October 4, 2016 11:30 am

A House for the Bravo Children

Written by Jake Kincaid

            1Three of the five Bravo children standing in front their bed in the room they all sleep in together. 

            Clinics in Esmeraldas were packed in March of 2016.  We had worked closely with the Municipal Government to organize the clinics, and it had paid off. The government had spread the word for us, and had even organized a queue. When we arrived there were about fifty people already lined up.

            After seeing dozens of patients with malnutrition, parasites, infections and chronic diseases, municipality officials told us there were some people who couldn't make it to clinic, but that we had to take the time to visit. For almost a year, the community had been pitching in to care for some kids whose parents had been orphaned by a tragic accident, and their current living situation wasn't sustainable. The community was doing all it could to support them, but in a subsistence farming community in Esmeraldas, where according to government statistics 78% of the population lives in poverty, there are not a lot of extra resources to go around.  

            We piled into a car and set off with a municipality official to go visit the kids. After a hot and bumpy ride we finally saw a wooden shack tucked into the forest on a cleared plot of land. It had been elevated several feet off of the ground with stakes stuck into the mud. The municipality encouraged everyone to build this way so that their homes were not destroyed during periodic floods. When we asked, the popular consensus was that it “sometimes” worked.

            When the municipality called up to the house three kids shuffled down the steps to greet us. All five of them lived in this small 2-room shack with their grandfather. The eldest girl Letia, 15, succinctly explained their situation: “Our parents died. And we have nowhere else- to be.” What else was there to say?

             The bed the 5 of them shared was on the right as we entered their home. Light split the large gaps between the wooden boards that made up the walls, illuminating a message scrawled in neat black lettering: “Dios es Amor,” or “God is Love.” 

In April of 2015 their parents were riding a motorcycle back from a wake at the community church when their bike stalled; a truck rounded a curb and hit them. They flew off the bike and slammed into the pavement. Both of them were found dead.

            The kids have been getting by with their grandfather, who works on an informal basis on other people's farms to support them. The work was inconsistent, and at his age (the kids were unsure how old he was but thought it was around 75) he couldn't do too much hard labour. The local government helped too, with school supplies and food. They even threw the eldest girl a quinceañera when she turned 15, just a few months after her parents died. The community coordinator told us the community was doing what they could, but they were coming up short.

2Letia standing on the deck of her grandfather's home where she now lives with her 4 siblings.

            For one, the kid's housing situation was inadequate. The house was not safe. The walls let lots of water through during rainstorms soaking the 5 children who got very cold despite being huddled together in a single bed. When the wind howled, the home shook “like a hammock.”

            The family was barely maintaining this dismal standard of living with the support of the community. Municipal officials lamented that although their grandfather and the community were doing their best to support the kids, it could not continue indefinitely.

As we left that visit, MEDLIFE Ecuador Director Martha Chicaiza told everyone present that we needed to fundraise so we could do a project for these kids. For her, it was a moral imperative.

A powerful earthquake devastated the Ecuadorian coast just weeks after our visit. The house that shook like a hammock in the wind collapsed entiredly during the powerful tremors. Thankfully, the kids were unharmed. But now, there is even less government support available and the need for outside support is even greater. The five kids and their grandfather have moved in with their aunt into another even smaller space.

            We are fundraising to build the Bravo kids a home on their grandfather's land. Help MEDLIFE give them a place to be. 

September 29, 2016 10:31 am

Delia's Food Cart

Written by Sarah Bridge

There is a custom in Peru to keep a human skull in the home as a way of protecting the family and warding off evil.  On Wednesday 28th September, MEDLIFE patient Delia Martín brought out the skull which had been protecting her home and presented it to a group of MEDLIFE staff and interns.  She told us that she wanted us to take it as she felt she had reached a stage where she no longer needed the protection.  

IMG 8820

Delia has been suffering from Caroli syndrome since she was a young girl.  This is a rare congenital disorder of the intrahepatic bile ducts that can lead to high blood pressure and, in severe cases, liver failure.  Delia is a mother of five and her symptoms have left her unable to hold down a stable job.  Her husband works long hours running a workshop from the house.  However, this means Delia is left to care for the children alone and has no way to get money in to support her family.  

Over the past few years, MEDLIFE have been supporting Delia though her treatment and helping to make sure she has access to all the medication she needs.  Recently, the MED Programs department started a project to fundraise to bring a sandwich cart to Delia to help her to have a more stable employment.  Thanks to the money raised by North Oconee High School we were able to go to Delia's house to deliver the cart on Wednesday 28th September. 

IMG 8891

A group of MEDLIFE staff and interns got in a truck with the cart decorated in balloons and drove it up to Delia's house.  Delia was so grateful for the cart and explained to us how it felt.  â€œFirst (MEDLIFE nurse) Ruth arrived telling me to come outside, saying ‘we have a surprise for you'.  So I went outside and suddenly out in the street I saw the car with everyone in it and the sandwich cart.  In that moment I was so excited, I don't know how to describe it.  It was a very strong feeling.”

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Delia welcomed us all into her house and started using her new cart immediately.  We were lucky enough to be her first ever customers, receiving delicious hamburgers stuffed with lettuce, cheese and chips!  Before we all left, Delia addressed us as a group, she said “I don't know how to thank you all for what you have done for me.  I want to thank everyone from the NGO MEDLIFE from the bottom of my heart for helping me through every stage of my illness.  I have no other words except that I am so grateful to everyone that has helped me and I hope that you all continue to help people like me.”

September 26, 2016 1:21 pm

Intern Journal: David Jetha

Written by David Jetha

          En route to Nueva Esperanza this foggy morning, I'm filled with a feeling of anticipation: I get to see Soledad and her son today. Looking out the bus window on our morning commute, I watch people heading off to work. I see children with brightly colored backpacks skipping on the sidewalks with small lunch boxes waving in the air with every swing of their arms. I see street vendors cooking an assortment of quail egg dishes and various styles of chicken sandwiches.  Although I only get the most infinitesimal glimpse into all of their lives, I feel like I'm a part of it.

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          When we visit communities and speak with the people, the word I hear the most is ‘apoyar,' which means to support. This morning, I spent time thinking about what that means. Apoyar is an action where anyone can participate. In Spanish, this is its infinitive form, allowing it to be conjugated to reflect who is conducting it. The word is both flexible and inclusive. After spending a moment impressed by how much Spanish I actually do remember from high school, I think about all the support MEDLIFE has brought to our patient, Soledad. A woman that has experienced so much adversity still manages to smile when we arrived the last time our group came to visit. Several nights before, Carlos brought us to see Soledad's home. I remember being overwhelmed with sadness seeing how she lived  with her son in this home constructed of plywood and I wondered how this building was still even standing. Carlos then told our group that MEDLIFE had agreed to build her a new home and the following month, we were to build it. Oh boy.

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          At first, I was scared. I wasn't sure if I would be able to lift concrete, or throw these unassumingly heavy bricks several meters in the air, let alone catch one being hurled right at me. In those early mornings, Carlos believed in us and said ‘!Eres fuerte!' along with Janet shouting in the background ‘!Sí, se puede!' Halfway through, I was so exhausted. I felt like my body had been pushed to its limit and there would be no way I could continue. During our water break, a young boy sat next to me and asked what my name was. I found out he was Soledad's son, José. We spoke about everything. Minutes felt like hours as we shared our lives and the things we had seen, the Spanish phrases we both knew, even the jokes we thought were funny. For a brief moment, I forgot all the physical pain I had felt earlier and was captivated by our conversation. On that day, I gained a new friend.

          When our bus reached its final stop, we disembarked and continued to walk up to Soledad's house. I was anxious because it had been a few weeks since I'd seen Soledad and Jose and I was eager to continue the conversations we had last time.

          I knew that I'd learn a lot on this internship, but it's impossible to describe in words the compassion and empathy felt when working on projects or conducting follow-up patient visits. At some point, you realize that everyone is a person trying to do the best they can with the resources they have, to make a better future for themselves and their family. I feel that being a MEDLIFE intern has given me the opportunity to work alongside others and learn how to truly serve, so I can be a better source of apoyo (support) for my friends and loved ones back home.

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          Finally, we reached the base of the staircase to Soledad's project site. Bricks lay at the base of where her new, two-story home will be built in the coming weeks. I'm incredibly happy seeing how much progress has been made and am eager to continue working on it. I look over my shoulder and I see Soledad and Jose with smiles on their face as if they were seeing old friends again. At this moment, I think: somos vecinos.

September 22, 2016 3:17 pm

MEDLIFE to build road in Union Santa Fe

Written by Jake Kincaid

 

2From right to left: Carlos Benavides, Edinson Aliaga, Raul Huaypaya and Casani look over designs for the new road.

 MEDLIFE was introduced to the community of Union Santa Fe in 2012 by the leader of a neighboring community, located in the heart of Pamplona Alta, one of the most impoverished areas of Lima. Union Santa Fe may not have any public spaces, road, electricity nor water access, but they did have one very important thing, the desire to work together to move forward as a community. As soon as Director of Projects Carlos Benavides saw this, he immediately began working with them on a staircase in 2012.

“Before having the staircases, pregnant women, the elderly and children of the community struggled to walk up the dusty hill which became especially dangerous in the rain,” Casani said, a Union Santa Fe community leader. This first project was the beginning of a close and productive relationship between MEDLIFE and Union Santa Fe.

Four years later in September of 2016, we have completed 15 projects with them, and brought two Mobile Clinics and two educational workshops to the community. We are currently planning a project that the community has long needed; road access to the community.

 The road will take these sections of road and pathway, turn them into driveable roads, and connect them to another road that leads to the bottom of the hills.

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 The new road will be connected to the road seen in the bottom of this photo, and allow easy access to main roads nearby. 

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The benefits of a road go far beyond the obvious; the ability to drive or take public transit to your home. Many of the shanty towns like Union Santa Fe are not recognized as legitimate communities by the local government, and are thus cut out of access to public utilies. If the community is accessible by road, then Luz Sur, the public utility that provides electricity in that area of Lima, will be obligated to install electricity as well as public lighting in the streets of the community. This will also make the electricity in their homes cheaper. Sedepal, another public utility, will also obligated to install a drainage system that will drain excell water runoff and can be used to install plumbing.

            In this part of Lima, many communities get their water from privatized water trucks that drive around and sell water. With the new road, the trucks will drive into Union Santa Fe up in the hills, and residents will no longer have to walk down the hill and climb back up with heavy jugs of water.

            Like many of Lima's informal shantytowns, getting and keeping land titles has been extremely difficult for Union Santa Fe. “15 years ago everything was just dirt paths, a few houses and the pig farm,” Carlos said. “The people here built all of this in fainas (community work days.)” As urban areas became increasingly crowded, the people who now live in Union Santa Fe and other settlements like it throughout Lima, decided to climb the hills and stake out a plot of land to build a home of their own on.

            However just because someone built a home doesn't mean they own the land its on. Entire communities sprang up on land for which they lacked land titles. There was a legal process to aquire land titles, but for that the community needed infrastructure.

The staircases had helped move Union Santa Fe closer to their goal of getting land titles, but it wasn't enough. When Casani, a community leader in Pamplona Alta, asked MEDLIFE founder and CEO Nick Ellis for a road, Ellis quickly agreed because the community signed a document promising to finish construction by the end of the month and because of the dedication and commitment he had seen from Casani and the whole community in the past.

Once the road is constructed community of Union Santa Fe will have land titles, access to electricity, plumbing, and easy access to their homes. Perhaps most importantly, all future projects will be much cheaper and easier to complete because construction materials and equipment can be easily transported to the construction site by motorized vehicles.

Casani and the people of Union Santa Fe were very grateful, “ [MEDLIFE] is the only organization that we have encountered that consistently brings rapid and immediate social help,” said Casani.

September 19, 2016 9:31 am

Meet the Patient: Isai

Written by Jake Kincaid

3Marica and her son Isai.         

Neither Marica Bacillio Lozano nor her Mother have ever lived somewhere they owned. They have always had to rent small homes in poor districts in Lima, Peru. Despite barely scraping by most of the time, Marica said that “we were always moving forward.”

          Marica married and had two kids, eventually moving into her own rented home in Manzana A, Via El Salvador. Her family was poor, but they scraped by with the informal work they did as cobradors, collecting fares from people of public transit. Then Marica had her third child, Isaic, and things changed forever; “the way isaic was born. Things are more complicated now,” Marica said.

          Isai was born with a cleft palate, webbed feet and hands as well as mental retardation. When Marica first found out, all she could do was cry in the hospital. Fortunately, Isai has developed better than was expected. At age 5 he recently began sitting, walking, and speaking. He has even been able to join a normal kindergarten classroom.  “Thank god he started walking,” Marica said.  “He can be a little independent now. I can leave him alone for a little and he can play.” Before, someone had to have their eye on him constantly.

         Although she still sometimes has to excuse herself and cry in the bathroom while she is on a hospital visit with Isai, she loves her son and has dedicated herself completely to trying to provide a good life for Isai and her other two children.

         But it hasn't been easy, and now her family has been stretched to the breaking point. With Isai came a litany of other expenses; medicine, diapers, trips to the hospital, and of course the huge amount of time required to care for him properly. The families' budget was always tight, they made money for food day to day, if there was no work avaible one day, the family often could not eat that day.

          Isai needs more foods than a normal child, when there is not enough to go around, Marica has to give more to him than her other kids. Sometimes they cry because they don't get enough food. But even with the extra food, Isai was still diagnosed with Anemia 7.5, a condition caused by malnutrition, specifically a lack of iron. With his webbed hands many tasks are difficult, he cannot pick up small objects well, he has trouble pulling up his pants.

1Isai holding a ball. Picking up small objects is difficult for him because of his webbed hands.

          With all of this, the family could not keep up with rent anymore. They had to move into a house with family members, and split the rent. There are now 3 families and a total of 14 people living in the house with 4 rooms. To make matters worse, the landlords of the home are now carrying out a repossession, and everyone has to be out in two weeks. “We don't know where to go,” Marica said.

          Marica has had trouble getting Isai the treatment he needs. “I'm embarrassed I missed an appointment,” Marica said. “But what can I say, I have three kids.” When she managed to get Isai to the hospital, she said she often faces discrimination- even in emergencies. Once she brought Isai to the hospital because had a high fever that was causing convulsions, she was forced to wait much longer than anyone else. When she complained, one nurse told her that “all kids are not the same.”

          After struggling for years and making little progress getting Isai treatment in the public health system, she jumped at the opportunity to take her son to a Mobile Clinic in 2015. MEDLIFE is now helping her navigate the hospital system and get Isai the treatment he needs. MEDLIFE is also helping with the costs of caring for Isai, like buying diapers, so Marica does not need to choose between paying for Isai's expenes and feeding her family. Our nurses will continue visiting and supporting the family until Isai has gotten the treatment he needs.

2Marica holds her son while MEDLIFE nurse Beatriz purchases diapers and medicine for them.

 

On Friday 9th September, we held our first PAP smear educational workshop.  MEDLIFE has been carrying out PAP smears to test for cervical cancer since some of our earliest clinics.  However, recently our nurses have noticed that many women have not been benefiting from these results as they have never been educated on how to read them correctly.  Women who were being given normal results were worrying that they had cancer as they didn't know what a positive or a negative smear looked like on paper.  

IMG 8584Zaida Lara talking the group through their results.

Therefore, the MEDLIFE nurses have been collaborating with obstetrician Zaida Lara to design a workshop that goes hand in hand with giving out the results of the tests.  The first of these workshops took place in the community of Kawashi, Villa María del Triunfo where Zaida, along with MEDLIFE nurses Ruth and Carmen, talked the women present through reading their results.  Zaida explained to the group what a positive result would look like compared to a negative result and what the different types of abnormality could be.  For example, she explained how a result that showed up as being ‘abnormal' could be anything from a yeast infection to an early onset cancer.  

IMG 8591Some of the women at the workshop looking at their results.

The woman who attended the workshop were clearly pleased to hear this news; “as soon as I opened my result I began panicking, having someone to talk through it with me and explain every step made it that much easier,” one woman told us.  The workshop also meant that the women were able to talk to the nurses about their individual results and what the next steps would be.  For the first time, they were able to act immediately if there was something wrong with their results and know the exact course of action to take.  Furthermore, it allowed us to quickly and efficiently get the patients who need more help into our follow up program.  

IMG 8594Zaida explaining what the meaning of each result could be.

So far, MEDLIFE has treated hundreds of patients who have been diagnosed with abnormal PAP results and helped with 20 cancer diagnosis'.  Hopefully, with this new way of delivering information, we will be able to help even more patients to get the treatment they need.

   

September 13, 2016 9:21 am

Local Solutions to Anemia in Lima, Peru

Written by Jake Kincaid

2Theresa with all of her ingredients, ready to give the nutricion workshop.

          According to the World Health Organization, iron deficiency is the most common and widespread nutritional disorder in the world. Anemia, a condition resulting from iron deficiency, and malnutrition in general affects primarily impoverished populations around the world. In Peru, where about 50% of the population lives in poverty, chronic malnutrition is widespread, especially in the rural areas and urban slums where MEDLIFE works. In accord with MEDLIFE's commitment to working on solutions that are tailored to local realities, MEDLIFE held a cooking workshop designed to help residents fill their iron deficiency using an ingredient cheaply and widely available in local markets but not so easy to cook with- animal blood.

1Theresa with a bag of raw blood.

          Blood is extremely rich in iron and cheaply available in markets from local livestock, thus it is the perfect local ingredient to increase iron intake and avoid anemia. Anemia is a particularly insidious nutritional deficiency that exerts its effects subtley but in the long run exerts a great toll on populations. Some of the primary symptoms include fatigue, weakness, difficulty concentrating, dizziness, insomnia, muscle cramps, and rapid heartbeat which can lead to heart failure and death. Theresa explained during the workshop that your average anemic child will sleep during school, not want to play, and be very inactive.  These children are also more vulnerable to diseases like Tuberculosis. In contrast “A child without anemia runs and jumps, is a happy and active child,” Theresa said.

IMG 83244MEDLIFE Year-long Interns played a game that involved sorting healthy and unhealthy foods with the kids that came.

          Over 3 billion people, over 30% of the world's population, are Anaemic.  According to the WHO, “Iron deficiency exacts its heaviest overall toll in terms of ill-health, premature death and lost earnings... and reduce the work capacity of individuals and entire populations, bringing serious economic consequences and obstacles to national development.”

          In Peru, 37% of children under 5 with families in the socioeconomic bottom 20% suffer from chronic malnutrition. Union de Santa Fe is a community MEDLIFE has worked with extensively located in the poorest area of one of the poorest districts in Lima, San Juan de Miraflores, where 20% of the population lives in poverty.

          The MEDLIFE workshop was a great success, residents of Union De Santa Fe learned how to cook to improve their iron intake and avoid Anemia, as well as learned about general nutricion. 

          The crowd favourite was chocolate de sangre, or chocolate blood dip. Trust me it tasted a lot better than it sounds. The recipe included: Animal blood, vanilla crackers, vanilla extract, cinamon infused water, cacao and sugar all blended together.  

59A batch of chocolate de sangre, freshly blended.

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7The kids could not get enough of the chocolate.

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September 7, 2016 10:05 am

MEDLIFE's Social Housing Project

Written by Sarah Bridge

Over the last few decades, Peru has seen mass migration into Lima which has led to huge numbers of people gaining land through squatters rights and setting up unstable, poorly built homes to enable them to live in the country's capital.  Since the 1970's, migration to urban centers has been a huge problem throughout South America and has let to the construction of Brazil's favelas, Argentina's villa's and the pueblos jóvenes that we see in Peru. MEDLIFE's architecture intern, Edinson Aliaga, explained the effect that this dramatic urbanization had on Lima: “There was an area that was created for urban expansion in Lima, but they didn't expect just how many immigrants would be coming in.”  This extensive migration and the unprecedented number of people moving into the urban centre, led to people grabbing land where they could and constructing quick temporary structures to allow them to gain land titles on unstable terrain.  These badly constructed houses left the residents susceptible to illnesses and infections from the poor living conditions and other structural dangers due to the unstable nature of their homes.   

IMG 9826The typical style of housing found in Lima's pueblos jovenes.

 

In more recent years, there have been many housing projects and design programs developed across South America that attempt to deal with the growing issue of social housing in the slums. Alejandro Aravena is a Chilean architect who this year was awarded the Pritzker prize for a social housing project he developed in Iquique, Chile.  The Pritzker is the Architectural equivalent of the Nobel Prize and is generally awarded for design ingenuity and projects that are considered to be ‘momentous' works.  Therefore, the seemingly unimpressive social housing project that Aravena won it for, came as a surprise to many in the Architecture community.  However, in reality, Aravena's project was more than just a social housing scheme, it was a piece of architectural innovation with Aravena's desire to tackle Chile's social housing issues at the heart of it.  

Aravena's idea to develop a sustainable housing model, shaped to the needs of the poor, is something MEDLIFE is currently investing in with its own housing projects.  MEDLIFE's new architecture and civil engineering interns, Edinson Aliaga and Raul Huapaya, have been working closely with Carlos Benavides, director of MED Programs Peru, over the last few months to expand MEDLIFE's work in the field of social housing.  Many of the illnesses and health problems we treat come as a result of the poor living conditions and lack of basic resources, caused by the structures built after migrating.

2016 09 01Carlos Benavides, director of MED Programs Peru discussing an upcoming project with interns Raul and Edinson and community leader Casani.

 

Aravena's project ‘half of a good house' was developed after similar issues of migration and centralization had arisen in Chile due to sudden dramatic urbanization.  The idea behind the project was Aravena challenging the thought that the public money received to improve the living situation of many impoverished Chileans could either be used to build many low quality houses or a few high quality houses.  Aravena instead presented the idea of creating a secure, sturdy structure which could then be expanded on relatively cheaply by families in the future when the time came- essentially half a good house.  â€œAravena is something of a pioneer in this field of social housing.” Edinson explained, “He was one of the first people to think about social housing as a way for the poor to be able to have stable, comfortable housing at an affordable cost.  He came up with the idea of developing a house after it has been built, thus giving people a stable foundation which they can then expand on if they want to.  Essentially meaning they could put in more bedrooms, a small shop, anything they need, knowing it's on a stable structure.”  

Alejandro Aravena Villa Verde House 01 889x1024Alejandro Aravena's 'half of a good house' design.

 

Creating houses with stable foundations and basic commodities has been a large focus of the work of the MED Programs department over the summer.  Edinson and Raul have been working on developing plans that are similar to Aravena's in the way that they have the option to be expanded on but are also designed with the individual in mind. The department has already undertaken two housing projects for MEDLIFE patients Santusa and Soledad and are looking for ways to further incorporate Aravena's philosophy of ‘half of a good house' into future projects.  â€œThese houses can really cost anywhere between $7,000 and $10,000.” Raul said when talking about how the housing projects are funded.  â€œSo Santusa's cost one price, Soledad's will cost a different price.  Soledad's has two floors which obviously will cost a little more but it will be a smaller house.”  Both these houses have been constructed with the possibility of expansion either upwards or outwards and both were designed with various structural elements taken into account including location, terrain and ‘cultural elements' such as the number of people who will be living there.  â€œThe houses we build have to be both secure and practical with everything that the person needs thought about.  That includes a bathroom, a bedroom, and a living space.  All these things have to be done within a structure that has been thought about for Peru and for Lima where we find many earthquakes and other structural issues” Raul explained.  

blog soledad 1View of the back of Soledad's house before MEDLIFE started work on the new structure.

 

The idea of these houses being built “with everything that the person needs thought about” is the main focus of MEDLIFE's social housing project.  As with Aravena, we want to be able to provide the communities we work with with the same safe quality of housing as the rest of Lima and not just give them something cheap and comfortable because that is the easiest way.  However, we also want to make sure that these houses are suitable for the individual both in terms of space and structure, dependant on the location.  Previously, the issue of social housing has been addressed with a ‘model home' approach, essentially designing one practical living space and putting that up wherever a house is needed.  However, Edinson explained how this approach is not really feasible.  â€œThe problem there is that no one is thinking about the individual.  They're just thinking about making it simple.  20-30% of the terrain around Lima is not recommended to build on in these areas but people don't know about this.  Really, no buildings should be being constructed on this land but if they have to be built, they have to be built well.  So that's the first thing, you have to think about the foundations of the house dependant on where it's being built.  Secondly, you have to think about the actual individual.  For example, Santusa had a single floor to her house because she is living alone.  Soledad's house however, had to have two levels so there is room for her and her son.  So that's another thing to think about.”  Making a blanket design of a ‘model home' isn't feasible because whilst it may serve well for one individual living in one place, it will not be safe or comfortable for a different individual.  

2016 09 06Renders of the designs for Santusa and Soldedad's houses. The designs vary based on the needs of the individual.

 

Part of the MEDLIFE mission is working together with community members and patients to give them what they need and what they ask for.  We are committed to seeing this through with our housing project in constructing sustainable, stable homes for those patients in need.  Santusa and Soledad were both one off cases where the individual was in desperate need of a house which we then constructed to according to their personal needs.  However, MED Programs have more recently been talking about developing a happy medium between Aravena's ‘half of a good house' theory and our own belief that the individual must be taken into account.  On a recent visit to Urucancha, a remote community in the uppermost hills, Carlos Benavides began discussing plans with the community leader of designing a ‘model home' specifically for that community.  This would essentially mean that the structural elements could be taken into account as all the houses would be being constructed on the same terrain and the cultural elements could be covered by the possibility of expanding on the solid structure.  Raul explained a bit more about how this ‘community model home' would work.  â€œWe would make a plan for a ‘model home' that would meet the cultural and physical requirements for that community.  We would then help with and supervise the construction of two of three homes with the help of community members.  So, everyone then knows how to build this ‘model home'.  The idea is that it's an easy and repetitive way of building so we can get enough materials for however many houses the community needs and then after having help with the first few, they can build the rest by themselves.  However, this will only work for this community.  As Edinson said, when you go to a different community with a different terrain, it's a completely different world.  For example I would never design and build the same house for someone living in Surco as I would for someone in Villa Maria del Triunfo and it works the same way amongst the communities.”  

IMG 7849MEDLIFE interns adding some finishing touches to Santusa's house.

 

The possibility of creating ‘model homes' for communities is still very much in the planning stages but in combining what we have learned so far with inspiration from other projects like Aravena's, the direction for the housing projects is becoming increasingly clearer.  We hope to be able to continue to work with Edinson, Raul and Carlos to develop this project even further in the future.   

 In August 2016 MEDLIFE Ecuador completed two bathroom projects as part of ongoing earthquake relief efforts in Jama, Ecuador, an area that very affected by the earthquake, but that did not receive as much aid or attention as other areas like Pedernales. MEDLIFE has begun working together with the local government on these construction projects, the government is constructing the houses and MEDLIFE is building the bathrooms. Bathrooms are an extremely important of the infrastructure that needs to be rebuilt following the earthquake. 

In 2011, The World Health Organization (WHO) declared diarrheal 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%. Following the earthquake, maintaining proper hygeine is critical to maintaining healthy populations and water supplies. 

Here are some photos from the inaugeration of the project:

5Beneficiaries, MEDLIFE staff, and local government members in front of one of the new houses.

8Inside one of the new bathrooms constructed by MEDLIFE.

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1One of the new houses.

6The tape cutting ceremony.

7The inaugeration was covered by local news.

10MEDLIFE Ecuador staff with beneficieries in front of their new home.

 

 

September 2, 2016 5:41 pm

Foundations For A Future: Kirua Campaign

Written by Sarah Bridge

Over the next few months, MEDLIFE staff, interns and chapters all over the world will be working to fundraise for Kirua Schoolhouse in Tanzania.  MEDLIFE discovered the school in August 2015 when we set up our first mobile clinic in this community.  One of the three pillars of MEDLIFE is education and in fundraising for this project we are keen to also raise awareness of the importance of education in underdeveloped communities.  The fundraiser is designed to last for the duration of the first four months of the school semester.  Each month will focus on a different aspect of the project; education, sanitation, food hygiene and infrastructure.  We will also be promoting a different educational day each month to raise awareness of the issues we are trying to help resolve.

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In September, we are focusing on the necessity of having a clean, comfortable space to work in and in this way, we hope to provide the school with 29 desks and chairs to allow for easier access to learning.  120 students attend the school every day and the current lack of desks is resulting in many resorting to working on the floor.  It may seem like a small thing but not having a desk to work on can do a lot to hinder a child's ability and willingness to learn.  In order to raise awareness of this issue, the education day we are promoting in September will be ‘Day Without A Desk'.  The aim is to challenge students from MEDLIFE chapters to spend a day at their own college without access to desk space to work on.  This will not only raise awareness of why it is so important for us to fundraise for this cause but will also help students to understand struggles they would otherwise never come into contact with.   

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In October we will be focusing on sanitation and how it can impact a learning environment as well as why it is important for students to be educated on this issue.  In Tanzania, only 3% of schools have access to basic commodities such as electricity, water and sanitary bathrooms.  Despite there being 120 students at Kirua School, there is no bathroom and no safe place to get clean water.  This lack of sanitation is very dangerous and causes 2900 deaths every day worldwide.  We plan to build a bathroom for the school with sanitary facilities for the children to wash their hands, access clean drinking water to fill bottles and even brush their teeth.  To raise awareness of this issue in October, MEDLIFE college students will be encouraged to take part in our ‘Tally for Tanzania' educational day where they will be asked to make a note in a tally every time they use their bathroom facilities around campus.  Again, we hope that this will raise awareness for students, friends and family and will demonstrate the importance of raising money for this cause.

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November and December will be focusing on food hygiene and infrastructure respectively with the aim of raising money for a new kitchen, the final aspect of the school that needs drastic improvement.  We will be keeping our website and social media pages up to date with the progress of the fundraising and stories from different chapters and MEDLIFE offices about how each education day turns out and how the project is going as a whole.  Due to the importance of these educational days in the overall success of the fundraiser, we will be really pushing for greater involvement from MEDLIFE chapters around the world and will be hoping to keep our social media updated with information from all different schools about what they are doing to promote the cause.

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This is one of the most ambitious fundraising projects we have attempted so far and we are hoping that it will be a chance for many different MEDLIFE chapters to work together for a rewarding end goal.  Overall, we are hoping to raise $11,500 over the 4 months to enable the children at this school and the surrounding community to be given the amenities and support they need to learn in a safe and sanitary environment.

To donate towards this project click here.

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