From Ill Health to Academic Excellence
Alexandra comes from a very low-income family. She came to NPH El Salvador with many ailments. She is now excelling as a community student at our school. See how NPH turns lives around, in more ways than one.
April 16, 2021 - El Salvador
Alexandra is 5-years-old. She hails from the rural community of El Zompopo in Santa Ana, in western El Salvador, close to the “Casa Sagrada Familia” home. She has been attending Nuestros Pequeños Hermanos as a community student for the past three years with her brother, Harold, who is 9-years-old. But she didn’t come to NPH El Salvador to study; she came because of her health.
“Alexandrita was here a lot,” recalls Doctor Karla Monterrosa, who works at the internal clinic at NPH, often nicknamed “El Refugio” – the refuge. “She would be sat here with her mother, looking unwell. She was two-years-old at the time, suffering from malnourishment, with constant viral problems, such as influenza, as well as stomach problems, since she had diarrhea.”
While the problems may not appear overall serious, to many very low-income families, such as Alexandra’s, symptoms can deteriorate quickly without appropriate medical care. Both her parents, Carolina and Enrique, work in agriculture, dedicated to the cultivation of corn and beans. Working in the formal sector brings its own challenges, especially when there is a low season or during COVID-19 pandemic, when they go for periods without any work. As a way to survive, they collect firewood, sell mangos and make tamales. It’s not easy to make ends meet, especially when have six children, four of which are young and need feeding.
Even though the clinic is mainly used for the children residing at Casa Sagrada Familia, the clinic also opens its doors to the surrounding community three days a week and is able to see 12 patients at a time. It has a respiratory therapy room, breastfeeding room, consultation room, treatment room and an area for dentistry.
However, children who do not attend NPH as community students have to rely in the public health system. “Parents would have to attend the nearest clinic based on geographical location in reference to where they live. They would have to get there early and wait all morning in order to be treated. Keep in mind that it might not necessarily mean that a child or family will be treated. We must take in to account the shortages of medication, equipment or materials in some healthcare centers, although this has been gradually improving,” says Doctor Karla.
“Sometimes, if not almost always, people with limited resources think twice about attending public clinics, since this generates an additional costs in transport and food that, sometimes, people with limited resources do not have.”
Unfortunately, private healthcare is also out of the question.
“Private medical attention from a specialist costs around US$25-30. The cost of examinations depends on the doctor. However, a blood test and general urine test might cost between US$3-5. So a doctor could make around a total of US$40.00 just from consultations, examinations and the treatment based on the laboratory results,” says Karla.
“In short,” explains Doctor Karla, “this is a big financial commitment for poorer families.”
Luckily, for children like Alexandra, community students at NPH receive annual checkups. It enables doctors to continue collecting information and monitor the evolution and scale of growth and development of the children.
“As for Alexandra,” says Dr. Karla, “She is good health. Her viral problems have decreased. She still has stomach problems, due to housing conditions and geographical situation, which our community team tries to help alleviate. She has her meals at NPH during the day and we can keep an eye on her, but we are confident she will be fine.”
In the meantime, Alexandra enjoys attending the school at NPH, and her mother Carolina has noted a positive change. “She has become more independent doing her activities,” smiles her mother. “She has quickly learned how to read, write and draw. I was so happy to see her write her name on paper.
“NPH also teaches her music, physical education and catechesis workshops, and she also attends the clinic when she is not well. I know that she is safe at the school and receives meals, while I work in the field. She also learns about values which improves her behavior in the home, and we’re especially happy about the religious classes.”
So, what does Alexandra most like about NPH?
“I really like playing with my friends at school,” Alexandrita giggles. “I also like the doctor, because she makes me feel better. But I also like the food. My favorite food is at breakfast because they give me beans, tomatoes, bread and milk, and I especially like beans!”
*Names have been changed to protect the privacy of our children.
It costs US$100,000 a year to run our internal clinic in El Salvador. Support our health programs today by contacting your local NPH office.
Tania Guevara and Nicholas Rogers
Sponsorship Coordinator in NPH El Salvador and Communications Manager of NPH International