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 â€œsometimesâ€ 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: â€œOur parents died. And we have nowhere else- to be.â€ 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: â€œDios es Amor,â€ or â€œGod is Love.â€
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 quinceaÃ±era 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.
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 â€œlike a hammock.â€
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.