October 20, 2016 10:00 am

Intern Journal: Sarah Bridge

Written by Sarah Bridge

         Last weekend, we held two volunteer days to help get materials up the 150 steps that lead to the site where we are building a two story home for MEDLIFE patient Soledad and her son José.  A signup sheet was sent around the office and put on Facebook to register for the volunteer days.  As I was looking at the sign up sheet, a friend of mine who has worked here for a year and a half now told me “these volunteer days are really fun, you should definitely sign up for both!  I loved it last year.”  So I trustingly put my name down to work at 8am on both Saturday and Sunday, only to find out later that my so called ‘friend' was actually away the entire weekend.

         That is how I found myself regretting all my life decisions as I hit snooze on my alarm for the fifth time at 7:15am on Saturday morning.  Eventually I managed to drag myself out of bed and head to the bus station to begin the first days work.  To my surprise and delight when I arrived at the meeting point there were over 30 keen volunteers ready in MEDLIFE t- shirts to start the day ahead.  In my time with MEDLIFE, I have ‘subired' a fair number of materials up hills but I can safely say, Saturday is the fastest I have ever seen it done.  It was some kind of superhuman effort, we got 500 bricks to the top in less than an hour and at one point I had five men passing me each holding a 50kg bag of cement on their backs.  By midday we had finished and were all sitting around drinking Inka Cola and laughing about possible future careers in construction.


14231323 1178251912213849 692982551812709733 oThe MEDLIFE chain passing materials up to Soledad's house.

Following Saturday's success, Sunday morning seemed full of optimism.  As my alarm chirped it's happy little tune, I sprung out of bed, eager to begin the day ahead! (Some artistic license may be being used… after all it was still 7:15am on a Sunday).  However, my optimistic mood came crashing down somewhat when I reached the meeting point that morning and realised there was a grand total of around 10 volunteers… and 1,000 bricks.  I somewhat begrudgingly climbed into the bus, my friends words “you should definitely sign up for both!” ringing hauntingly in my ears.  

And so we set off again, the empty bus rattling around and echoing eerily from the dramatic lack of people (again, artistic license may be being used). However, before reaching the project, this time we made a detour to the site of another MEDLIFE project.  The bus stopped where Carlos Benavides, director of MED Programs Peru, was waiting for us.  We all got off the bus and he took us to the site of the project.

Quick context note:  I had visited this site a few weeks before.  It was a staircase we were hoping to build for a patient who had suffered an accident which hindered his ability to walk.  However, due to the nature of the community, Carlos was struggling to get enough man power together to build the staircase.  


2016 10 18The people of Laderas building a staircase for MEDLIFE patient Pompinchu.

Therefore, it came as a huge surprise to me when I rounded the corner to see around 50 people stood up and down the staircase mixing cement, pouring it into the frame and shouting to pass up more buckets.  I turned to Carlos and asked him how he had managed to convince the community to help.  He told me he didn't.  “None of these people are from this community,” he explained. “They are all from Laderas, the community where we were building a staircase a few weeks ago.” I was amazed to realise he was right.  Laderas is about a twenty minute drive from where this project was taking place and yet all these people were the same faces we had been working with just a few weeks earlier.  

Incredibly, there were so many people from the Laderas community working on this project that Carlos was able to solicit about twenty of them to help us with the materials for Soledad's house.  So we all piled back onto the bus, which this time round was packed full, and headed to the site of Soledad's house.  With the help of the reinforcements, we once again managed to pass the bricks up in record timing, forming an efficient chain and getting everything up the hill by lunchtime.  I asked one of the community members why it was that they were so readily keen to help with this project and the staircase they were building, neither of which would affect their community.  He told me “whenever we have come to Carlos with a problem, he has found a way to solve it for us.  It seems only fair that that works both ways.”


IMG 9109The MEDLIFE team working in Laderas.

I have been working with MEDLIFE for nearly five months now and in my time here, the importance of our relationships with the people we work with is the thing that has stood out the most for me.  We invest so much in individuals and communities to make sure that they can trust us and they know they can rely on us.  However, it never occurred to me that they are doing the exact same thing.

Working with MEDLIFE, I have got to know the bravest, strongest and most impressive people I have ever met.  This story of the people of the Laderas community is just one example of that.  These people often have so little and yet will give us so much, not because they want to assure we help them but because they want to assure we have a real relationship with them.  That for me is the most amazing and single most important thing about the work MEDLIFE does and is the reason that I would say to anyone thinking to volunteer next time: “these volunteer days are really fun, you should definitely sign up for both!  I loved it last year.”       

October 20, 2016 8:47 am

A Sandwich Cart for Natalie

Written by Sarah Bridge

          In early August of 2016, MEDLIFE was working in Pamplona Alta on one of our final projects of clinic season. We had just finished building a staircase for the community and a ramp for MEDLIFE patient Jorge Sanchez.  We inaugurated both projects with balloons and a delicious meal cooked for us by the community. Just as were were ready to get on the bus and head home, Carlos Benavides, director of MED Programs Peru approached our intern group.  He said there was someone who wanted to talk to us.  A woman stepped forward with her young child and began telling her story to our group.

          Cristian is seven years old and lives with his mum and sister Ciara in a house borrowed from his aunt in Pamplona Alta.  A few years ago Cristian's mum, Natalie, was working selling street food and sugar cane drinks.  In Peru, street vendors often use a machine to crush and juice the sugar cane freshly on the street.  Cristian was playing with the machine whilst Natalie was attending to a customer.  His mother didn't notice until it was too late and she heard her child screaming.  Cristian had managed to get his hand caught in the machine.  Natalie took Cristian to the hospital immediately, but there was too much damage done to save his hand.

13909282 1162134287158945 3663188147760682588 oSome of the summer interns with Crisitan and his mum, Natalie.

          Over the next few months, Natalie and her husband were put under a lot of financial pressure to be able to afford the medication Cristian needed for his treatment.  Natalie lost her machine and her livelihood after the accident, so she took up a job cleaning to help with the medical expenses.  She was out of the house for days, and didn't get back until it was dark. “I wanted to try to get into the SIS system,” Natalie explained. “But it was too difficult, I don't have much of an education and I couldn't work out the complexities of it.”  

         In March of this year, her husband left her for another woman; she hasn't received any financial support or even been in contact with him since then.  Natalie is now having to support herself and her two children alone on just the s/ 200 ($60) she earns from cleaning.  She explained to us that it was getting to a point where she didn't know what to do. “I don't have a home, I barely have an income and it is getting to a point where I don't know how long I'll be able to support my family for.”  She wanted to be able to save up to afford a surgery for her son but was in an impossible situation as she couldn't see anyway to support her children. She didn't have the time to be home and physically care for them, and despite pouring most of her time into work, she was still coming up short financially. 

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          Carlos turned to Natalie and told her we would help.  We would help get her and her children into the healthcare system and from there we would approach the next issues step by step.  This is exactly what we have been doing over the past few months.  A few weeks ago, we decided to fundraise to buy Natalie a sandwich card that would enable her to work closer to home, get a steady income and still be at home to support her family.

          For Natalie, this sandwich cart would be the first step in creating a new life for her and her children.  Natalie told us that after her husband left her, she felt useless and insignificant because she didn't have an education and hadn't done anything with her life.  No one should ever have to feel like that and we want to empower Natalie and show her that being the mother of two amazing, brave children like Cristian and Ciara is in itself a huge achievement.  

October 19, 2016 10:06 am

Meet the Patient: John Caisaguano

Written by Jake Kincaid

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          In the small rural villages of the Andes, lack of access to healthcare is so severe that injuries and illnesses often go untreated for long periods of time and lead to more severe consequences than necessary. John Caisaguano fell and hit his face and eye when he was 3 years old. The wound bled a lot, and his injured eye eventually turned black. But despite his mother's efforts, 10 years later John still hasn't gotten the necessary treatment.

            It's not that his mother didn't try. Their home is in the foothills surrounding Chimborazo, the highest mountain in Ecuador. They have a small plot surrounded by fields where they grow the crops that comprise their livelihood. From this remote location it takes almost two hours to reach the nearest health post.

            She tried the health post first; the doctors told her they weren't adequately equipped to handle such a case. Next she tried all the hospitals in the Riobamba area. She got nothing.

          Maybe her relatives in Quito could help her? They went to Quito and checked at the hospital, it would be $3000. At this point she was desperate, John's eye was swollen shut and black. He couldn't see out of it and he was in a lot of pain.

          John's mother told us how hard it was to raise funds; “We just couldn't pay,” Caisaguano said. “The hospital said it would cover $100 of that treatment but we still couldn't afford it, even with the help of the rest of my family… So we tried to find a way to raise money.” 

            They sold their animals, the cows, the guinea pigs, everything. They worked more, they got help from their husband's family, but they were still short.

          They heard there was a specialist in Milagro who might be able to help them. They went immediately.
            John's mother told us what happened when she got there:

         “A woman came to talk to us and told us they wouldn't be able to see us tomorrow and asked where we came from.  I told her we had come from Riobamba and she told us to go back and that they would see us later.  But we had ready spent so much money on traveling, money that we didn't have,” Caisaguano said.

          She persisted, and eventually she was given a price for the operation, $2,500. Desperate, she called up her brother in law and asked him to sell one of his cows to raise money. He did it, but he couldn't get the money in time. The hospital, which they had been staying in waiting to try and raise money, kicked them out.

          “This meant that we were stuck in Milagros with no operation, no money and no way home. We were stranded,” Caisaguano said. “I was crying on the street when a woman came up to me and asked what was wrong.  I told her and she gave me $10.  With this help, eventually we managed to get back.  However this meant that we had even less money, there was no way to afford the treatment.”  

            To this day, John still hasn't been able to get treatment. His eye is extremely painful, puts him at risk for future health problems, and makes him the subject of ridicule amongst his peers. The cost of unsuccessfully seeking treatment has left his family worse off than ever.

          “We have nothing now.  We have no money, we have no animals now as we sold them to try to raise money for the operation,” Caisaguano said.  “I worked every Saturday and eventually raised enough money for a small operation on his face but it was still painful and was not the full treatment that he needs.”  

            What John needed was a prosthetic eye.

            MEDLIFE met John at a Mobile Clinic we knew we could get it for him. We took him to see the specialist in Quito that his family could not afford to take him to. He was nervous sitting in the chair, waiting to receive the prosthetic eye he had waited years for. The doctor washed his hands and explained what he was going to do. “Trust me. This is not going to hurt,” he told John, holding the prosthetic eye. The doctor popped it in and told John to look around. The prosthetic swiveled in tandem with his eye, and looked almost natural.  

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            MEDLIFE nurse Maria went to check in on him a few days after the operation. He was back in school and doing well. His mother thanked MEDLIFE and all of our supporters for making it possible. On the way out of the visit Maria noted “that was the first time I saw him smile.” 

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October 18, 2016 11:18 am

Intern Journal: Marissa Reinhart

Written by Marissa Reinhart


          What is your initial thought when you look at this picture? It's okay if it is negative. If I looked at this picture from an outside perspective, my initial thought would probably be critical. There is something that creates a negative reaction about this white, privileged girl posing with a child she probably knows nothing about. Something that makes people think this girl was feeling the “savior complex,” rescuing a child of color from their plight. Or, maybe you had a positive thought about how cute that baby is and how beautiful her mother in the background is. Nonetheless, I want to take this opportunity of writing this blog to talk about perspective, MEDLIFE and my experiences.

          So, as you may know, the privileged white girl in this photo is me, Marissa, and some of those criticisms are probably true about this photo and similar photos you've encountered of friends and family who have gone on service trips abroad. Luckily, the organization I chose to commit to, without doing a lot of research, has a mission far removed from the ideas behind the “savior complex.” To me, this photo represents my discovery of this mission in action during the mobile clinic week in Moshi, Tanzania that would change my life in more ways than I ever could have imagined.

         For those of you non-Ohioans, I should explain that the Ohio State Buckeyes are a huge part of the Ohioan culture, especially in my family. I was born and raised to be a buckeye fan, going to “The Shoe” at a young age to watch the cheerleaders of course. With that being said, seeing this precious child with an Ohio State outfit on 8,000 miles away from home evoked many thoughts and emotions within me that I wanted to capture in order to remember and look back on.

       First was the excitement and disbelief that we just so happened to wear Ohio State gear on the same day. Did the mother know Ohio State students would be at this clinic or was it just a complete coincidence? Then, I felt an immense sense of humanity. Knowing that when her mother dressed her in this outfit on that hot Tanzanian summer morning, she looked into her daughter's eyes with the same love and hope for her future as when my mother dressed me in the same outfit as a child. Although this child and I may have been born into completely different environments with different access and opportunity, our parents both wanted a fulfilled and healthy future for us.

        I see this in the communities we work with here in Lima. Almost every time community members propose a new project, they mention wanting it to improve the health, safety and environment of the community for their children. When I listen to these community members, I hear and see the same hope for a better future as the parents of the child in Tanzania had and that my parents have for me. These experiences have helped me realize that we are all just humans trying to survive and thrive in our lifetimes in order to better the world for future generations.


          This is why I believe in a better future for the pueblos jovenes surrounding Lima and communities experiencing poverty throughout the world. With the commitment of these communities and NGOs like MEDLIFE who are committed to working WITH those experiencing poverty rather than FOR them we can improve overall quality of life. I believe that the individuals living in these situations did not choose to be there, but rather were placed there through a complex system that we have created over thousands of years. Although this may seem like an impossible circumstance to reverse, through generations of people aiming to improve the quality of life for the following generation we can make a change. Mano a mano (hand in hand), poco a poco (little by little) we can transform the world and if enough people believe in this transformation it will become a reality. I would like to end this brief excerpt by urging you to join the MEDLIFE Movement in whatever way you see fit in order to play your role in global development.


October 18, 2016 10:05 am

Meet the Patient: Victor Aguero

Written by Jake Kincaid

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          When Victor Aguero arrived to the community of Señor de Lureen, Lima Peru, in 1991 he was homeless. He had come to Lima from Ankash, a small city outside of Huaraz, hoping to visit family for the holidays and live with them, but they had rejected him. He had nothing but some clothes and an agreement to look after someone else's land. The land had a small hole, where the earth sunk down just enough to make a shelter.  Victor, who had nowhere else to go, added a roof and unstable walls; he made that hole his home.

             The home Victor made was better than nothing, but it caused him a lot of problems. He wasn't able to construct a sturdy floor for it. During the incessant drizzle that characterizes the winter in Lima, the hole would fill with water, covering everything in mud, trapping moisture and creating a humid breeding ground for bacteria that led to respiratory illnesses among other health problems. Sometimes it got so full of water, Victor had to sleep in the streets to avoid sleeping in the water.

             His family does not support him and has rejected him, “One Christmas I went to my dads house… They treated me like a rat, like a thief,” Victor said. “They told me ‘bathe yourself.' They watched me closely, telling me ‘don't you look at our stuff like that,' like I was a thief, ‘Don't take anything.' I wasn't allowed to stay there.”

           When he was younger, Victor said his family sold him to work in the home of a professor living in Huaraz as a servant. Victor said he was physically abused there, so he escaped. The police brought him to a church where he says he finally was helped. When he arrived in Señor Lureen he was truly alone, he had to fend for himself in a city he didn't know.

            Victor works doing other people's laundry and hauling bags of product in the local market. He was born with an undiagnosed but obvious mental disability, and had trouble finding work doing much else.

   7Victor in front of the water canal he washes clothes in.

            His community took note of the hardship in Victor's life; they saw his collapsing and unsafe home, they saw that some days he could not eat, they saw that he worked hard to support himself, and they saw that he came back in tears from every visit to his family. They did not ignore what they saw.

           When Victor got the news that he was being kicked off of the land his little hole was on, his community banded together to help him.

            “Someone had to do something, he couldn't be left to live that way,” said Ana Solice, one of Victor's neighbours.  “When someone is in need we come together as a community to support them.”  The community decided to hold a pollada, essentially a cookout, to raise money to build Victor a home.

Untitled 6Victor in front of his current home that his community worked together to build for him.

Untitled 4The roof of Victor's home.         

Untitled 5A corner in Victor's home, poorly sealed with a plastic bag stuffed in a crack.

       The home they built him is much better than the hole he was living in before. He lives a much better life now. His bed is lifted off of the ground with a mattress. Someone donated him a radio so he can listen to his favourite music, which he listens to all day. “Radio Q-Q-Qumbia!” he yelled happily as he cranked the music and danced.

Untitled 3Victor turns up the volume of his favorite music, Radio Qumbia.

            When MEDLIFE brought a Mobile Clinic to Victor's community, Ana Solice made him come with her because she remembered Victor had been complaining about persistent stomach pain for a long time. We gave him medication for gastritis, and we are coordinating with Ana to get him medical tests to make sure he doesn't have something more serious.

            The community and MEDLIFE both know we can do more together to help Victor. The community is planning to hold another pollada to construct a church. In the back, they plan to put a place to wash clothes that they will let Victor run all on his own. That way, he can make enough money to live more comfortably. MEDLIFE is working on plans to improve Victor's housing situation. Working together with the community, we know we can make a big difference in Victor's life. 

October 13, 2016 8:41 am

Intern Journal: Emily Gardner

Written by Emily Gardner

          Any of my close friends and family can tell you that the months leading up to my departure for Lima were characterized by multiple mini-existential crises; although I'm a fairly spontaneous person, the more I thought about it, the crazier it seemed to pick up my life and move to another country on my own for a year.  Everyone around me was incredibly supportive, but always with an air of skepticism–was this really what I should be doing with my life at this point?


          At the same time, I knew there would be a moment in which all of the worry and anxiety became worth it, a moment in which I was certain that I had made the right decision in moving to Peru.  Luckily, that realization occurred much quicker than I had anticipated.  

          Before we started our internship, we had a weeklong training period with all of the staff in which we learned about the MEDLIFE mission and how each facet of the organization contributes to the overall picture.  Although I was involved with my MEDLIFE chapter in college, I was amazed by everything I was learning.  While we were listening to our founder Nick Ellis speak, I paused and looked around the room.  The audience, the driving force behind MEDLIFE, consisted of individuals from all over the world with diverse backgrounds, interests, and skill sets.  Seeing all these incredible people gathered in one place for one purpose, I immediately felt that I was a part of something bigger than myself, a feeling that is both intimidating and comforting.  All my previous worries “se fue” and I dived in head first into my year with MEDLIFE.

          Even though I came here by myself, I've never felt alone.  I have found that friendship emerges easily between people who share a passion (even if you also share a kitchen).  It is really incredible to be able to stand alongside my housemates and friends, the same people I eat breakfast with every morning, and accomplish amazing things together.  This picture was taken at the end of a long day spent tossing bricks up a hillside to begin construction on a house for Soledad, one of our patients, and her son José.  They were both there alongside us the entire day, giving us water and Inka Cola, chatting with us during breaks, and constantly expressing their gratitude.     

          There is still a lot to accomplish before the big inauguration and move-in.  Although I wish we could simply snap our fingers and finish the project, part of me muses that every home should be constructed this way–piece by piece.  True ownership springs from physical investment in a project and active presence each step of the way.  At the end of the day, even though I was just a link in a long chain of MEDLIFE staff, interns, and community members, I have never felt so accomplished and, again, part of something bigger.  I strive to apply this same mentality to my internship with MEDLIFE as a whole; no task is minute, no role is insignificant.  


October 10, 2016 8:19 am

Intern Journal: Shayna Hamburg

Written by Shayna Hamburg

I was climbing down a steep hill-side of slippery rocks when I paused to catch my breath. It was my first week in Lima, and I was participating in our Reality Tour. Carlos, the Director of MED Programs Peru, was leading us through the communities on the outskirts of Lima to help us better understand the challenges they face everyday. “Ya, chicos, bajamos,” Carlos tells us to hurry down as we're supposed to meet with the community members from Wilbert Basurto. Fearful I might fall, I crouched down and placed both hands on the rocks beside me for support as I lowered myself down.

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          Once I planted both feet on solid ground, I looked back at the precarious path I had just descended. There were two young children scrambling down the rocks, followed by a woman wearing flip-flops and carrying her baby in a poncho on her back. Shortly after, another woman approximately 7 months pregnant, Herlita, slowly made her way down to greet us. I couldn't believe my eyes. Here I was properly equipped with good health, youth and sturdy hiking boots, yet struggling to safely reach the bottom. How were these individuals supposed to do the same without stable shoes? What would they do if it were raining or dark out? It was that moment I realized the gravity of the situation. They need a safe passageway; specifically, a staircase.

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          Less than two months later, I found myself sitting in that same location next to Herlita, except this time she was holding a happy, healthy baby, just 20 days old. We shared traditional foods, cachanga and cebada, from the region Huancavelica, where most of the community members had migrated from. As we enjoyed this meal, the community members of Wilbert Basurto discussed their plans with Carlos to begin the process of building their first staircase. The community was ready and inspired. They had just witnessed the inauguration of two new staircases in a nearby community Laderas de Nueva Esperanza, a location where we have been working for five years and have completed 11 staircases. The community members of Wilbert Basurto were able to see the success of their neighbors' efforts first-hand, turning a seemingly unattainable idea into a more tangible goal.  

          Wilbert Basurto is a much smaller community. They only have 21 families in comparison to the 93 families that make up Laderas de Nueva Esperanza, but Carlos assured the community members that it can be done. He emphasized the importance of commitment to the project and suggested that they ask to rent the wooden molds for their staircases from Laderas de Nueva Esperanza. As the community members came to an agreement with Carlos, I turned to Herlita by my side and smiled. She, her baby, and countless neighbors would soon have a staircase, providing safe access to and from their home.  

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          It was that moment that I realized the true magnitude of MEDLIFE's impact. We have built staircases, individual relationships and collaborative partnerships. We have empowered communities to organize and create positive change for themselves, but what I find to be the most meaningful is how communities have started to collaborate and learn from each other. To me, this is the truest essence of empowerment, and this is how the MEDLIFE mission will continue to grow. 

October 4, 2016 2:32 pm

Meet The Patient: Erika Pierina

Written by Sarah Bridge

          Erika is 18 years old and lives in the hills surrounding Lima with her 19 year old husband and their one year old son.  She moved to Lima from Iquitos in search of new job opportunities and a better life for her family.  She is currently living in a small shack on a dusty hillside in the community of Laderas.  She has no land title, no water and no sanitary facilities.  In January of this year, Erika started feeling pains in her belly that began disrupting her normal eating and sleeping habits.  She put off going to see a doctor as the process is time consuming and expensive.  However, by March, the pain was so bad that she couldn't delay it any longer.  Erika explained how it felt “I couldn't eat or sleep, I knew there was something very wrong”

IMG 0060Erika with her son, Edison.

          Erika made the journey down the steep hill from her house and into the centre of Villa Maria to consult with a doctor about the pain she had been experiencing.  The doctor ran several tests and scans.  When the results came back, it became clear that Erika had a tumour growing in her belly.  The scans did not determine whether the tumour was cancerous or not and finding out would require more hospital visits which would mean more time and money.  Erika is a full time mum and her husband works two days and two nights at a plastics factory though the family still have a very low income.  

          Erika put off going to see the doctor until the pain was so great that she could not bare it anymore.  The doctor told her that the tumour had grown in size to be 30cm, meaning it would need to be operated on.  However, he had also discovered a complication, Erika's results now showed she was five weeks pregnant.   

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Erika's house in Laderas, Villa María del Triunfo where she lives with her husband and son.

          The doctors deemed the danger of operating on the tumour whilst she was still carrying the baby to be too great.  She was told it would be necessary to have more scans and tests to determine how dangerous the tumor was and the possibility of it being cancerous.  However, it was too early in the pregnancy for these scans to be carried out without the risk of them affecting the pregnancy.

          As the baby continued to grow, the tumour was becoming increasingly uncomfortable.  Erika is only three months pregnant but already has the appearance of someone who is almost at the due date as a result of the swollen tumour in her belly.   Erika's doctor has decided to conduct some preliminary scans to try to determine if the tumour is cancerous.  If it is, they will need to delay any treatment until after the birth, however if it is not they will be able to think about a short term treatment to ease Erika's pain during her pregnancy.

IMG 0097Carlos Benavides, director of MEDPrograms Peru, visiting Erika with MEDPrograms intern Alison Bradley.

          These tests were carried out on Friday 23rd September and the results should be back within the next week.  Following these results, Erika and her family will have a better idea of how to proceed with the next few weeks.  MEDLIFE nurses will be with Erika every step of the way over the next three months, supporting her with whatever treatment she may need and helping her through her pregnancy.  We will make sure Erika's son has somewhere to stay and someone to look after him if his mother needs to go into the hospital and we will be supporting the family financially with any medication Erika is prescribed.  

          We hope that over the next few weeks Erika will be able to sort a clearer treatment plan of what the next steps will be in both her medical treatment and her pregnancy.      

          MEDLIFE have been working in the community of Laderas for nearly five years now.  As well as running educational workshops and mobile clinics in this community, we have also been heavily involved in constructing projects here.  Over the past year, we have been working on a project to constuct five staircases in this community which is located on a steep hillside.  We completed the majority of these staircases with the help of volunteers from our mobile clinics but the last staircase, which we finished last week, was left to staff and interns.  Here are a few photos from the week:

IMG 0005A group of staff and interns working with the community in the early stages of staircase construction.

IMG 0065We were able to spend the week meeting and getting to know many of the people who live in the community of Laderas.  

IMG 0092There was a clear sense of community in Laderas as community members vastly outnumbered our staff and interns!

IMG 0159We finished filling the stairs with concrete on a very gray Lima day...

IMG 8966Luckily it was nicer weather on inauguration day when we were painting the stairs the traditional MEDLIFE red.

IMG 9051Once all painted, we celebrated the inaugeration in the traditional Peruvian way, with balloons...

IMG 9087... champagne...

IMG 9124... and dancing!

IMG 9109The MEDLIFE team post inaugeration.

          We look forward to continuing to work with Laderas in the future and have already started making plans for potential future projects in this community!

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. 

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