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Published: September 19th 2012
Today we visited a Tierra Nueva school for children with special needs. We got to interact with the kids and learn a little bit about how their foundation works. It is in Ecuador's constitution to provide adequate education for all children regardless of mental capacity and/or physical disabilities. However, many of the schools ignore this law and almost no one enforces it. This leaves the children who have special needs without a place to go to school. That's where the Tierra Nueva Foundation comes in. It is a private institution that costs $40-50 a month per child to attend. This is certainly a low price by US standards but not in Ecuador. Regardless, there are 30-40 children on the waiting list at all times but Tierra Nueva has little resources and the teachers and therapists there work for far less than half of what their salary would be if they got a job anywhere else in Ecuador. They are all well-trained (usually went to a university) and are very good at their jobs. Many of them had 15-20 years of experience are are still making the lowest wage possible.The kids that get to interact with them are very lucky. Having a
child with disabilities is challenging but having no where to send them for education, physical therapy, occupational therapy, and speech therapy makes it even more of a challenge for parents in Ecuador. At the Tierra Nueva Foundation, the students have school, PT, OT, and almost everything they need provided in one place. It's really kind of amazing what they have put together. Unfortunately, they only take kids until age 15 and there are few places available for children over 15 and the ones that do exist are very expensive. Most of the children do not get any education past age 15 which leaves most of them without enough education or skillset to get a job. On the up-side, the kids at Tierra Nueva are taught to be very independent. For example, we were warned before we went in that if we saw a child struggling or perhaps about to fall, not to help them. That's a little hard to do! It was a really cool school.
After lunch, we headed to our first clinic of the trip. We saw about 50 patients in just a few hours and the assessments we did included: blood pressure, glucose level, urinalysis, weight,
height, and a physical assessment (like what happens when you go for an annual physical). We asked them if they had any health concerns and we would counsel them whenever we could. If it was something we couldn't help with, we would refer them to one of Timmy Global Health's partner hospitals. Most of the patients we saw will not see another healthcare professional until Timmy Global Health brings another brigade to their area. We found that almost all of our patients were dehydrated to some degree and this is probably a chronic thing for most of them. We attributed this to the lack of access to clean, safe drinking water and to the high altitude. We counseled almost every patient on the importance of boiling water (to make it safe to drink) regularly and that they need to drink more water. We had a few patients with very high blood pressures and glucose levels and they were referred to the local hospital after being counseled on lifestyle changes they can make to help lower their blood pressure or glucose levels. This is really important. Medications are not nearly as easy to come by in Ecuador as they are in
the US. As a healthcare provider, it is difficult to prescribe someone a medication when you know it is very likely that they won't be able to find it next month or have the money to afford it. It is much safer to educate patients on how they can control their health problems through lifestyle changes. It is disheartening however, to know that there are blood pressure medications so readily available in the US that someone can take to lower their blood pressure and prevent heart attacks and strokes and other complications of hypertension that these people can't find or can't afford. Then you have people in the US that have all the resources and take them for granted. It is also interesting how pharmacies are run in Ecuador. Sure there are laws governing how things happen just like there are here.. but no one really enforces them. I currently work in a pharmacy and hearing this was crazy to me. In Ecuador, you can walk into a pharmacy without a prescription and almost always walk out with what you want.. antibiotics? sure. hypertension medication? sure. The pharmacies just want to make money. Fortunately, they are less likely to just
give away narcotics which is good but I'm sure it still happens much more frequently than it does here!
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