November 25, 2015 3:03 pm

The Union Santa Fe Wawawasi is Open!

Written by Jake Kincaid

The day of the Wawawasi (daycare in Quechua) inauguration in Union Santa Fe was dark and gloomy, the community appeared to be stuck inside a cloud, the air inside turned foul by the nearby animal processing factories. The bus MEDLIFE staff arrived in was parked above the community. From this vantage point, dozens of other communities could be seen in the distance, fading into the mist and dirt.

I knew I had been to some of the places I could see on other field visits, but I couldn't tell them apart. The shanty-town's all looked the same to me obscured in the mist from afar. Shacks, dirt paths, stray dogs and hills, the same impoverished patchwork blanketed the desert as far as I could see.

But when we approached Union Santa Fe, although I had never been, I could immediately identify it. MEDLIFE had done a lot of projects here, and the results of all that work were immediately visible on approach; a house there, red staircases leading down the hillsides on all sides and in the center the new Wawawasi project. The tall sturdy walls and clean white color it was painted cut through the mist and made it stand out against the dark muddy pallet of colours surrounding it like an apparition.

Amidst the typically bleak environs of Union Santa Fe, with the community gathering around it in celebration, it looked like a symbol of hope.

In its first weeks of operation a few months later, the Wawawasi was full of children, some laughing, some crying, all being cared for by the two full-time staff running the place. For the kids here, the center really did represent a big step leading to a better future for their families.

Quality childcare simultaneously addresses the needs of both parents and children living in poverty. The parents, many of whom are single mothers, with kids at the Wawawasi, are free to pursue more productive daytime work that would be an unsuitable environment for a child. Many of the poor in Lima walk the streets all day working in the informal economy. Can you imagine canvassing chaotic and dangerous parts of a city with a preschool aged child in tow? “The people of this community work a lot, all week.” said Maria Contreras, a caretaker at the Wawawasi. “Mothers with young children are waiting for their children to turn three so they can bring them here and get jobs.”

A lot of evidence (this article discusses and cites a lot of interesting research and is not behind a paywall) suggests that children's long-term social and cognitive development benefits greatly from quality early childhood care (pre-school age, the Wawawasi does not accept children younger than three years old.) Numerous studies have found that quality center-type early childhood care (as opposed to informal arrangements, neighbors ect.) is associated with higher future cognitive and language scores on standardized tests, and better overall school performance. The activities and environment within the Wawawasi; arts and crafts, reading to the children, puppet shows, games and even just a social environment with other children all foster cognitive and social development.

The center also provides two nutritious meals a day to the children, breakfast and lunch. For families struggling to get the basics, not having to worry about two of your children's meals on a work day is a huge relief.

A phrase often heard in conversation and in the speeches given at the inauguration was “seguir adelante,” which means to move forward, towards a better future for the community and children of Union Santa Fe, an idea that both community members and MEDLIFE hold dear. MEDLIFE is thrilled to have completed this project with the community of Union Santa Fe, taking another step forward with them towards a better future.

See all the photos in the timeline below!

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November 18, 2015 4:31 pm

Llin Llin Photo Gallery

Written by Jake Kincaid

In October 2015 MEDLIFE completed a security wall project in Llin-Llin, a community in the Ecuadorian Andes. The large and understaffed school was having trouble controlling the flow of students in and out of the school during the day. Many students would leave the school and not return. 

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This is where kids were leaving the school during the day, it took them right out onto a busy road unsupervised.

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The school has many young children for whom which the new road is a serious hazard.

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MEDLIFE worked hand in hand with community members to construct the wall.

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After several weeks of work the wall was completed. The schools staff will now be able to make sure students stay in class learning, and that young students do not wander into the road. 

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Thank you to the Brown University MEDLIFE chapter for fundraising for the project!

July 27, 2015 11:26 am

Galte Yaguachi School: Photo Gallery

Written by Rosali Vela

When we met the students and teachers from the Galte, Yagachi school in Riobamba, Ecuador, their classrooms were deteriorating. Thanks to successful fundraising campaigns led by MEDLIFE at Wayne State University, MEDLIFE-Ohio State Chapter and MEDLIFE at UGA, we worked with parents, teachers and community leaders to build new classrooms for the school. The new classrooms will provide a safe and comfortable learning environment to ensure that the kids at the Galte Yagachi school receive an education with dignity! Watch the video here.

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Written by Rosali Vela and translated by Rachel Goldberg

This week, MEDLIFE student volunteers are helping out with the construction of an auditorium at an orphanage in Cusco, Peru. Learn more about the girls benefiting from this project in the blog post below, written by Rosali Vela and translated by Rachel Goldberg. 
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Jessica has a shy smile, but when she starts talking no one can stop her. Living in the San Judas girls' home wasn't easy at first, especially when her mother left her there at the age of 9 in the care of the nuns that governed the institution at the time. It was hard to find a moment alone there, even in the bathroom, which is shared with more than 20 other girls. But in spite of it all, she says now she's never been happier.

JESSICAJessica looks at me doubtfully when I ask her if she is able or willing to tell me the reason why she lives in the orphanage. "My mom left me here because she couldn't take care of me, and her partner- her partner didn't want me," she tells me, her eyes misting. "I'm fine here, the mamis take care of us, they teach us to take care of ourselves, and especially to protect ourselves." The "mamis" are what the girls call the women who run the orphanage.

When I asked her what the girls needed protection from, she looked at me like the answer was obvious. "To protect us from people who want to hurt us," she says.

At 15 years old, Jessica is one of the oldest girls in the home. Her dream is to finish high school. Now she studies cosmetology in a government-subsidized institute and takes high school classes at night. "I want to be a lawyer," she tells me when I ask about her plans, and then she seems lost in thought for a moment, as if reflecting on what she wants to tell me. Finally, she adds, "I have two younger sisters who live with my mom and with him." She doesn't need to say more.

Like Jessica, almost all of the girls in the home were rescued from violent homes, where relatives abused them or abandoned them to seek a better future elsewhere. But not all of the cases are the same.

JOHANA"Take my photo," says one small girl in the accent that is particular to the Cusco region of Peru. "I'm going to be famous," she says confidently. "I already have a band, and I'm the singer." Johana, 9, has lived in the San Judas home since 2012 with her younger sister. Their mother couldn't afford to take care of them after her husband left her for another woman, and couldn't find help in her small community. Now she is working in a market in Puno. She visits her daughters every other Sunday without fail.

The orphanage is currently administered by the government of Cusco, with Señora Maruja in charge of running the day-to-day operations. "We're always looking for support for the girls," she tells me. "Our dream has always been to have a big auditorium where the girls could exercise, visit with their parents on the weekends, or have classes and performances." Maruja is a strong woman who seems full of energy, and disposed to do everything she can for her girls. "We may be poor," she says, "but if I've learned anything, it's that the most valuable thing isn't money, but education and love."

One curious thing that caught my eye was the Barbie doll carefully placed in a glass case in a living room. With her long hair and pink dress, she seems to watch over the place from her perch high up on the top of a dresser. Rosacarmen finally gave me the answer to what I had been wondering. "The mamis put her there to remind us that we are all ladies," she told me. It seemed to me an apt analogy; these girls are all princesses. 

wawa update portraitMEDLIFE began planning for our first Wawa Wasi Day Care construction project approximately seven months ago, in April of 2012. The Wawa Wasi is an important national day care program for low-income residents in Peru; it began as a partnership between UNICEF and the Peruvian Ministry of Education in 1993 to address childhood poverty. 66% of children five years old and younger are growing up in poverty in Peru. The Wawa Wasi program serves 150,000 of these children nationwide, according to UNICEF. The centers give mothers the opportunity to work or study while leaving their children in a safe place. The Wawa Wasi provides children with educational activities and daily meals made in a local community kitchen. In addition, teachers are trained in health care and early childhood stimulation, and help educate parents about the importance of proper hygiene and preventative health care.

MEDLIFE is currently expanding this important and established program to the community of Unión Santa Fe. After breaking ground in June, 2012, we have made steady progress with the center's construction. Although the inclement weather of Lima's winter months has stalled progress, we are back on track with the help of community residents. Now, community members have completed the seven-meter deep retaining wall, which will secure the building. They have also made progress with the iron framework, and started constructing the building walls. On a recent visit to the construction site, MEDLIFE Director of Peru Carlos Benavides brought community members MEDLIFE t-shirts, as well as additional safety gear such as helmets and gloves.

wawaupdateThe Wawa Wasi project in Unión Santa Fe is slated for completion in early 2013.

 

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