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The interns get their hands dirty!

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Cassidy, a visiting student from Iowa State, receives a construction lesson from a community member.

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The community leader levels the stairs.


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The MEDLIFE team works together to pour cement.

July 1, 2011 11:35 am

Telan Playa Classroom Project

Written by Administrator

The construction of a classroom for a rural schoolhouse in Telan Playa, Ecuador marked the birth of the MEDLIFE Fund. From that point onward, MEDLIFE sought out additional sustainable development projects in Peru and Ecuador, and promised to commit 100% of all public donations and student chapter fundraising towards such projects. Read the complete story of the Telan Playa schoolroom project below:

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On March 10, 2010 MEDLIFE student volunteers from the University of Vermont and the University of Pennsylvania, accompanied by MEDLIFE staff and medical professionals, traveled to the remote village of Telan Playa to provide individuals and families in need with Mobile Clinic medical services. To reachTelan Playa, the group took an hour-long bus ride from the nearby city of Riobamba, continuing for a short hike on foot when the road became impassable. Upon arriving at the rural schoolhouse where the Clinic was to take place, the student volunteers were warmly greeted by the local K-8 students and their two teachers.

As children filed out of the schoolroom, this greeting exposed the volunteers to an unfortunate reality of the educational infrastructural in Telan Playa. 55 children, ages 5 to 13, were tightly packed into a single, small classroom. Our volunteers learned that the two teachers had been delivering lesson plans simultaneously, from opposite sides of the room. Our student volunteers immediately recognized that the existing setup did not allow these two teachers to provide quality, focused instruction to their students.

MEDLIFE conducted a successful Mobile Clinic that day, providing care to many of the students and to a total of 64 residents of Telan Playa. The group of volunteers returned to Riobamba that evening. Our students, however, were unwilling to sit idly by while the children and teachers of Telan Playa struggled to get by with inadequate resources. They were not about to let MEDLIFE's aid to Telan Playa end with the completion of their week-long Mobile Clinic.

28-2Returning home, these students took matters into their own hands, organizing nationwide fundraising events at MEDLIFE chapters across the USA. By April 24, just 6 weeks after our students visited Telan Playa for the first time, MEDLIFE student members had fundraised enough money to build a second classroom for the school.

MEDVIDA staff in Ecuador, spurred by the injection of funds and enthusiasm from these motivated students, immediately set to work on the project. Martha Chicaiza, Director of MEDVIDA Ecuador, led the charge by coordinating MEDLIFE's efforts with that of the local community leaders and Ecuador's Ministry of Health. MEDLIFE broke ground on the project site in May 2010, and the schoolroom was inaugurated with a visit by MEDLIFE founder Nick Ellis in July 2010. The schoolroom has been operational since the start of the 2010-2011 school year. 

On future Mobile Clinic visits to Telan Playa, our student volunteers are no longer greeted by the disturbing sight of 55 students squeezed into an undersized classroom. Rather, they now find students and teachers taking advantage of the comfort, amplification, and privacy that their second classroom provides.

MEDLIFE is proud to be continuing our work with local institutions, with the shared goal of delivering higher-quality education to the children of Ecuador.

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The Telan Playa classroom project has served as a template for future MEDLIFE Fund projects. Our in-country staff encounters ideas for potential projects while visiting communities during Mobile Clinics. From there, MEDLIFE seeks to engage all stakeholders (local families, community leaders, and government institutions) in implementing a solution. This system has led to the development of projects such as the Pamplona, Lima stairway projects and the Colta bathroom construction projects. In the coming hear we hope to expand the MEDLIFE Fund to include even bigger and more advanced projects!

Meeting with community members of Buena Vista to coordinate an upcoming community development project, of course! Here's why:

5-1Running a successful MEDLIFE Mobile Clinic takes more work than just showing up to a community with a bus full of doctors, medicine, and excited student volunteers -- you have to make sure that the locals know you're coming! Just ask Carlos Benavides, MEDLIFE's Director of MEDLIFE Fund projects in Peru, and our all-around community contact for projects and Clinics in Lima.

Embracing MEDLIFE's mantra of "Listening to the Poor", Carlos seeks to involve local families and individuals in every community development projects MEDLIFE engages in (Carlos dedication to our communities and patients is legendary -- he has been known to stay in Pamplona until 1am speaking with community leaders, only to show up at 6am to a local hospital the following day to accompany a patient through a medical exam).

Because this is what elementary school kids in Cebadas are using right now:

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MEDLIFE students from Brown and the University of Delaware, alongside local community members, consructed a new bathroom on this site during a Mobile Clinic in March 2011.

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