Since our founding, Niños de Guatemala has always been focused on providing education to children and families in the communities we work in. However, as we have worked towards realizing this goal during the last six years, we see the other pressing needs of the communities that have a direct effect on a child’s ability to perform in the classroom.
One of the most popular requests from our families when we ask what services or programs they would like to see in their communities is medical support. Physically, our families live at a distance from the clinics and health centers in their towns. Financially, they cannot afford to bring their children to private clinics, sacrificing quality of the service they can access. Further, they often cannot afford additional testing, x-rays, or medicine recommended when they are able to see a doctor. For these and other reasons, our students rarely see doctors or dentists and suffer chronic health problems as a result.
All Guatemalans are able to access the public health care system of national hospitals and clinics. However, these centers are notorious for poor resources, lack of funding and materials, and malpractice. These centers also suffer from political dramas, from the complete change of government officials and policies every four years to strikes for lack of pay.
Luckily, Niños has received some medical support like the annual visit of a group of residents from Connecticut Children’s Hospital. In 2012, this group properly detected a life-threatening heart murmur in one of our little girls. We were able to find a surgeon in Guatemala City to correct this issue and, today, the little girl is healthy and back in her classroom.
Typically, they detect smaller but more wide-spread issues among our students. Over half of our students have cavities. Nearly a quarter of our students struggle with repertory infections. Another 10 percent complain of headaches related to vision problems. Many had lice, bug bites, and poor hygiene problems. Each of these issues threatens the ability of our students to attend class every day and focus all of their energy on learning and succeeding in school.
We recently received the visit of a group of pre-med students from South Carolina that distributed vitamins and parasite medicine to all of our students. Last fall, we were able to do a vision screening of all of our students and get glasses to those who needed them. We’re currently working with a local dentist to get our students at least one cleaning this year. However, we would like to double the amount of these visits each year to ensure that health problems are being detected and treated as early as possible.
Our vision is to create a comprehensive health plan in-line with our educational mission. We want to place healthy children in our desks every day. We are seeking support of dental and medical professionals to help realize this dream shared by NDG staff and families alike. If you, or anyone you know, might be able to donate time providing medical services to our students, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org to learn more about current needs and program plans.