Category Archives: Stories of Transformation

Participating in a medical campaign helps this woman build her self-esteem

In November, the ProSalud project organized a 2-day medical campaign in San Sebastián area of Los Reyes, in collaboration with some local public health workers, a group of doctors from Puebla and a team of doctors and a pharmacist from the Fellowship Bible Church of Batesville. In two days, these dedicated professionals carried out 239 medical exams, 61 dental exams, 15 optometry exams, treated 520 people for parasites and provided vaccinations and dispensed prescriptions free of charge.

campana medica- San Sebas 11-2014- 2However, medical campaigns do more than just provide low-cost, accessible health services to the slum communities where we work. They also provide a vehicle for the community to come together and organize on its own behalf. Carrying out this campaign would not have been possible without the participation of a team of community volunteers, who set up and tore down the site, volunteered space in their homes for exam rooms, signed in and prepped patients, kept records and brought food they had prepared for the visiting doctors. This gave these neighbors a chance to actively contribute to the betterment of their own community as well as develop their own servant leadership qualities.

“Josefina,” who lives in San Sebastián, struggles with self-esteem issues due to her lack of formal education. Because she cannot read or write well, she tends to feels inferior to people who have had more schooling. However she has been participating in the local Family Club and, during the campaign, staff observed that she was actively participating all day: taking vital signs, handing out patient numbers and helping to clean up afterwards. Several days later, “Josefina” commented to ProSalud staff that participating in the campaign had made her feel useful, despite the fear she has of not doing things well. She said, “I am going to keep on attending the [Family Club] workshops, so that this fear goes away.”


A medical referral leads to a dramatic life change for this woman

Blanca and her family learned about ConeXión Mosaico when we began working in her neighborhood, the “el Potrero” community of San Sebastián. Blanca has had a degenerative eye condition her entire life. Her vision started going bad in elementary school and has gotten progressively worse over time. As a child her mother took her to a number of hospitals, but at that time there was no treatment except for a cornea transplant. However, after moving to “el Potrero” a year and a half ago, her vision suddenly became much worse. Since they didn’t have electricity in the house Blanca had to strain her eyes much more to do her normal tasks, which accelerated the degeneration. At this point, she has less than 20% vision in the right eye and 30% in the left.

“Living without my vision, I always felt unsure and unsafe, all the time,” Blanca says. Her son would have to go with her to work, so he could tell her which bus to get on. When walking in the street, since she couldn’t see what was in front of her, she would often trip, step into puddles or even fall down. She remembers that going to her children’s school for a meeting with the teacher was particularly humiliating. She often couldn’t find the classroom and, although she would ask for directions, people would point to signs that she couldn’t see.

Her lack of vision also severely impacted her social relationships. When talking to people, Blanca couldn’t look them in the eye, or even see their faces. When people would walk by on the street and wave she couldn’t see them, even if they were very close. This caused many of her neighbors to accuse her of being unsociable and selfish, saying that she only talked to them when she wanted something from them.

As bad as things were, Blanca was not able seek treatment on her own due to lack of resources. When her vision got so much worse, she desperately wanted to see what could be done to help her, but living in “el Potrero” there was barely enough to put food on the table each month. She told herself that once they had finished paying off their plot of land, in 3 or 4 years, she would try to save up enough to go to the doctor. In the meantime, she could see no other alternative except to resign herself to her fate.

vistaFortunately, Blanca became involved with the ProSalud project. Upon finding out about Blanca’s condition, ProSalud was able to obtain a voucher for her to have a free exam with a specialist. The doctor made her some contact lenses, charging her only for the material used to make them. Because hers is a delicate case, she is receiving ongoing follow-up with the specialist, who has agreed to keep treating her free of charge.

With her new lenses, Blanca’s vision is now about 70%. The impact on her daily life has been nothing less than miraculous. She is now able to get around on her own, without depending on her children to help her. She feels more confident and sure of herself and no longer stumbles or falls when she walks. Now she can look people in the eyes when she talks to them and return their greetings as they walk by. Blanca reports that this has had a tremendous impact on her relationships with her neighbors, and she is now starting to develop some new friendships.

Without ProSalud’s help in obtaining the voucher, Blanca says that she still would still be waiting at least another 4 years to get treatment. At the rate her vision was worsening, she feels like she might have lost her eyesight entirely by that time. Now, although they have not been able to cure her condition, she says the doctor is hopeful that using her lenses will significantly slow the degeneration.

Although there are public medical resources for low-income people in Mexico, many slum residents are unaware that they exist or how to access them. Therefore many poor people with special needs or health conditions, unable to afford private care, often simply forego treatment. That is why educating people about existing resources and connecting them to the appropriate providers is such an important part of Prosalud’s work. Time after time we have seen a simple referral lead to a dramatic transformation in the life of a slum dweller with special medical needs, like Blanca. “There have been so many changes to my daily life,” Blanca says. “It’s so beautiful to be able to look people in the eye when I talk to them!”

Family Club participation gives grandmother a new sense of purpose

The goal of the ProSalud Project is to create a holistic community health model that will help families to develop healthier overall lifestyles. ProSalud carries out many of its activities through enrollment in Family Clubs. Some of the main goals of the Family Clubs are to provide participants with health education and increase social capital. Family Clubs help to build social cohesion by creating opportunities for friendship, reflection and trust, primarily for women… although in the last few months ProSalud has also seen men asking to join the Family Clubs for the first time.

taller de alimentacion- agosto 2014Irma, who is 78 years old and has diabetes, began participating in a Family Club about 2 months ago. Her niece suggested that she check out the Club, since Irma was suffering from depression and her niece thought it would do her good.  Irma has been the sole caretaker of her grandson since he was a baby when his mother, who did not have the means to support him, left him in her care.  Now, at 16 years old, her grandson is more independant and spends less time with her.  After spending so much of her time caring for him, Irma was feeling lonely and un-needed.

In the last couple of months that she has been attending the Family Club, Irma said that she is feeling much better. She has made a lot of new friends and doesn’t worry so much on her illness anymore.  She is also helping teach the other Club participants some of ther hobbies, which has helped her feel useful, appreciated and important again.  In fact, just recently she commented to the group that it is never too late to learn new things and to keep on living an active and dignified life.

ACJU participants choose to look for alternatives to using violence

In urban slums, one often finds a culture which promotes using aggression and violence as a primary means for resolving disagreements. Tamara, a young woman of 18, is all too familiar with this world. Tamara lives in Chimalhuacán with her partner, Raúl, and attends hairstyling classes at ACJU’s vocational training center. During the last few months, Tamara confided to ACJU staff that Raúl, a “moto-taxi” driver, had had an ongoing disagreement with someone he works with. The first confrontation led to Raúl being punched in the mouth. As the situation escalated, Raúl’s colleague sent a gang of friends to assault him while he was working and, when that attempt failed, to look for him at home. Raúl’s family members, angry that the other man had assembled a group to attack Raúl, suggested that he put together his own group of friends to go the colleague’s home and beat up his family.

However, Tamara had been sharing with Raúl the things she was learning in the values component of her hairstyling classes. As a result, instead of responding to violence with more violence, Tamara and Raúl made the decision to report the incidents to the municipal authorities. Tamara commented to ACJU staff that she had determined to take no action that would incite violence in any way. As a result of the report, Raúl and his colleague were summoned to a mediation hearing, where the other man ended up apologizing for his actions and agreeing to leave Raúl and his family alone in the future.

Health promoter finds purpose in working with her community

One important community connection that ProSalud made in 2013 is with Alma, one of ProSalud’s most active San Sebastián Promoters. When ProSalud first launched in the neighborhood, Alma was not interested in becoming involved. Her brother had been killed a little while earlier in a carjacking and she had been in a deep depression ever since. She was full of anger and resentment towards everyone around her, knowing that his killers (who were never apprehended) could well be people from her own community.

When first asked to participate in the project, Alma told the ProSalud staff, “No, I’m no good for things like that.” However, little by little, she became more involved. As she started to participate more actively, she began slowly to come out of her depression. Now, Alma is the first Promoter to arrive at every workshop. A consistent participant at every ProSalud event, Alma now approaches the staff to ask what she can do and how she can help. She has even donated space in her home to serve as ProSalud’s warehouse in the San Sebastián neighborhood. As Alma told the ProSalud staff, “I like working with you! It helps keep me from feeling depressed!”

Young man with muscular dystrophy improves mobility through community exercise club

As part of a holistic health strategy, ProSalud supports the formation of women’s community exercise clubs among project participants. During 2013, one of the exercise club participants began to bring her 14 year old son, Alfredo, with her to the groups. Alfredo has muscular dystrophy as well as a cognitive disorder. Although he is receiving medical treatment, the muscular dystrophy caused his legs to progressively lose more and more of their function over time.

When he joined the group, Alfredo was unable to pick up or carry objects or even walk without assistance. However, by getting an hour of exercise three times a week, his mobility has increased significantly. Whereas before he could barely walk without help, Alfredo is now able to walk quite well and can even run a little. The strength and dexterity in his hands have improved so much that his school placed him in a vocational training course, a program he lacked the capacity to participate in before. His mother even credits the social support Alfredo receives from the ProSalud exercise club, as a key factor in helping him deal with the recent death of his father.

ProSalud helps family obtain physical therapy and a wheelchair

Eva first learned about ProSalud by attending a community workshop. Eva’s family lives in San José Palmas, in a small, three-room cinderblock home roofed with corrugated fiberglass. When the youngest of her three children, Efraín, was seven, he began to have problems with his legs. After a battery of tests, specialists and hospitals, Efraín was diagnosed with a degenerative sensory-motor disease. His disease is characterized by progressive weakness in the muscles and diminished reflexes.

Over time, this disease has taken a severe toll on Efraín’s quality of life. By the time he turned 20, Efraín was virtually paralyzed. He was unable to move his legs or neck at all and had severely limited mobility in his hands and arms. Barely able to put food on the table and pay for their other two children’s schooling, Efraín’s parents were unable to afford treatment for his condition, which is expensive and hard to come by. Additionally, since the family doesn’t own a car, Efraín was effectively trapped in his home for several years. He was simply too large and too heavy for his mother to carry while trying to negotiate the inaccessible public transportation options available in San José Palmas.

When Eva joined ProSalud, she confided how helpless she felt at being unable to get treatment for her son. ProSalud helped Eva to get Efraín set up with treatment and physical therapy at a clinic where they provide him with transportation to and from his appointments. After 7 months of treatment, Efraín has made definite progress. Now he can move his legs a little bit and can hold his head up. Efraín also received one of the wheelchairs that ProSalud donated this year, which has helped considerably with his mobility. When ProSalud staff visited Eva’s family recently, she said “You will always be in my heart. Thank you so much for all of your support, which has helped me deal with the pain I feel at seeing my son’s condition. Seeing him able to move now when he couldn’t before encourages me so much!”