to do the fundraisers weekly and bring it all together. However, thanks to the support of our member we always had success in our activities.
Hacer fundraisers siempre es trabajoso. El periodo en el que hacíamos el fundraiser era de muchos exámenes y de "deadlines" para solicitar a escuelas graduadas y fue un poco cuesta arriba hacer los fundraisers semanales y que todo quedara bien, pero gracias al apoyo de nuestros miembros siempre tuvimos éxito en nuestras actividades.
What was the most important thing that you learned from this project?
Qué fue lo más importante que aprendieron de este proyecto?
The most important thing that we learned was how to work in a team with all of our chapter members. This was our first large fundraiser that then helped us do a fundraiser for cancer patients in Puerto Rico, where we raised $10,000 for cancer treatments. Also, it helped us get to know each other as a chapter and to demonstrate that when we propose something and we work for it, anything can be done.
Lo más importante que aprendimos fue a trabajar en equipo con todos los miembros, este fue nuestro primer fundraiser grande, el cual luego nos ayudó a hacer un fundraiser para pacientes con cáncer en Puerto Rico, donde recaudamos $10,000 para tratamientos. Tambien nos ayudó a conocernos más como capítulo, y a demostrar que cuando nos proponemos algo, y trabajamos por ello, cualquier cosa se puede hacer.
What reccomendations do you have for other projects who want to sponsor a project similar to this one?
Qué le recomendarían a los otros chapters que también quisieran hacer sponsor a un proyecto?
We recommend to other chapters who want to do a fundraiser to choose a project, create a work plan for the project and make the members participate in both the planning and the execution of the event. Being creative is the most important thing and trying to sell things that a lot of students like. (food never fails! haha)
Les recomendamos a otros capitulos que quieran hacer un fundraiser, que escogan el proyecto, hagan un plan de trabajo para el proyecto y hagan partícipes a sus miembros tanto en la planificación como para el evento. Ser creativos es lo más importante y tratar de vender cosas que a los estudiantes le llamen la atención (comida nunca falla jaja).
What would you like to say to Katherine and Jimena?
Qué palabras tienen para Katherine y Jimena?
To Katherine and Jimena, we want to say on behalf of the chapter of MEDLIFE UPRRP to always follow your dreams, regardless of obstacles. The important thing is to move forward, no matter what happens. Also we want to thank you so much for the “banner” - it meant alot to us and all of our members were so excited, theyloved it. Thank you so much!!
A Katherine y a Jimena le queremos decir, de parte del capitulo de MEDLIFE UPRRP, que sigan sus sueños siempre, no importa los obstáculos. Lo importante es seguir adelante, no importa lo que pase. También les queremos agradecer profundamente por ese "Banner" que para nosotros significo muchísimo y a todos nuestros miembros les emocionó y les encantó. Mil gracias!!!
One person’s efforts and generosity resulted in a new home and better quality of life for follow-up patient Julio Mendez Tica. Lisa Pace, a student from the United States, heard Julio's story and how his accident has caused his family immense pain and suffering. Moved by their situation, she set her goal to raise enough money to afford Julio and his family a new home. After 10 days of hard work, the new home is finally complete and ready for Julio’s family to start their new life. See some photos from the project's progression below.
Images of Julio's house before the project show the mold ridden walls, a mangled dirt floor and a deteriorating roof with many holes. The home was in terrible condition, especially for a large family with many small children like Julio's.
Construction began with tearing the old house's walls down, laying a concrete foundation and rebuilding the house with sturdy materials.
Julio's entire family was part of the process, helping with the construction and working alongside MEDLIFE staff.
After the house was rebuilt, the last step was to fill it with new, clean furniture for Julio's refurbished room. MEDLIFE interns carried dressers up a long flight of stairs up the hill the house sits on.
The new house is complete and decorated for the official inauguration! The bright yellow color represents "alegria"—happiness, and illuminates its surrounding area.
Julio's family gathered together to celebrate the beginning of their new life in a safe and clean environment. After so much hardship and sadness caused by Julio's accident, his family sees a happier future ahead, beginning with a positive home environment.
Julio, his family and MEDLIFE are extremely grateful for Lisa Pace's generosity and devotion to this project. Without her, none of this would have been possible. It is truly amazing the impact one person can make on others' lives.
The year-long MEDLIFE interns and the members of the community "33B" worked together last week on a new staircase that will benefit more than 300 people. Follow the story below:
The task took hours, hands and clothes got dirty, but they never stopped smiling!
The shelter that awaited us at Seferina’s address has few characteristics that distinguish it from the hillside it slumps on. Camouflaged by the surrounding grass and dirt, the 70-year-old’s tiny cottage is made up of molding hatched sugar can straw and damp cardboard hung from a sparse wooden frame. This has been her home for the past 30 years.
The juxtaposition between Seferina’s dilapidated abode and the two-story, concrete buildings on either side is stark and tragic. Carlos Benavides, MEDLIFE Peru’s Director and our guide for the day, pointed to the neighboring buildings and said, “This is the quality of home we want to give Seferina—she deserves a better life.”
We were greeted with a kiss on the cheek and Seferina's warm, welcoming smile, though she admitted she was feeling “Un poco mal,” —a little bad. Seferina surprised us with her strength and vigor; she hobbled down the steep dirt path to the street at a quick pace despite having a heavy limp on her left side. The feat was even more impressive after my own stumbling on the way up the same path she had navigated with relative ease. Seferina hefted a wooden post and used it to prop up her falling door. We ducked our heads and filed in.
A feeling of overwhelming sadness fell over me upon entering her home. I gazed over her environment in utter disbelief that a woman of her age, let alone anyone, lives in such conditions. Thirty years of accumulated plastic bags, newspaper, boxes and miscellaneous items —trash—fills her home from floor to ceiling, leaving a path only wide enough for one person to pass through. I turned my gaze upwards to observe patches of sunlight that shone through gaping holes in her misshapen roof. She gestured for us to follow her through her dwelling to the back section, her bedroom, which consists of two worn mattresses stacked on top of one another lying beneath a wall of garbage waiting to topple down onto her bed.
"I gazed over her environment in utter disbelief that a woman of her age, let alone anyone, lives in such conditions."
Seferina confessed that she is scared to sleep in such dangerous conditions. She is worried for her safety living in such a poorly constructed home, one that could easily collapse inwards or catch of fire. Every time she turns on the electricity she risks sparking a fire to her house; she flips a circuit switch connected to several exposed and tangled wires that lead to a single light bulb hanging precariously from her roof.
Seferina’s level of poverty, she explained, has become increasingly more difficult to endure. Her home lacks two unquestionable essentials: a bathroom and kitchen. “I like to cook, but this is all I have,” Seferina said as she motioned to a pan and a carton of eggs sitting next to a flat rock she uses to prepare food. To go to the bathroom, she treks to neighboring stores or takes a moto taxi to the market where she sometimes sells little carmelitas and cookies for income. Otherwise, Seferina survives off of a small welfare stipend, which, she admits, is barely enough.
“Yo soy solita" - I am alone, Seferina declared. With no family—no husband or children—to look after her, Seferina is afraid no one knows she is there. Her neighbors, who are fortunate enough to reside in sturdy concrete buildings, do not even acknowledge her. A little while back, Seferina was hit by a car when chasing a cat out of the street. As a result, she walks in very visible pain. If the injury had been more severe, she wouldn’t have had anyone to care for her.
In addition to a leg injury sustained from the accident, Seferina is almost completely blind. Unfortunately, her physical state makes her considerably accident-prone, especially in her unsteady and dangerous house. Moreover, Seferina is often sick, partially because of her age, but mostly due to the cold night air that seeps in through poorly insulated walls, which makes her the entirety of her belongings damp and moldy.
After our interview with Seferina, we said our goodbyes and informed her of our goal to build her a better home. Her face lit up with joy and immense gratitude. “Imagine living in those conditions,” Carlos proposed as we departed Seferina’s residence and reflected on our visit.
MEDLIFE hopes to improve Seferina’s quality of life, but we need your help. You can provide a new beginning.
From a distance, Soledad Roja’s house in Villa Maria Del Triunfo is barely distinguishable from the hill’s natural landscape; it blends in amongst the gray rocks covered with brown and green moss. Her house appears as a small dark smudge of rotting wood and crumpling walls between brightly colored houses with sturdy foundations and roofs.
Carlos Benavides, MEDLIFE Peru’s Director, did not need to say that our mission for Soledad and her son would be to build them a new house. It was obvious upon our arrival that their living conditions are unsuitable and very unsafe. The family of two stood outside as we navigated the jagged and unsteady rocks —their stairs—leading up to meet them. Soledad and her 10-year-old son Jose Manuel have survived a decade in accommodations that do not even qualify as a house, but would be more aptly described as a deteriorating shelter the size of a small bedroom.
They were timid and a bit apprehensive as we introduced ourselves—Soledad’s young face revealed signs of immense sadness and grief for her situation. Despite some hesitation, she opened her half-hinged door and welcomed us inside, the drizzling rain following us in through a gap in the two puckered, tin slats that make up the roof.
Soledad and Jose’s personal items are few. They share a mattress that rests on their dirt floor, a few ramshackle pieces of furniture, and a jumbled array of plastic bags that protect their clothes from imposing elements. Soledad pointed to her kitchen: a small table in the corner. I spotted a few books and a ball, but they don’t have much else. A dim light hung above the covered side of the shelter, illuminating the thin layer of mold that coats the crumpled walls, one of which is simply a tarp.
Many factors forced Soledad and Jose to live in these conditions and have prevented them from affording anything better. During our interview, Soledad began recounting a brief synopsis of her life story by explaining that she was forced into motherhood at a young age after being raped by a male friend. Her godparents, whom she lived with because her mother is schizophrenic, kicked her out when she became pregnant. Soledad never had a father. Surprisingly, her son’s father remains loosely connected to them; she has recently taken him to court to demand some form of child support.
As a single mother, Soledad’s income must not only provide the bare necessities for herself and her son, but also Jose’s private school tuition. Jose has severe ADHD, for which he also goes to therapy. Soledad considers her son’s education a first priority and will do anything within her power to afford him an adequate education. As a result, the majority of her small income is funneled into a school with the educational resources Jose needs. Soledad explained that on top of the regular charge, the school often requires unexplained additional payments that she must make to keep Jose enrolled.
Soledad works doing inventory at a lab and must work ten hours a day, seven days a week to earn enough money to make ends meet. The other day she fell on the rocks and hurt her back, but she couldn’t afford to miss one day of pay, so she still went to work. Her sister lends a hand by picking Jose up from school and watching him in while Soledad is at work—but she then charges Soledad for her help. After paying for Jose’s public school, paying for electricity, paying her sister and paying for food, Soledad has no savings. “My dream is to save money… any money,” she admitted.
Soledad feels alone. Although her sister is within reach, her help comes at a price, leaving Soledad without any supportive family or friends. She explained that her neighbors are not inclined to offer any assistance; they resent that she is absent from the community, but Soledad is always at work and doesn’t even have time for her son. She said a local church gave her aid when Jose was diagnosed with Hepatitis A, but other than that she has no support.
MEDLIFE would like to provide Soledad and her son Jose with a new house. We want to put a functioning roof over their heads, raise sturdy walls to protect them from the weather, and build safe steps leading up to a livable home. If you would like to be the chapter that gives a family in need a new house—a new life—click here to make it happen.