HOPE works in more than 35 countries worldwide. Please enjoy our blog as we document the successes and challenges of our work to provide Health Opportunities for People Everywhere.
When Guatemala’s Fuego volcano suddenly started to erupt in their village of San Miguel Los Lotes, people were faced with an agonizing choice – stay and be burned to death or flee through the molten streams of lava.
Someone who faced that harrowing choice was Robert, a four-year-old who ran for his life, without shoes and suffered burns to his feet and legs. His sister, two-year-old Katherine, has similar injuries, and they are now being treated in the General Hospital in Escuintla.
The children’s mother and grandmother suffered even greater burns on their bodies after the lava inundated the extended family’s three houses and are being treated elsewhere, so Robert and Katherine are now being watched over by their aunt, Sonia.
Another child from the village, 12-year-old Giovanni, was playing on the street when he heard the volcano erupt. He survived by running into the alley and jumping into the grass, burning his lower extremities. His mother is with him in the hospital, taking care of him during his stay. They lost seven of their family members in the aftermath of the eruption and 13 relatives are living in shelters in the area.
“Despite everything Robert and Giovanni have lost, they still endure. Robert gives the doctors high fives after he gets his burned feet wrapped. Giovanni smiles and finds comforts in holding his mother’s hand. Project HOPE is on the ground caring for patients like Robert and Giovanni, ensuring that these brave children get the care they need,” said Teresa Narveaz, a nurse and Project HOPE’s team leader in Guatemala.
The constant rain, recent earthquake, and the still-active status of the volcano make it difficult to access some of the villages and patients, but bus fare to Guatemala City is often too high for families to get the medical care they need. That’s why Project HOPE is working in local villages to address the health issues, such as these burn injuries, as well as underlying needs that have been made worse by the volcano like hypertension, gastritis, and malnutrition.
“What we’re seeing on the ground is a combination of volcano-related injuries and health issues exacerbated by the eruption. We’re working with the local communities to ensure patients have what they need to recover. For instance, the illiteracy rate is high in Guatemala and many patients cannot read the prescription instructions. Our team has been supporting these patients by giving them other ways to know when to take their lifesaving medications.
“People are devastated about the destruction around them. They are unsure what comes next after losing their homes and livelihoods, and medical care shouldn’t be another thing to worry about. We’re proud to be providing medical support to these communities,” said Teresa.
I lived in Antigua, Guatemala, in 2000, and came back off and on throughout the years, first for language school and then later while working in a small clinic off the Pacific Coast. I’ve always had a special place in my heart for the country and the Guatemalan people, so when Project HOPE sounded the call for volunteers to join their first rotation to the country following the devastation of the Fuego Volcano, I knew I had to go.
The Fuego Volcano has affected more than 1.7 million people. Nearly 13,000 people are displaced from their homes as the volcano continues to be active, resulting in several more eruptions, lava flows, hot steam, and ash.
On my first day, I joined the Project HOPE team as we assessed the needs of the health community, visiting a mobile clinic and a burn unit at a hospital. What I saw was shocking, and so counter to my memories of the beautiful country. As we visited communities closer to the volcano like El Rodeo, we saw utter devastation. There are heaps of black ash and volcanic rocks alongside the roads, and every time the road is cleared, another rain storm or fresh ash would block another segment of the road. There is no water supply and the river that once ran clear, crisp water through the town is now black with volcanic soot and ash.
I saw children whose feet were covered in burns. I saw people in shelters and hospitals suffering from ash-related illnesses: throat infections, respiratory problems, and skin infections. I saw people packed together in a shelter, each family given a small 4x5ft area to pile themselves and their belongings.
The Guatemalan government is estimating that these people will be in shelters for three months, but it will likely be longer. Families are trying to bring everything can, whatever they were able to salvage from the destruction, so that they can make their shelter space feel a little more like home in this time of uncertainty. At night, fathers leave the shelters to guard what’s left of their homes from the looters.
At one shelter, I met a man who was with his wife and four young children. In tears, he told me how he had lost his home, his farm, and several cousins and family members. Every night, he goes back to his home, trying to pick up what he has left. His tears showcased the pain that every single person in that shelter was feeling. The new reality for them is devastating.
I’m trying to wrap my head around the Guatemala I know, and the Guatemala I see now. Seeing everyone crammed into shelters, seeing the volcanic ash everywhere, seeing all the medical attention needed -- it’s shocking. But one thing I know is that Guatemalans are strong, hardworking, wonderful people. Tomorrow I’ll go to different communities and will likely see more heartbreaking situations, but I know that together we can help the country return to the beautiful place I remember.
Project HOPE is deploying an emergency team to respond to critical health needs after the Fuego volcano in Guatemala left 109 dead and 200 missing. Dangerous flows of ash, rock and toxic gases have forced tens of thousands of people to evacuate their homes after the country’s most violent eruption in four decades. Our team is engaged with local partners and will support the efforts of the Guatemalan government, which has requested international assistance including water filters, medicines, medical supplies and equipment, mobile hospitals, and medical support.
Patients in South Africa are digging their way to better health in an innovative vegetable garden program that Project HOPE is pioneering to combat non-communicable diseases like diabetes, high cholesterol, and hypertension.
Understandably, HIV and tuberculosis, the pivot points of a major public health crisis, have taken center stage at clinics in South Africa for years. Yet, this has meant that the serious issue of non-communicable diseases that can be deadly have not had the attention they deserve.
Project HOPE is working to address this through increased screening, diagnosis, and disease management. But it’s also important to ensure that patients make lifestyle changes and get access to nutritious, healthy foods that have not always been available to them. This is where the HealthRise project in the Emthanjeni municipality comes in.
Day Clinic support group, mentored by Project HOPE Program Support Implementers (PSIs), harvests and sells carrots, cabbage, onions, and tomatoes to community members and health facility staff.
One elderly patient, Mrs. Dikana, was diagnosed through HealthRise and was able to turn her health around through the program.
“Through the monthly support group sessions I’ve committed to attending, we learn how to manage the garden and our diets. That, combined with the hard work of digging in the soil and growing my own vegetables, has really helped me to change my lifestyle,” she said.
“Thanks to the monthly support group meetings, I’ve learned how to balance my medication and diet and now my blood pressure and blood glucose are normal.”
Any harvest that is left over is shared among members of the project and they share profits of the project to improve their finances as well as their health.
Project HOPE’s intersectoral approach was adopted from the South African government’s Strategic Plan for the Prevention and Control of Non-Communicable Diseases 2013-17 and the National Department of Health’s Integrated Chronic Diseases Model (ICDM) and Ideal Clinic model of care. Through Project HOPE collaboration, the Department of Agriculture donated the group’s gardening tools, including packets of seeds and bags of compost.
Not only does the vegetable garden teach and support the patients, Patricia Van Wyk, the municipal ward councilor for the residential area around the clinic, found the garden initiative to be a useful platform to teach other community members new skills necessary to ensure food security and income generation.
“Providing the tools necessary to learn these gardening skills is an incredibly helpful way to eliminate poverty and unemployment in the community,” she said.
Labels: , Global Health Expertise, Disaster-Relief, Chronic Disease, Humanitarian Aid, Women’s and Children’s Health, Health Care Education, Infectious Disease, Health Systems Strengthening, Volunteers
Over the past 60 years, Project HOPE has been unyielding in our dedication to develop essential health services for vulnerable populations around the world. As a global organization with staff, technical experts, partners, and volunteers on a mission to increase local capacity and access to health care services for communities in need, we strive to make each year better than the next, delivering expert care when and where it’s needed.
In 2017, Project HOPE had programs in nearly 30 countries, addressing the greatest health care challenges, including infectious and chronic diseases, disaster and health crises, and maternal, neonatal and child health. Reaching nearly 2.3 million people with lifesaving health programs, we worked side-by-side with local partners to improve the knowledge and skills of the health workforce and build sustainable health systems.
In Sierra Leone, HOPE volunteers introduced lifesaving Kangaroo Mother Care for premature newborns. In Malawi, we helped patients with a high risk of HIV complete referrals for related services. In South Africa, patients have achieved control of their hypertension and diabetes thanks to Project HOPE’s programs. And when disasters hit, Project HOPE was there providing emergency and ongoing support.
And that’s just the beginning. Every day, Project HOPE makes an impact in local communities, playing a vital role in delivering HOPE to those need it most. Our 2017 Impact Report provides a snapshot of the lifesaving work you help make possible, and we’re excited to share it with you.
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