Monday, March 2, 2015

Love is Lighter

Lately we, the staff of the CDCA, have been fighting all sorts of battles that, frankly, we really don’t have the time or the money to deal with.   It has sucked all the energy out of me.  Small tasks become monumental.  

We deal with wealthy people trying to take advantage of us; like the case to take the property of the CDCA, which costs money for lawyers, time, and energy that can be more productively and more wisely spent trying to work to ease the burden of poverty and even trying to end poverty for some…

We deal with people trying to get blood out of a turnip because their own turnip is dry as a desert, and we are paying more money for lawyers, more time and more energy…

And we deal with people who just “don’t get it”…sometimes we call it stupidity, but it is worse than that…it is deliberately putting blinders on one’s self so that one’s own tunnel vision becomes reality.

In this year - young as it is - my frustration has been at an all-time high.  My response has been to either suppress the building rage, or do little doggie snaps at people, or do nothing at all.  

I am a fairly self-aware person, but it took me awhile to realize my feeling for certain people has been hate…pure and simple.  I realized one afternoon with a slap-me-in-the-face clarity that what I felt was hate

I have not felt hate much in my life…really.  Anger, yes.  Hate, not so much.  But when I do feel hate…it comes on me with a vengeance…it burns inside of me and eats at me.

While writing the presentation that Sarah is now using to talk about our work, I needed some inspiration.  I had only felt negative about everything and the deadline was coming down to the wire. I decided I was going to Google some quotes to see if I could get more positive…I was THAT desperate!  And there it was, amidst all the quotes:

I have decided to stick with love.  Hate is too great a burden to bear.
-- Martin Luther King, Jr.

Hate is a heavy, heavy burden to lug around.  It paralyzes.  It weighs one down.  It is an acid that slowly eats away all the goodness in the world.  

In that moment I realized that hate is too heavy for me…I can’t carry it any longer… I, too, had best stick with love.

Love is way easier…way lighter…way better…

I sat down and wrote the presentation.
-- Kathleen

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Do Not Fold, Staple, or Mutilate

In the Sermon on the Mount was it not recorded that Jesus said, “Blessed are the creators of forms for with their paperwork the sick will be healed.”? 

Did Gandhi ever stop his weaving of his own clothes, shaving his own hair, eating the minimum to stay alive, going to prison, to write reports for funding so that the Indian people would resist the English?

Did Martin Luther King, Jr., call on the Black people of the South to march on Washington by making sure that form A-159 was filled out in black ink, signed, dated, and notarized?

I think not, and while I sit here writing this blog I am postponing all the paperwork that I need to complete to  start the process of healing the sick, calling people to give to the poor, and reporting on how money was spent and what good was done…so more can be done (and more paperwork created)...literally.
With all these forms, letters, and reports which feel like the bane of my existence… I am so tired.  More times than not paperwork is one of the necessary boredoms of my life and I lose sight of what is important…people.  I can get so bogged down in working at the computer that I forget and lose my way.  And if I am truly honest many times I use paperwork to buffer me to the pain of others and I get lost in the comfort of the forms.

Yesterday talking to Josefa, our clinic administrator, and Jorge, our radiologist, I asked if they knew what hospital would the volunteer cardiologist coming in October work in because I needed to write a letter for him to use to request pacemakers.  He is planning to surgically install donated pacemakers as a volunteer.

Jorge said that his wife knew two people who have been waiting on a list to get pacemakers for a long time…and it became more real to me…not just a letter to be written but a letter offering life.

People, faces, hope, life that is what I need and sometimes even the paperwork will get me there.  Now to write that letter…                                   -Kathleen

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Life-Giving: Gift of Private Space
Life-Giving: Give an Alternative Gift this season that keeps on giving, as a single gift or a monthly pledge.Your gift will be acknowledged to the receiver with a beautiful card.

Maria was 17 years old when she joined the New Mothers group.  She was pregnant with her first child.  Unlike what most think, a 23 year-old man flirted with her, and she deliberately chose to get pregnant.  Maria thought having his baby would motivate him to take care of her and help get her out of her family home.

Seems a bit drastic, doesn’t it?  But we are not living like Maria…not only is her family desperately poor, but Maria cares for her mother’s baby and all her brothers and sisters.  She doesn’t go to school.  She doesn’t even get out of Nueva Vida very much.  Her father is an alcoholic and would beat her mother, her siblings, and her when he was drunk…twice he even tried to rape her.  Drastic situations call for drastic measures.

A baby was now on the way, and the 23 year-old dad was long gone.

Maria wishes she had made different choices, but what choice does she have now?

We have support groups for New Mothers, Mothers with Toddlers, and Las Lobas (She-wolves), a group of teen and preteen girls where we show them different choices and a bigger world.  

But -- and this is a big “but” -- all these groups need a private space to meet, and we don't have one.  They meet in our second clinic building, either in the lobby with people moving in and out, or in crowded storeroom where sound carries out into the busy hall.  None of the participants are going to bare their souls in such environments, and how can one help if all the pain is bottled up?

A third clinic building will have a private space for sharing and talking, with no one walking through the area.  We will be able to have a room…really private room...for women’s care, and we will be able to give our counselor a better space.
This season, give a gift to help us build the third building and give Maria and others like her the space to talk and share and so, so much more.  

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Life-Giving: The Gift of Credit
Life-Giving: Give an Alternative Gift this season that keeps on giving, as a single gift or a monthly pledge.Your gift will be acknowledged to the receiver with a beautiful card.

José is a farmer and has selling his organic sesame seeds to our agriculture cooperative since 1996.  When he began he and his wife lived in a shack with a dirt floor and an outhouse in the back.  His wife took in wash to add money to their income from the farming.  They had two children and even though it was a financial strain to send them to school, they did.

Because we helped José get and keep organic certification for his crops, his land has stayed fertile and he and his family healthy and free of toxins in pesticides.  He also got better prices and has been able to expand some. Our agronomist has worked with him for years helping him overcome problems and improve his yields.  

As a result, José’s family now lives in a home with indoor plumbing and a tiled floor.  They no longer have a wood burning cook stove, but cook with propane, which saves them money, saves trees, and saves the lungs of everyone in the family.  His wife no longer takes in wash but now has someone who comes in to help her!

They are not wealthy by any means but they are more secure and life is much easier…THIS is what is hoped for…not only easing people’s burdens but actually moving people out of poverty.
This season, give a gift t
o the Vida Fund to help provide capital to farmers like José who are just starting out.


Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Life-Giving: The Gift of Special Care

Life-Giving: Give an Alternative Gift this season that keeps on giving, as a single gift or a monthly pledge.Your gift will be acknowledged to the receiver with a beautiful card.

Here are three stories about patients who have chronic illnesses, but unlike diabetic and hypertensive patients, they need very special care:

Chapter One

Lupe is 66 years old.  She lives with her daughter and grandchild in a small house in Nueva Vida.  She suffers from type 2 diabetes and hypertension, but she also had an abdominal hernia.

Last January, she was attacked by a dog and fell down.  She popped open her hernia and her intestines came through…even though her skin was intact.  She waited eight days to come to the clinic when she started running a fever and had severe pain.  We did an ultrasound and sent her to the hospital where they did surgery taking out part of her intestines.  Now she needs special colostomy bags…which we cannot always get.

Chapter Two

Felipe is 53 years old.  He was diagnosed with advanced Parkinson ’s disease five years ago.  He too has type 2 diabetes and hypertension as well.  He lives with his wife who cares for him and cooks and sells bunuelos, a Nicaraguan dish that is fried yucca dough with honey.  She has a difficult time caring for him as the disease progresses, and they are so, so poor.

Three years ago he could talk…now he cannot because of all the tremors.  We give him medication for the Parkinson’s which helps some, plus diabetes and hypertension medicines, though he is having complications in his hands and feet.  Our medical staff visit him at home because it is hard for him to come to the clinic.

Chapter Three

Tomás is 84 years old.  He lives with a family that took him in.  They live in the Areas Verde of Nueva Vida…the green area.  Sounds nice, doesn’t it?  In actuality, it is the squatters of Nueva Vida who have put up a shack of tin or cardboard.  Tomás has a room that is as big as his pitiful cot.

He suffers from an arterial ulcer on his foot that he has tended for 16 years.  His toenails have atrophied.  He, too, is diabetic.  He got the ulcer while fishing 20 years ago.  He came down from the campo, the remote rural areas of Nicaragua, to try and make a living fishing in the polluted lake of Managua.  While fishing in the lake…with no boat…he was bitten by something.  The wound never healed.  Patches would help a great deal.

This season, give a gift that will help Lupe, Felipe, Tomás and others like them who suffer from poverty and these conditions that you and I cannot imagine unless they are described to us.


Monday, December 15, 2014

Life-Giving: The Gift of a Healthy Mouth
Life-Giving: Give an Alternative Gift this season that keeps on giving, as a single gift or a monthly pledge.Your gift will be acknowledged to the receiver with a beautiful card.

5-year-old Natalia has been coming to the clinic as a collaboration between us and ORPHANetwork, which operates feeding centers in Nueva Vida.  Though very poor, she now comes regularly to get her teeth cleaned and repaired. 

Most Nicaraguans go to the dentist when they are in pain and the tooth has to be pulled.  Through this collaboration over the past two years, we have slowly begun to make a difference in these children’s mouths.  Like Natalia, they are coming for cleanings and repairs.  

We are doing more preventive and restorative work than extractions.  We give out toothbrushes, toothpaste, dental floss and teach patients how to use them.

I overheard Dr. Art Kaslow, DDS, say to his fellow volunteers, “The Nueva Vida dental clinic staff are really making a difference! This is much different from other Third World clinics where I have gone to work. They do sealants and the sealants are holding. They are really making a difference!”  He volunteered in the clinic with Solvang Rotary Club (CA).

There is much to do though…like with Natalia.  There are thousands of children and adults who need dental care.
This season, give a gift that will help Natalia and others like her who suffer from poverty AND rotten teeth.


Life-Giving: The Gift of Support for Families with HIV

Life-Giving: Give an Alternative Gift this season that keeps on giving, as a single gift or a monthly pledge.Your gift will be acknowledged to the receiver with a beautiful card.

Lucia raises her nine grandchildren in her small home that also holds seven other adults.  Two of her grandchildren, Sofia (age 3) and Raúl (age 5 months) are HIV positive.  They contracted the virus from their mother, Carla. 

Carla is in denial that she has HIV.  She is irresponsible, at least in the area of her sexual health and that of her children's health.  She has abandoned her children to their grandmother.
Lucia, the grandmother, gets paid a little by some of the parents of the grandchildren whom she is raising.  Many Nicaraguan parents leave their children with grandmothers in order to find some kind of paying job…with under- and unemployment so high in Nicaragua (almost 50%), people have to make choices between bad and worse. 

When Lucia can leave the children, she goes out and collects clothes to wash for some extra money, but it is never enough.  Until recently, when our clinic started providing formula for Raúl, he drank a watery mixture of fine corn flour.

Sofia receives antiretroviral medications from the Ministry of Health (MINSA), but has to be taken to the other side of Managua (2 hour bus ride there and 2 hours back) to receive them.  Raúl has been officially placed in the system to receive treatment soon.

Our clinic cannot afford the antiretroviral drugs and we cannot do the T-cell testing to know what drugs to give the children or other HIV positive patients, but we can provide some nutritional supplements and all the secondary medications they need.

Equally important, we would like to provide support…like transportation, education, and emotional support but we need funding 

Lucia is overwhelmed.  Our health promoter, Jessenia, does home visits and encourages Lucia to bring Sofia and Raúl to the clinic when they are sick…like yesterday, when Sofia was running a fever and Raúl had a rash.

This season, give a gift that will help Lucia's family and others like them who suffer from poverty and living with HIV.