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.
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.
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.