HOPE works in more than 25 countries worldwide. Please enjoy our blog as we document the successes and challenges of our work.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Mother and daughter survive thanks to community-based program
“My husband died in 2016 from AIDS-related illnesses, and since then, I have struggled to raise our three children,” says 36-year-old Ida Matiki of Gomeza Village, in the southern district of Blantyre in Malawi.
The HIV epidemic has plagued Ida’s life since 2003. At the time, she was married and pregnant with her first child. Her pregnancy was challenging. She was often ill and always at the hospital. Her doctor advised her to get an HIV test and she found out she was in fact HIV-positive.
With saddened eyes, Ida recalls, “During those days, an HIV-positive result felt like a death sentence. I heard more stories of people who had died of the disease than those who lived. It took me a while to accept my results.”
She left the health center with a heavy heart and went home to tell her husband the bad news. She remembers, “My husband was very adamant. He refused to accept my results as a possibility for a positive diagnosis for himself. He refused to go for testing.”
Ida and her husband continued to live their lives. That year, Ida miscarried her first pregnancy at six months. A year later, she discovered that she was pregnant again. Their family was blessed with their first-born daughter, Mercy.
Ida explains, “We suspected that Mercy was born HIV-positive. We did not conduct any tests to confirm Mercy’s results and she was not placed on treatment because she was seemingly healthy.”
In 2008, Ida started her antiretroviral treatment. In 2010 and 2014, Ida and her husband welcomed Akuzike and Glory, their second and third children. Akuzike and Glory were born after the Malawi government had rolled out option B+ as a strategy to prevent mother to child transmission. Because of this, the children were born HIV-negative and continue to lead healthy lives.
Unfortunately, death came knocking on their door when her husband’s recurrent illnesses became severe. “I remember vividly the last time he fell ill. He was sick for only three days and that was his last battle with the disease,” shares Ida.
Losing her husband took a toll on Ida. She lost a companion, the father of her children, and the sole breadwinner for the household. A lot changed for the Matiki household. Their living conditions worsened and food became scarce. Her children dropped out of school, as she could not afford materials like uniforms, books, and food for them to eat while at school. Her health deteriorated, but she still took menial jobs to provide for her children.
In April 2017, during Ida’s monthly drug refill visits, her clinician noticed her dire state of health. He referred her to One Community for further assistance. One Community is an activity funded by PEPFAR through USAID and implemented by Johns Hopkins University’s Center for Communication Programs in partnership with Project HOPE and Plan International. The goal of the activity is to mitigate the impact of HIV while preventing new infections in high risk areas in Malawi.
Ida was linked to a Community Resource Person (CRP) in her area. A few days later, CRP Robert Kang’ombe visited her. Robert conducted his assessment and highlighted the need for index testing, especially for Mercy, who at the time was covered in painful sores and looked frail. The CRP also recommended HIV education, psychosocial support, economic strengthening, and education support. He sent the report to his supervisor Community Engagement Facilitator (CEF).
Two days later, the CEF visited the household to conduct index testing and provide further counselling and education. Thirteen-year-old Mercy was found to be HIV-positive. Her siblings tested negative. Mercy was immediately referred to the Chileka Health Center, the nearest health facility, for treatment.
A few weeks later, Mercy’s sores disappeared and she regained a lot of her strength. CRP Robert continues to proactively visit the household and ensures treatment adherence while tracking Mercy and Ida’s health through viral load tests.
The CEF explains, “We also taught Ida how she can support and disclose to Mercy. They were both linked to support groups in the area, Ida attends One Community’s Tigwilizane support group, while Mercy goes to a One Community teen club. Both have shown great improvement as far as their mental health is concerned.”
“When I told Mercy about her status, she was happy to hear that she would not be sick as often as she was in the past and that she could play with her friends. She has a very positive attitude and she often reminds me of the dates for her teen club meetings and hospital visits,” Ida shared with a heartfelt smile.
Mercy has been linked to a local private school St. Stephano, where she is receiving education at no cost to her family. One Community is supporting her with school materials, such as books, pens, school shoes, and a school bag, and she will soon receive her school uniform.
“I never thought I would be able to learn at this school. It was always my wish to see the inside of the St. Stephano compound; I admired the girls and boys who schooled here. I am so happy that I am now one of them,” Mercy says with delight.
Ida has also joined One Community’s Village Savings and Loans Group where she is saving money to order second hand clothes to sell which will allow her to increase the household’s income. “In such a short period of time, our family has been transformed. One Community came at a time when I did not know how my children and I would survive. But now I have hope,” she says.
For more information on One Community please visit the website www.onecommunitymw.org.
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