From the MEDLIFE office in Riobamba, Ecuador, we took a taxi to the bus station and a 1-hour bus to Columbe, another city near Riobamba, where MEDLIFE has held several mobile clinics and projects. We then spent 30 minutes on a truck to Llinllin, a community within Columbe that is so large, a community member says it had to be divided into several “llinllins”, Llinllin Colegio, LlinllÃn Las Juntas, Lllinllin Hierba Buena.
“Llinllin is so big that it should be converted into a parroquia (district) instead of being part of Columbe” said the truck driver. “So many little Lllinllins communities confuses people, when actually all of the Llinllin communities are different.”
Once we got to the outskirt of Llinllin, we saw the huge wall MEDLIFE built for the local school, thanks to the donations from our chapter at the University of Brown. After 20 more minutes driving, we finally got to the community of Llinllin Pucara.
LlinllÃn Pucara is home to just over 500 residents, most of whom have only completed their basic studies. In Llinllin Pucara, you find yourself surrounded by vast valleys and rivers making for a priceless view. At every corner, Llinllin Pucara’s landscapes are breathtaking.
The community, as we said before, is one of many “llinllins”. Although these network of small communities are a bit far away from each other, they often work together, especially when it comes to sharing resources.
One of the largest schools in the area is located in LlinllÃn Colegio where hundreds of students study. About a 20 minute drive away, in LlinllÃn Pucara, a smaller and humbler school is located, where just over 100 students fill their classrooms. The students that attend Llinllin Pucara live in remote communities and cannot make the trip to LlinllÃn Colegio, which takes over 1 hour each way.
Pedro Yacosa, president of LlinllÃn Pucara, talked with us about how a new road allowing car access to their community has helped their local economy grow. “The main economic activity here is raising cattle, especially the production of milk and cheeses. There are still some families who grow corn and potatoes, but the production of milk and cheese is something that everyone here in Pucara LlinllÃn is proud of. Now with the new road, we are already selling our products in larger cities, and some large companies are purchasing our products to resell,” he says.
Though these new and accessible roads provide safer access to community members’ homes, using these roads to reach the local school from the Llinlin Pucara town takes 40 minutes to an hour of walking.
Located about 400 meters above the new road, lies an old path that is still being used by many community members to save time. This old path shortens the commute to only 15-20 minutes. This old path, however, is quite dangerous, especially due to the poor conditions caused by Llinlin’s unpredictable climate and daily rain showers. Despite these dangers, many community members still opt to use this path to save them time. This leads to daily accidents due to mud and stone slides.
“This path is very important for us because it saves us a lot of time to get to the road and to the school from our town. Everyday we use this path and we cannot use it anymore in its current condition. We need to build a staircase to replace this path, a staircase that is safe and allows us to access the path without fear of falling down”, says Pedro.
As we walked along this old path, we found ourselves slipping and nearly falling many times. Laughter from children also using the path surrounded us, as they watched us struggle. These children were much more experienced in using this path and knew how to navigate it with much more grace than we did.
MEDLIFE is planning to build a large staircase along this path to help support this community. This staircase will be made during several mobile clinics in Riobamba. In addition, we will be building a hygiene project in the local school in Llinllin Pucara at the foot of the future stairs. Together with the community, MEDLIFE hopes to achieve its goal of giving the Llinllin Pucara community an improved quality of life and greater security for all.