After four years of only virtual contact, Dr. Lisa Hunt and I returned to Bolivia to reconnect with our project. Although short, the trip was full of familiar faces, places, and routines with new children, new staff, and fresh ideas.
As the fund’s medical director, I am delighted by the project’s resilience despite the pandemic and the challenges that come with providing healthcare to impoverished children.
In 2019, the Rosa Vera Fund updated our care standards. We now support children with chronic conditions for a period of three years rather than up to their 21st birthday. After four years, all agree that the results validate this new approach. The 20 most recent cases have come in with a greater sense of appreciation and urgency. The families are highly motivated to maximize the time with our therapists and to learn all they can to best care for their child over the long haul.
Another positive change has been the addition of a coordinator. Lourdes Plata joined the team in 2021 and works out of an administrative office at La Escuelita where she screens potential new cases and meets with currently enrolled children who need her assistance. Under the close supervision and mentorship of Mitma Claure, she also organizes and runs the parent support group meetings and fundraising events, and even attends specialist visits when possible in order to move cases forward.
Each year, at the conclusion of our work trip, the team holds a “despedida,” or farewell celebration. Many local leaders attend to publicly express gratitude for our efforts in helping the most vulnerable children in their community. This year the festivities took place on the street right outside La Escuelita. For the first time, it was held outdoors to accommodate the large number of children and families attending.
One by one, the children and caregivers arrived. Whether carried or pushed in wheelchairs, all the children showed up with smiles on their faces, happy to be a part of this special community. Emphasizing that our resources are limited, I reminded everyone present that they were chosen because of their demonstrated commitment as advocates for their children. These parents are some of the most resilient and patient human beings I have had the privilege of knowing.
At the despedida, I explained that the Rosa Vera Fund was founded 18 years ago with the mission of helping vulnerable children living with chronic conditions. Because we rely on the healthcare infrastructure where the children live, we must partner with a local team whom we can trust with our funds and who will carry out the work. We have been very fortunate to collaborate with a team in Bolivia that has shown outstanding leadership and commitment. They continue to inspire and educate me every time I go. They have demonstrated that with a vision, the right partnerships, compassion, and persistence, you can create something incredible where you might least expect it.
In the main photo above, Dr. Melk is all smiles with patient Yoselín and her parents. Yoselín graduated from the RVF in a triumphant graduation ceremony outside of La Escuelita.