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Former media intern Daniela Martes, along with mobile clinic volunteers from Cusco and Lima, donated toys to the Wawawasi in Union Santa Fe. We delivered them to the Wawawasi in early Febuary 2016. The donations were received with smiles when we delivered them and are sure to keep the generations of children who will pass through the Wawawasi happily playing.
The Union Santa Fe Wawawasi
The children receiving their toys.
"Welcome to the cradle of brilliant futures."
MEDLIFE completed our first round of fuel efficient stove projects in Yuncaypata during the Winter Mobile Clinic season. Over the span of two week-long volunteer trips 18 kitchens were renovated. The results were amazing. Most of the people in Yuncaypata used wood burning stoves to cook, basically just a firepit, and do not have chimneys. The effects of the exposure to that much wood-smoke are extremely harmful to health, causing respiritatory and cardiovascular diseases like heart attacks, lung cancer and strokes. Prolonged exposure, which is what you get when you cook over a wood stove every day, can also cause cataracs, which are typically untreated in these communities and lead to impaired vision. The physical labor of collecting wood and cooking over an ineffecient wood stove is also very time consuming. MEDLIFE's fuel efficient stoves funnel smoke out of the home, use much less wood and cook faster.
Light beams illuminate smoke as it fills the home of somone cooking with a traditional wood stove.
A window so stained with smoke you cannot see through it, imagine what this did to this home owners lungs.
Volunteers begin working in a home while the owner cooks for her children. The smoke made them cough after a couple of minutes.
Before the kitchen was renovated by MEDLIFE. The smoke stained windows and lightbulbs cast a yellow glow over everything.
The same kitchen after MEDLIFE renovated it, with the new stove in the corner and clear white light.
A kitchen part way through construction.
The base that is heated by the fire holds heat extremely well, and is made of a mixture of materials that can be collected in the community; human hair, sugar, salt, beer bottles, and adobe.
The mixture being packed into the stove frame.
Cooking on a new fuel efficient stove. She said that the new stove saves her hours of time per day.
A chimney pumps smoke out of the house.
From the MEDLIFE office in Riobamba, Ecuador, we took a taxi to the bus station and a 1-hour bus to Columbe, another city near Riobamba, where MEDLIFE has held several mobile clinics and projects. We then spent 30 minutes on a truck to Llinllin, a community within Columbe that is so large, a community member says it had to be divided into several "llinllins”, Llinllin Colegio, Llinllín Las Juntas, Lllinllin Hierba Buena.
“Llinllin is so big that it should be converted into a parroquia (district) instead of being part of Columbe" said the truck driver. “So many little Lllinllins communities confuses people, when actually all of the Llinllin communities are different."
Once we got to the outskirt of Llinllin, we saw the huge wall MEDLIFE built for the local school, thanks to the donations from our chapter at the University of Brown. After 20 more minutes driving, we finally got to the community of Llinllin Pucara.
Llinllín Pucara is home to just over 500 residents, most of whom have only completed their basic studies. In Llinllin Pucara, you find yourself surrounded by vast valleys and rivers making for a priceless view. At every corner, Llinllin Pucara's landscapes are breathtaking.
The community, as we said before, is one of many "llinllins”. Although these network of small communities are a bit far away from each other, they often work together, especially when it comes to sharing resources.
One of the largest schools in the area is located in Llinllín Colegio where hundreds of students study. About a 20 minute drive away, in Llinllín Pucara, a smaller and humbler school is located, where just over 100 students fill their classrooms. The students that attend Llinllin Pucara live in remote communities and cannot make the trip to Llinllín Colegio, which takes over 1 hour each way.
Pedro Yacosa, president of Llinllín Pucara, talked with us about how a new road allowing car access to their community has helped their local economy grow. "The main economic activity here is raising cattle, especially the production of milk and cheeses. There are still some families who grow corn and potatoes, but the production of milk and cheese is something that everyone here in Pucara Llinllín is proud of. Now with the new road, we are already selling our products in larger cities, and some large companies are purchasing our products to resell," he says.
Though these new and accessible roads provide safer access to community members' homes, using these roads to reach the local school from the Llinlin Pucara town takes 40 minutes to an hour of walking.
Located about 400 meters above the new road, lies an old path that is still being used by many community members to save time. This old path shortens the commute to only 15-20 minutes. This old path, however, is quite dangerous, especially due to the poor conditions caused by Llinlin’s unpredictable climate and daily rain showers. Despite these dangers, many community members still opt to use this path to save them time. This leads to daily accidents due to mud and stone slides.
"This path is very important for us because it saves us a lot of time to get to the road and to the school from our town. Everyday we use this path and we cannot use it anymore in its current condition. We need to build a staircase to replace this path, a staircase that is safe and allows us to access the path without fear of falling down", says Pedro.
As we walked along this old path, we found ourselves slipping and nearly falling many times. Laughter from children also using the path surrounded us, as they watched us struggle. These children were much more experienced in using this path and knew how to navigate it with much more grace than we did.
MEDLIFE is planning to build a large staircase along this path to help support this community. This staircase will be made during several mobile clinics in Riobamba. In addition, we will be building a hygiene project in the local school in Llinllin Pucara at the foot of the future stairs. Together with the community, MEDLIFE hopes to achieve its goal of giving the Llinllin Pucara community an improved quality of life and greater security for all.
The hills around Lima where MEDLIFE works are arid and desert like. Access to healthy food like fresh produce is scarce for most residents. When a community in Via El Salvador expressed interest in working with MEDLIFE to creating a community garden, MED programs intern Jessica Danker jumped at the opportunity and decided to work on this as her intern project.
This community had tried to start a garden project in the past, but were unable to complete it because they lacked the resources to purchase proper soil and to modify existing infrastructure to create a good space for the garden.
Over half a billion people worldwide suffer from chronic food insecurity, and many more lack access to healthy foods. The communities MEDLIFE works in are no exception. Community gardens can be an effective way of addressing this problem.
Along with the obvious benefit of creating access to affordable fresh produce, and the health benefits that follow, community gardening has a host of other benefits that are supported by research in a variety of settings. The positive effect that urban green spaces, something that is very scarce in the communities where work in Lima, have on mental health and overall well being is heavily documented. Participation in community gardens increases civic engagement, and has even been shown to be related to reduced crime and juvenile delinquency in some studies.
The local elementary school was chosen as the site of the Via El Salvador, garden so that the community could get the children involved and use it as a learning tool for them. They can learn where their food comes from and about nutrition with hands on experience. The parents, teachers, and children involved with the school are responsible for the upkeep of the garden. The harvest will be distributed to the families with children in the school. MEDLIFE will check in with the school periodically.
The garden is an eco garden, meaning it is grown naturally without the use of pesticides and other chemicals. It has six garden beds planted with lettuce, carrots, cilantro, aguaymento, celery, Swiss chard, beets, and more. Jessica gave an educational workshop about nutrition in November of 2015 after the garden was planted. She talked about the impact of dietary choices like Inca Cola vs. fruit juice, white rice vs. brown rice, how to combat anemia with improved diet and how to use foods from the garden to combat common nutrient deficiencies in children.
As of December the project is going well and Jessica is hoping to do another garden project during her work with MEDLIFE.
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Alaimo K, Packnett E, Miles RA, Kruger DJ. "Fruit and vegetable intake among urban community gardeners."Journal of Nutrition Education & Behavior, 40(2): 94-101, 2008
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Each group of volunteer affairs interns takes on a project of their choosing along with their personal projects. This group of year-long interns has chosen to do a project in a community MEDLIFE has never worked in before called Urucancha, located in the district of San Juan De Miraflores.
“It’s really cool that we are taking it upon ourselves to be the first contact with Urucancha,” said Volunteer Affairs intern Leigh Cohen.
The community is the highest on the hillside. It is located on the other side of the same hill as La Molina, one of the wealthiest areas of Lima. A large wall runs the length of the hillside separating the two communities, physically dividing the hillside by social class.
This will be the first of many projects in the community. Urucancha had heard of MEDLIFE by word of mouth and reached out to Director of MEDprograms Carlos Benavides to see if MEDLIFE would do a project with them. Carlos promptly organized a night meeting.
The interns hiked up the hills through the mud and cold to meet with this new community. The trip had a profound effect on the group as a whole.
“It was kind of like the climax of our internship, the enthusiasm, dedication, and perseverance of the people of Urucancha was unforgettable.” Leigh said. “We really got to see the hardships the community faces every day.”
They asked the community what they needed, and they responded by describing a host of problems they face in their daily lives, mainly due to the complete lack of infrastructure and city planning that is typical in the pueblos jovenes.
The whole community of 143 families share just one outhouse. This leads to poor sanitation, which causes a host of health problems. MEDLIFE is going to construct eight eco-toilets.
Although Urucancha has a community center, it is unusable because it is falling apart. MEDLIFE is going to renovate the community center so that the community has a space to gather. MEDLIFE is also going to hold educational workshops there in the future.
They have no access to health-care, if an accident or emergency occurs, they have a long and hazardous trip down the hillside to get any kind of medical care. So MEDLIFE is going to stock the community center with first aid supplies, that way, if something occurs, the few nurses who live in the community can at least provide first response care before getting the patient to a doctor.
In order to get water, community members have to hike far down the hill and carry water up to their homes. A primary objective of the project is to build a system to pump water up the hill to tanks in the community, so there is water available within the community of Urucancha.
Urucancha is located very high on the hillside, the only path that reaches it is so steep that several interns fell during the hike up. MEDLIFE is also going to build a staircase to make the commute easier.
The path passes through Urucancha’s garden, which has been planted with the Peruvian President’s favorite flower. The community maintains the tribute despite the lack of government support and the many socio-political forces that conspire to marginalize and physically separate Urucancha from the wealthier districts of Lima and a decent quality of life.
With such a lack of infrastructure and no outside support, life in Urucancha is a daily struggle. MEDLIFE is committed to working hand in hand with the community of Urucancha to improve their quality of life. This year’s intern project is the first step. They need to raise $11,500 to complete all of these improvements. Please help by donating here.