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Maria Vilches Vasquez, 77, took an eight hour bus ride from her home in the Andes to Trujillo, Peru where Project HOPE volunteers were conducting a medical clinic. Her perseverance paid off. Not only did Maria receive some relief from her medical discomforts, her long trip also was rewarded with a family keepsake she will cherish forever.

Maria is the matriarch of a self sustaining farm where she lives and works with five of her eight children. On her farm, she not only raises a variety of livestock, but also grows carrots, lettuce, onions, corn and potatoes. The strenuous physical labor is hard on her aging body. But Maria is determined to keep working. She visited Project HOPE volunteers at the clinic to obtain some relief from all her aches and pains.

Project HOPE volunteer Therese Martaus, a family nurse practitioner, examined Maria and provided her with donated pain relievers for her aches. But that was not all Maria received that day.


Mixie and her daughter, Mia, hold the first photographs ever printed of their grandmother.

As she was leaving the clinic, Project HOPE volunteer photographer Justin Tsucalas snapped a few pictures of Maria and her granddaughter, Mixie, who accompanied Maria to the clinic. After the photo, Maria mentioned to Therese she had never in her life had a printed picture of herself.

Therese asked Maria and Mixie to return the next day and promised a surprise. Mixie returned in the morning with her 4-year-old daughter Mia (Maria's great-granddaughter) and was presented with several pictures of herself and her grandmother.

It was hard to tell who was happier, Mixie and her daughter or Project HOPE's Therese. Not only will Maria's days working on her farm be a little more comfortable, she now has a photograph of herself to pass on to her family. "It really is an overwhelming feeling of satisfaction one only gets from knowing beyond a doubt, that you made a difference," Therese said.

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