The MEDLIFE Ecuador staff is a small group of women, but they work day in and day out to provide quality healthcare, education, and development to the communities surrounding Riobamba and Tena.

Keep reading to learn more about MEDLIFE’s work in Ecuador!

Community Meetings

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As we do in every MEDLIFE location, when the team in Ecuador gets introduced to a new community they start by listening to the community’s needs. MEDLIFE Ecuador Director Martha connects with the dirigentes, or community leaders, to organize community meetings. These are usually held on weekday nights after work to accommodate the community members’ busy schedules.

In the district of Punin - which is comprised of many smaller communities - we were first invited to a town hall. Our team listened to concerns from community members, which they were sharing with their dirigentes. Most of the indigenous population in the district speaks Quichua. So when it was Martha’s turn to speak, we made sure there was a translator to ensure everyone understood what was happening.

As part of these meetings, we hope to inspire new communities to collaborate on future Mobile Clinics and projects. Martha speaks clearly and plainly to the dirigentes, describing how MEDLIFE collaboration works and what would be required of them. She tells our MEDLIFE story, where we work, and what projects we have completed. She assures the community that we are a non-governmental and non-religious organization that provides quality healthcare and development free of charge - there are no catches or ulterior motives.

Additionally, Martha explains that we work with groups of volunteers on Mobile Clinics as part of an Ecuador Service Learning Trip, which can be organized and arranged in a location and time convenient for community members, and development projects to improve the communities. Some of the populations are quite small, with only 60 or so individuals, so the team also encourages dirigentes to choose a central location and invite all neighboring communities.  

Local Partnerships

 Tena Bathrooms

When MEDLIFE works with communities surrounding Tena, Ecuador, we often partner with the local government organization Sumak Kawsay Wasi that provides medical and development support to the communities in Napo Province.

Recently our organizations worked side by side to renovate the bathrooms at a local school. Unidad Educativa Emilio Cecco serves nearly 300 students - and they had been sharing just six toilets. Administrators had been asking the government for resources to improve the school’s infrastructure for years. But their proposals were continually denied, and they were unable to gather funds from the students’ families as most do not have the expendable income to donate. That’s where we stepped in.  

Together MEDLIFE and Sumak Kawsay Wasi were able to raise the necessary funds and provide volunteers for the project. MEDLIFErs cleared the space where the bathrooms would be built, shoveling away debris and trash, and leveled the land. From there they worked 50/50 with community members to install the toilets and walls.

Additionally, the new bathrooms offered handicap access to the restrooms for students with disabilities. With classrooms located on the other side of the school grounds, it was difficult for some students to make the trip to the old facilities. The new bathrooms were built directly next to the classroom, with an accessible pathway, to provide easier access for all students.

The partnership between MEDLIFE’s Ecuador Team and Sumak Kawsay Wasi is a great example of our efforts at 24/7/365 support beyond an Ecuador Service Learning Trip. When we work with local organizations, we have the opportunity to reach more impoverished communities and people in our fight for a world free from the constraints of poverty.


Does working hand in hand with Ecuadorian Communities sound like an impactful experience for you?

Sign up for an Ecuador Service Learning Trip today!

April 23, 2018 9:20 am

A profile of our Lima Communities

Written by Sarah Margolis

This information is based on a sampling of communities around Lima, Peru that hosted MEDLIFE Mobile Clinics between December - January 2017-2018.

Gender Breakdown

Since MEDLIFE clinics take place during the day, it's often difficult for men to attend as they most often are at work.

age

During summer vacation, more children attend MEDLIFE clinics.

Education

While most children attend school through at least year one of secondary school, many people who come to Lima from rural Peru may have received very limited education or no education at all.

Occupation

In Lima, many mothers do not hold formal jobs. Instead, they may cook in community kitchens (Comedores populares), sell goods on the street, or have other informal sources of income.

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In Peru, there are two main types of public insurance: Essalud and SIS. Essalud is insurance aimed at the middle class and is granted through work contracts, SIS is for those who do not receive benefits from their employer or who do not have government regulated jobs. While SIS is meant to provide insurance to the poorest class, there are still obstacles preventing everyone from registering for this basic service.

Last week, our first group of MEDLIFE volunteers for the winter season helped to host a Chocolatada at the community of Secsencalla, located in the district of Andahuaylillas outside of Cusco. Before the event, the volunteers had been leading a Healthy Homes project in the community to improve 4 homes of families with children at risk of malnutrition. 

A Chocolatada is a traditional Christmas celebration in Peru but dates all the way back to the Spanish conquests of the Americas when the conquistadors spread their method of preparing hot chocolate throughout their expansion. Hot Chocolate later became a staple at Christmas time, and thus a tradition was born. 

The modern Chocolatada celebration has its roots in charity, however - as Christmas approaches, private businesses, organizations, or even individual groups of friends will use their resources to organize a Chocolatada event to benefit rural, impoverished communities.  Children from all corners of the community descend upon the Chocolatada, eager to receive the typical cup of hot chocolate, traditional Peruvian panettone (sweet) bread, and a small present. 

Last week, 91 children also received a present donated by the mobile clinic volunteers and from the travel agency Good Life Expeditions, who also sponsored the celebration. It was an amazing evening where children were able to break 3 piñatas, share a delicious meal with the volunteers, and also meet Santa Claus!

This is the second year we are able to hold a Chocolatada in Peru and we hope to continue doing it in the following years! 

Check out the photo blog below to find out more!

IMG 2120Children from the community shared a dance together while waiting for the piñatas to be ready.

IMG 2121The tradition stipulates that every child should have an opportunity to try to break the piñata, but these children were very strong and almost break it at the beginning!

IMG 2126To keep the order, our Director of MEDLIFE Cusco, Heidy Aspilcueta helped break the piñata. The children were really excited!

IMG 2131Another piñata was opened for more children and finally one last for the little ones.

IMG 2135The arrival of Santa Claus was one of the most anticipated moments!

IMG 2155The children did not hesitate to come and say hello while they enjoyed their hot chocolate and their sweet bread.

IMG 2157Finally, we distributed the gifts and 91 children from Secsencalla had a Merry Christmas thanks to our volunteers and Good Life Expeditions!

 

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Carmen Galanza has lived in Nicolas Pierola for twenty years. She never expected to see a disaster the magnitude of the Huaycos, a flood of mud and water, that came and tore her house in half, along with dozens of others on March 15 of 2017. Fifteen days later, no organization has arrived to help those left homeless, and no one has arrived with water. “We are here, waiting and forgotten,” said Galanza, “hoping they come and tell us something.”

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            Galanza describes the day of the Huayco, which came down at 1 in the afternoon, as like “being in a disaster film. We had to run up the stairs to escape. It pulled the house apart and took everything with it… everything shook and moved horribly.”

            The Huayco tore off a section of her home that used to be her kitchen, laundry room, and her brothers bedroom, leaving nothing but a gaping precipice over the massive trench carved by the Huayco.

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Galanza was forced to go live in a tent camp with 205 refugees displaced by the disaster from the surrounding communities. Two weeks later, little help has arrived and no one has made it to where she lives to sell water.

IMG 3045A tent at a camp for people displaced by the huaycos. MEDLIFE brought a Mobile Clinic here along with donations.

Galanza said she and her community are getting by without electricity and housing, but the water shortage has become a serious problem and people are getting desperate.

The residents of Nicolas Pierola have had to travel long distances chasing down the trucks selling water at high prices. “The other day, an old woman fell and hurt herself chasing after a water truck,” lamented Galanza.

As MEDLIFE staff surveyed the community, nearly everyone we passed asked us if we could bring them water.

            “What we want now is water,” Galanza said. “There are kids, there are elderly here, and we don’t have water. We are asking for water, nothing more. Without water we can’t do anything, water is the base of everything.”

            MEDLIFE was able to contract a water truck to bring water to the residents of Nicolas Pierola and several other communities the following day. Bringing water trucks to communities that have been left dry during the crisis is one of the primary uses of flood relief donations. Please, DONATE now and help us bring water to Huayco victims. 

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In the hills, high above the city center of Lima, Peru, sits the community of Nadine. One of Lima’s Pueblos Jovenes, or young towns, people began to settle in the area in 2012 and now there is an estimated 350 families living there.

Lima is surrounded by informal communities, like Nadine, without land titles and thus without recognition from the government and legal access to public electricity and water. However, Nadine sticks out as a dramatic example of the city’s stark divide between rich and poor because it sits along what has been dubbed the “Wall of Shame”.

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The wall was built about 30 years ago by those living below in the wealthier area of Santiago de Surco to divide themselves and their poorer neighbors. The wall has been covered by Peruvian media as well as internationally. The dramatic view from the top works as an all too provocative visual metaphor to the divide between the rich and poor of Lima.

Living up in Nadine means no access access to a public water supply. Fabiola Rosales Bartolo, a resident who has lived in Nadine for 3 years says she pays around 200 soles, about $60 USD, a month for water for her family.

“We pay much more for water than people that live on the other side,” Bartolo said. “I have a baby and it lasts for a week, because I have to wash clothes, I have to cook.”

Oxfam estimates that those living without access to SEDAPAL, Lima’s public water supply, pay up to 10 times as those with access, a case where it truly is expensive to be poor.

Life for residents in Nadine and communities like it reflects the informality of the town itself. Houses spring up on land not formally owned by those who live there. Water deliveries can be infrequent and unpredictable. Most residents make their money in an informal economy by selling goods and services on the streets.

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In Nadine, this life is all lived with a view of the paved, tree lined streets of Lima’s wealthier districts. However, from below, you can only see a wall.

“Here we can to look at the other side to a comfortable life,” Bartolo said. “There is a big difference between the rich and the poor. The wall separates us from the people that have. More than anything it shows you the reality of our country,”

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