September 2, 2014 10:38 am

MEDLIFE ROLE MODELS: Meet Yolanda!

Written by Suzanna Kane

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Finishing the first steps in ‘Santísima Cruz' community was not an easy job, especially for Yolanda Perez. As the community leader, Yolanda never stopped chasing after MEDLIFE to build a staircase, while also motivating all the members of the community to work together. Yolanda, now 32 years old, came to ‘Santísima Cruz' with just a suitcase and many dreams. There she met her husband and soon her two sons were born, but Yolanda always wanted something more.

"Santísima Cruz had already existed for more than 15 years, but the neighbors had never worked together. 15 years and there were no steps built” Yolanda tells us.

Thus, after many meetings and discussions, Yolanda took over as a leader of the community. She focused on completing the legal procedures for getting basic services such as electricity and construction projects.

It was Gladys Huahua, community leader of the community ‘7 de junio', who told Yolanda about MEDLIFE and how she had lead the construction of more than 10 staircases in the area.

"Gladys told me MEDLIFE would help us with the materials, but the construction had to be a joint effort with the community. There began my first problem- to try to convince the neighbors who previously would not help each other, to work together and make the staircase a reality" says Yolanda.

The mobile clinics that were held here gave MEDLIFE a good idea of the number of people living in the community, who were in desperate need of staircases for their own safety and that of their families.

"People are always afraid. There have been many institutions that have come and promised us things, and in the end the promises were never met, even those made by the mayors and the government. We were offered many gifts in exchange for our votes, they even took pictures [of the site as if they were going to help], but in the end they never came back. The mobile clinics were the best incentive for all my neighbors. I remember there were more than 3 [clinics], and everyone was treated well, the doctors and the staff even remembered who we were each time we returned” Yolanda recounted.

It took about 7 meetings for the neighbors to agree to work together. Many claimed that they had no time, that it would never happen and it was another empty promise. But Yolanda never gave up. She kept insisting until everyone agreed upon a schedule that they could fulfill.

Once she contacted and coordinated with MEDLIFE, a new problem arose. The blueprint of the staircase they had designed was wrong, and the staircase was angled slightly into the neighboring community, entering an area saved for another construction project.

"The framework had to be constructed and deconstructed twice before it could be filled with cement. The neighbors were not happy, but since the decision was made to go ahead with the project, we would not give up "

Yolanda couldn't be happier with the completed staircase, and is excited that now all of the residents who won't hesitate to work together again to build two additional staircases that they need. A little work and sweat was enough to unite this community who were previously living their own separate lives.

Though the hills of Lima are scattered with abandoned houses, Yolanda told us all the houses in her community are inhabited.  She laughed when telling us that Carlos, the MEDLIFE Peru director, even went knocking on all of the surrounding homes at night to make sure! Only one house is now uninhabited, where a very elderly gentleman formerly lived but was forced to move in with his son due to not being able to climb the hill. However, now the staircases make it possible for him to return home safely.

Yolanda currently combines her role as a community leader with selling second-hand clothing and raising quail that she can then sell. She tries to spend as much time as possible with her children, but being at home also brings some problems. "Often in the afternoons when I'm with my kids, I get knocks on the door from neighbors seeking help and advice. I do my best and I do really want to continue in this role, but being the community leader has become a 24/7 job" she tells us smiling. 

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Yolanda says that there are not enough words to thank all of the volunteers and MEDLIFE. The experience has been rewarding for everyone, and her dreams do not stop here. There are still many goals Yolanda wants to accomplish.

"The first thing I think of when I think of the future is my children. I always pray to have a job and for my children to have everything I have not had." Yolanda says, "then I think of the community. I've seen how much ‘Santísima Cruz' has grown. From having nothing, we have been turning this piece of land into a livable place, where we have now used our own strength to complete this project of a lifetime with MEDLIFE."

There are over 300 people in the ‘Santísima Cruz' community who will benefit from the staircase. Now, we are just waiting for the next group to finish the remaining staircases. Although challenges always exist, Yolanda remains hopeful that good things will continue to happen.

‘We have learned from MEDLIFE that unity is strength' says Yolanda.

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Part of our Mobile Clinic routine at MEDLIFE is the dental station, where patients are able to receive dental treatments such as cleanings and extractions. Many of the communities we serve are in very remote areas, so even the simplest tooth cleaning can become complicated if the tools and resources to perform it are not available. Another important station at Mobile Clinics is the toothbrushing station, directed at children. Here, we teach them how to brush their teeth correctly, how to use fluoride, and give them a brand-new toothbrush.

However many adults also come to this station discretely, listening in the back as our student volunteer give toothbrushing lessons to the young ones. This is because many of these adults have never received dental hygiene education and are unaware of the importance of brushing our teeth on a daily basis.

In the past few months, we have heard several stories from patients that have inspired us to take a step further and add a new segment to our educational workshop: dental health.

Stories like Giovanna's and Selvestrina's have showed us that the lack of dental education and preventive measures can end in the loss of all of one's teeth, such as in their cases. Selvestrina and Giovanna went several years without being able to fully smile until MEDLIFE gave them the necessary support. Now it's time to go further.
 

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Doctor Jorge Vidal accompanied us to our last educational workshop to hold our first presentation about dental health. The workshop was held in the Marco Polo Educational Center in Villa María del Triunfo. About 80 community members attended to hear presentations on nutrition, domestic violence, diabetes, breast cancer, cervical cancer, and now dental health.  

“We have plans to create an area of MEDLIFE specifically for patients who have dental problems, and the first step is holding these dental health presentations at our workshops,” said Carlos Benavides, Director of MEDLIFE Peru.

Jorge Vidal, Orthodontic Doctor, has supported MEDLIFE since the beginning when Jorge was just a dental student. He has seen the growth of this organization and is very proud to have an active role in MEDLIFE's mission: bringing medicine, education and development to communities in need.

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Workshop participants remained very interested throughout the presentation and even took the opportunity to ask questions to Dr. Jorge about preventative dental health. Deemed a success, “this is the first of many workshops,” Benavides said.

At MEDLIFE we are proud to be able to take the extra step and bring more support to people who need it.

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In the old district of Rimac in Lima, which is cut through by the Rimac River, the “Shipibos” (a community from the Amazon jungle) have found a place to live.

More than 10 years ago, Cantagallo was used as a landfill for those who lived in surrounding districts -- nobody would have ever thought to live there. Years later, in 2001, approximately 15 families from the Shipibo community arrived in Lima from the Amazon to participate in protests against the ruling government at the time.

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Lacking the means to return to their homeland and thinking of finding a better future for their children, they found the uninhabited land that seemed to closely resemble the banks of the Rimac River and other rivers in their homeland of the Amazon. Little by little, more families settled and eventually they created the Association of Shipibo Artisan Residents in Lima (Ashirel).

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Living in the capital has a very strong impact on the Shipibo families, especially considering that they live in a desolate area of Lima that is very different from the damp jungle. However, the families of Cantagallo continue to maintain their customs and traditions from their native region in the Amazon. Additionally, they have created a fusion of cultures that has proven to be an alluring attraction for tourists, who buy their crafts.

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Creating necklaces, bows and arrows and even a small organic garden where they grow fruits and herbs from the jungle, the Shipibo people have transformed Cantagallo into a safe haven for all Shipibos who are trying to find their place in the concrete jungle that is Lima. Currently, 300 Shipibo people live in Cantagallo.

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Although this community is only minutes away from Peru's central government, it still lacks basic services such as water, electricity and sewage.

MEDLIFE is currently working to integrate this community into our Mobile Clinics and development projects.

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Here at MEDLIFE, we recognize that strong families are
central to any community or society.

In the communities we serve, maintaining healthy families is one of the most important ways for members to work together and move their communities forward. Recognizing this importance, MEDLIFE held a new education workshop in the “Fernando Belaunde” community in Villa Maria del Triufno that focused on the importance of healthy families and ways to prevent domestic violence.

The workshop began with an introductory speech from Carlos Benavides, Director of MEDLIFE Peru. The first half of the workshop was athorough discussion on domestic violence led by Fanny Vargas. She discussedthe root of domestic violence and ways to prevent it, such as education on respecting the opposite gender from a young age.

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After Fanny's presentation, nurses Ruth Varona and Lucia Suarez led talks on topics such as breast cancer and STIs, along with examples ofways to prevent such conditions such as giving self-breast exams. Fanny Vargas again stepped into the presentation to explain the step-by-step process of a pap smear. The community members asked questionsthroughout, and expressed a genuine desire to learn more about preventative health.

Finally, Carlos Benavides closed the workshop by thanking the attendees for
coming and for engaging in the discussion, emphasizing that this participation isone of our most important priorities here at MEDLIFE.

November 15, 2013 11:06 am

The Importance of Preventative Health

Written by MEDLIFE Staff

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It is very important to MEDLIFE that the citizens of the communities we serve have the necessary information
to maintaina stable quality of life, which is why we hold educational workshops on various health topics. Last week, we held an educational workshop in the community of Oasis Nª3 in the district of Villa El Salvador for the first time, where we presented important information on diverse themes of preventative health.

More than 40 community members attended the workshop. They were first given educational brochures and then participated in an introductory conversation led by Carlos Benavides, Director of MEDLIFE Peru, about the importance of preventative health care measures.


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Following that conversation our field nurse and patient follow-up coordinator Ruth Varona led an important presentation on women's health, which included topics such as cervical cancerand the importance of getting an annual pap smear. Our other patient follow-up coordinator Lucia Suarez  furthered the discussion by giving a presentation on STIs. Lastly, our nurse Dina gave an informative presentation on diabetesand how to maintain a balanced diet.

The attendees showed a lot of interest in learning more about preventative health. After the presentations, conversation continued in the room, where community members asked several questions to the nurses about all the health topics that were discussed. The enthusiasm in the room grew when community members learned of the possibility of MEDLIFE holding a Mobile Clinicthere in the near future.

It was a good afternoon for the community of Oasis Nª3, as they received a great deal of information on preventative health care measures that will ultimately help further improve their quality of life.

 

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