When you meet Ventura Yumbo, there is no doubt his family means the world to him.

Our team met him and his family when Ecuador Director Martha Chicaiza reached out to the dirgentes - community leaders - and asked who MEDLIFE could support on future Mobile Clinics. They shared Ventura’s story.

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Ventura is a widower who cares for his 14 children, ranging from 9 months to 25 years old. They were living in two small houses deep in the thrush of the jungle, with only two beds which were shared amongst them all. His wife only having passed away seven months ago from diabetes, Ventura was still adjusting to caring for his family on his own.

Whenever MEDLIFE offers development support to a community member, Martha first visits the project site to make a plan. After visiting the family, it was determined that we would build a third house. Martha contacted Sumak Kawsay Wasi, a government organization in Tena, and dedicated a Service Learning Trip group to facilitate the project.

Once the volunteers arrived, our team jumped into action. MEDLIFErs hauled wood and supplies to the houses. Sumak Kawsay Wasi hired trained builders to work side by side with the volunteers to properly execute the construction of the house as well as a staircase leading up to the home. The original hillside was steep and muddy, and after hours of digging stairs and collecting and placing rocks, the Yumbo family had a staircase that provided a safer way to navigate the hill.

The youngest child, a 9-month-old baby, also had a severe ear infection due to dirty, matted hair being stuck to a cut on her ear. Nurse Valeria Maldonado cleaned the baby's ear and removed all the matted hair, and came back with antibiotics. She instructed the family on how to use them so the baby could heal.

Beyond the quality healthcare, education, and development that was offered, the MEDLIFErs wanted to ensure none of the children had to sleep on the bare floor of their new house. Together, they came up with $600 on the spot from the money they had on their person. With these additional funds, Martha purchased 8 beds, pillows, rice, and tuna for the family. An additional three suitcases of clothing were given to the entire family.

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MEDLIFE has worked hand in hand with Ecuador communities for nearly 15 years. Offering thousands of patients and communities spread across Tena, Riobamba, and Esmereldas medical, education, and development support - our work would not be possible without the MEDLIFE Movement.

To continue growing the Movement, sign up for a Service Learning Trip today!

The MEDLIFE Ecuador staff is a small group of women, but they work day in and day out to provide quality healthcare, education, and development to the communities surrounding Riobamba and Tena.

Keep reading to learn more about MEDLIFE’s work in Ecuador!

Community Meetings

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As we do in every MEDLIFE location, when the team in Ecuador gets introduced to a new community they start by listening to the community’s needs. MEDLIFE Ecuador Director Martha connects with the dirigentes, or community leaders, to organize community meetings. These are usually held on weekday nights after work to accommodate the community members’ busy schedules.

In the district of Punin - which is comprised of many smaller communities - we were first invited to a town hall. Our team listened to concerns from community members, which they were sharing with their dirigentes. Most of the indigenous population in the district speaks Quichua. So when it was Martha’s turn to speak, we made sure there was a translator to ensure everyone understood what was happening.

As part of these meetings, we hope to inspire new communities to collaborate on future Mobile Clinics and projects. Martha speaks clearly and plainly to the dirigentes, describing how MEDLIFE collaboration works and what would be required of them. She tells our MEDLIFE story, where we work, and what projects we have completed. She assures the community that we are a non-governmental and non-religious organization that provides quality healthcare and development free of charge - there are no catches or ulterior motives.

Additionally, Martha explains that we work with groups of volunteers on Mobile Clinics as part of an Ecuador Service Learning Trip, which can be organized and arranged in a location and time convenient for community members, and development projects to improve the communities. Some of the populations are quite small, with only 60 or so individuals, so the team also encourages dirigentes to choose a central location and invite all neighboring communities.  

Local Partnerships

 Tena Bathrooms

When MEDLIFE works with communities surrounding Tena, Ecuador, we often partner with the local government organization Sumak Kawsay Wasi that provides medical and development support to the communities in Napo Province.

Recently our organizations worked side by side to renovate the bathrooms at a local school. Unidad Educativa Emilio Cecco serves nearly 300 students - and they had been sharing just six toilets. Administrators had been asking the government for resources to improve the school’s infrastructure for years. But their proposals were continually denied, and they were unable to gather funds from the students’ families as most do not have the expendable income to donate. That’s where we stepped in.  

Together MEDLIFE and Sumak Kawsay Wasi were able to raise the necessary funds and provide volunteers for the project. MEDLIFErs cleared the space where the bathrooms would be built, shoveling away debris and trash, and leveled the land. From there they worked 50/50 with community members to install the toilets and walls.

Additionally, the new bathrooms offered handicap access to the restrooms for students with disabilities. With classrooms located on the other side of the school grounds, it was difficult for some students to make the trip to the old facilities. The new bathrooms were built directly next to the classroom, with an accessible pathway, to provide easier access for all students.

The partnership between MEDLIFE’s Ecuador Team and Sumak Kawsay Wasi is a great example of our efforts at 24/7/365 support beyond an Ecuador Service Learning Trip. When we work with local organizations, we have the opportunity to reach more impoverished communities and people in our fight for a world free from the constraints of poverty.


Does working hand in hand with Ecuadorian Communities sound like an impactful experience for you?

Sign up for an Ecuador Service Learning Trip today!

One of the central pillars of the MEDLIFE Movement is providing quality education.

Many of the communities we work with are faced with poor infrastructure meaning that school rooms are small or non-existent and they are not built to properly shelter children from the elements, as well as a lack of resources for teachers. MEDLIFE stepped in to fill the gap by introducing a long-term, sustainable solution: the MED Center for Primary Education.   A variety of free educational programs for children and adults are offered at the MED Center for Primary Education.

From March to June this year, students from the Universidad del Pacifico in Lima are offering their time and talents leading workshops for children age 5 to 12 every Sunday at the MED Center for Primary Education. Covering a variety of community-selected topics - from English language to practical communication skills - these workshops aim to empower the youth in impoverished communities surrounding Lima.

Keep reading to learn more!  

Creating a Partnership

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Following a successful collection of youth enrichment classes at the MED Center for Primary Education during the summer (December to March in the Southern Hemisphere), community members asked MEDLIFE to continue course offerings during the school year. While our team was eager to continue the program, we were faced with a tactical issue: the volunteers facilitating classes would be returning to school as well and therefore would be unable to participate in the program.

Upon hearing about the issue, volunteer instructor Katya Haro Köell who studies at the Universidad del Pacifico and had also coordinated previous workshops at the MED Center for Primary Education reached out to MED Program Education Intern Ariana Cerna and proposed the idea of an alliance between MEDLIFE and the university. With the communities facing a need for quality education, Katya stated the partnership would be a great way to give back and potentially benefit both institutions.

A meeting was coordinated with the Universidad del Pacifico’s Servicio Social Program Director Katia Gonzales Becerra, where it was agreed that the school would include the MED Center for Primary Education on the approved list of organizations where students could volunteer and earn practicum course credit toward their degree requirements. Once students signed up to work with MEDLIFE, they were committed to fulfill their volunteer requirements for the remainder of their practicum course. Thus, a partnership was created.

With these new volunteers, MEDLIFE is guaranteed to have hardworking, bright students working in the MED Center for Primary Education. As part of the partnership, 20 volunteers are teaching each Sunday - offering nearly a 1:1 student to teacher ratio.  

In return, MEDLIFE provides student volunteers with the opportunity to complete their required practicum course credit, coupled with a two-day field education training prior to their participation covering teaching methodology strategies, leadership techniques, and the structured creation of workshops. Volunteer teachers also have the opportunity to gain hands-on experience working with students with different realities from their own.

MEDLIFE’s Support 24/7/365

Partnership with Pacifico

MEDLIFE works year-round in our efforts to grow the Movement. We have developed a patient follow-up program in order to support our patients after a Mobile Clinic, and we have full-time, in-country staff members who continue to work hand in hand with communities after our volunteers return home.

The partnership between the MED Center for Primary Education and Universidad del Pacifico is another great example of our efforts at sustainable education services. As we continue growing the MED Center for Primary Education - both physically and with expanded educational opportunities - local support from established organizations in Peru like Universidad de Pacifico is a great advantage to our program offerings.

You can also support MEDLIFE’s year-round work by participating in a Service Learning Trip or donating to the MEDLIFE Project Fund.

Stay tuned for more updates on MEDLIFE’s partnerships in local communities soon!

April 5, 2019 11:06 am

Patient Story: Carol

Written by Caroline Appert

We’d like to introduce you to Carol, one of MEDLIFE’s follow-up patients in Lima, Peru. Her story is intense and complex, especially for being only 18 years old, but we would like to share it with you in hopes that it may inspire you to take action to support her situation.

At 15, Carol gave birth to her first child with a partner who was physically and emotionally abusive, secluded her from family and friends, and refused to get her medical attention. She remained out of touch with her family until about a year and a half later, when she showed up on her parent’s porch 5 months pregnant with another child. Her partner had not allowed her to go to any prenatal checkups. After much insisting, her mother Estela was able to take Carol to her first check-up at 7-8 months pregnant.

Carol

Carol and her partner then moved into her parents' home. Carol’s partner was constantly coughing but refused to seek medical treatment. Carol then began to suffer from headaches and a decline in her general health. With her condition worsening, her partner ran away with their oldest child, who was 3 years old at the time. The family had no way to track them down. They have filed a police report but there have been no updates.

Around this same time, Carol and her newborn were diagnosed with syphilis. Estela is worried that the 3-year-old might have it too, but doubt that Carol’s partner would seek medical attention for the child in any case.

Carol has since been diagnosed with tuberculosis and is now bedridden. Her primary caretaker is her mother. Estela and her husband Guzman, Carol's step-father, do everything they can to support Carol: buy her the supplies she needs, and make all the necessary doctor appointments, but the reality of their situation is grave and they need support.

MEDLIFE’s History with Carol

Carol came to a MEDLIFE Mobile Clinic in 2017 with gynecological concerns. After the clinic, we were able to deliver the medicine she needed based on her diagnosis, but two months later we went to check on Carol as a part of our patient follow-up protocol, and she had moved. None of the neighbors knew where she had gone, nor how to get in contact with her.

In December 2018, Carol’s mother came to another MEDLIFE Mobile Clinic. She asked for a doctor to visit her sick daughter in their home. Without knowing who the patient was, MEDLIFE staff, a doctor, and a few volunteers headed to the family’s home to visit the patient, and from this chance encounter, we became reconnected with Carol.

MEDLIFE immediately enrolled Carol into our patient follow-up program once again and has since learned the details of her story and medical condition. At this point, the tuberculosis has spread to her brain and caused permanent damage. Carol is currently bedridden, has almost no motor skills, and is barely verbal, but she is conscious and aware - improving ever so slightly.

When we first came to Carol’s home in late December 2018, she was nonverbal. When we visited again in early March 2019, she was able to hold her own feeding tube and nod her head. She can stick her tongue a little bit out of her mouth and sits up for short periods of time if properly supported. Estela tells us that a few weeks ago Carol was able to say “Mama” for the first time since becoming so ill. This gives Estela and their family hope, as it contrasts from the prognosis they were given in July when the doctor who evaluated Carol was told she had a week to live.

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Guzman works and has access to insurance, but since Carol became ill after she turned 18 she is ineligible to use that insurance. Carol is on Peru’s national safety-net health insurance network, Seguro Integral de Salud (SIS), and is getting treatment from Maria Auxiladora Hospital where they often have to wait up to two hours past their appointment time to be seen. This insurance also does not cover the cost of the other supplies needed for the treatment.

Though the family has received support from a local TV show, a local church, and Partners in Health (Socios en Salud), they still lack basic necessities to properly care for Carol in their home.


For now, we hope to support Carol by improving her and her family’s quality of life in any small scale way we can. You can contribute by donating to the MEDLIFE General Fund or signing up for a Service Learning Trip. Any donations fundraised for Carol will go toward purchasing items that will support her treatment and care.

Meet some of the amazing follow-up patients that visited one of our January Mobile Clinics in the communities surrounding Lima, Peru.

When 191 MEDLIFErs from the University of Puerto Rico Arecibo, the University of Puerto Rico Rio Piedras, the University of Puerto Rico Interarecibo, the University of Chicago, Rush College, Barry University, Dawson College, the University of California Berkeley, Rowan University, Cornell University, John Hopkins University, the College of St. Scholastica, the University of Nevada, the College of Dupage, the Collège Jean-de-Brébeuf, and the College Bois-de-Boulogne came together in January for a Service Learning Trip in Lima, Peru they never could have imagined that their clinic alone would provide quality medical care to 2,111 people.

These are a few of the amazing people we met. Thanks to your dedication to the Movement and specifically your participation in Service Learning Trips, they are getting quality healthcare and treatments. As we share their stories, we hope to inspire others to take action and join us as we continue working hand in hand with communities to create a world free from the constraints of poverty. We invite you to tell your friends and family about your experiences in Lima and encourage them to join a Service Learning Trip so they can have an impact too.

Let’s meet some of our Lima Mobile Clinic follow-up patients!


Meet Marco:

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Marco is a 12-year-old boy who is deaf. When he was three years old he fell from the second floor of his grandparent's house and suffered major cerebral trauma and seizures. He was in the hospital for over a month and when he was discharged he had lost the ability to hear, speak, and walk. He completed some physical therapy, regaining the ability to walk and talk. However, he never recuperated his hearing. 

He had to repeat two years of school because of behavioral problems and a lack of specialized assistance. However, he has now learned to read and he loves to draw. There are some anger and behavioral issues at home that stem from a lack of comprehension within the household. He can read lips and he is vocal, but nobody in the house knows sign language.

MEDLIFE is going to do an auditory exam and hopefully help his family buy hearing aids. The doctor also recommended that the parents speak with a psychologist to learn how to better emotionally support Marco at home.

Meet Maya: 

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Maya is Marco’s 8-year-old sister. She has been experiencing headaches and light sensitivity. She lives with her family very high up in the hills of Villa Maria, and when she comes home from school she experiences headaches and lightheadedness.

The doctor noticed that some of her eyelashes have fallen out and that she has white patches on her face and neck. She is going to get some blood panels to see if she could have an autoimmune disease.

Check out more stories about Lima Winter Clinic Follow-Up Patients!


A huge thank you to all of our Winter Mobile Clinic participants for their hard work and dedication to the MEDLIFE Movement!

You can impact the lives of people just like Marco and Maya when you sign up for a Service Learning Trip. For more information, contact This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .

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