La Educación Puede Cambiar Vidas-Education Can Change Lives

Overlooking the green hillside, there’s a sense of serenity, hope, and happiness that overcomes me. This is exactly what Ciudad de La Esperanza has felt like these past couple of days. “Nada es imposible”, Nothing is impossible, “Cree en tus sueños”, Believe in your dreams, “Todos tenemos los mismos derechos”, We all have the same rights, “No necesitas más para cambiar el mundo” You don’t need much to change the world, are just some of the phrases surrounding the walls of this center. It’s these phrases that keep this center and the people in a place like this alive.

This small young girl, with a wide smile, dark black hair, and a brand new pair of glasses approaches me. “Hola!” she immediately exclaims as she gives me a great big hug. I began to compliment her on her glasses and how great it was to see her wearing them.
I was reminded of her name again, which was Ana Leticia. I told her my name was also Ana and as soon as we came to learn this, we both expressed an evident joyous expression on our faces. Ana’s enthusiasm and spirit reminded me a lot about myself and I immediately felt a connection with her. She began to express how she was so happy with the glasses she had received, that she was brushing her teeth, drinking pure water, and taking her medications. Seeing how excited she was about all the new things she had learned and received at clinic and how she had already implemented them into her life was beautiful.

Throughout my time on this trip, I have been constantly in awe and inspired by the children. I can’t help but think “How could a 9 year old child be going to the doctor by themselves, without a parent, and be fully aware, responsible, and independent of their own health and well-being?” “How could a person not have access to clean drinking water?” and “How could these children and their families not have access to the adequate and necessary resources to take care of their own health?”

Ciudad de la Esperanza has shown to be the light and haven of hope for the children and families of these communities. Visiting the dump and seeing first hand the living conditions of the people of this community has made me reflect upon many things. The realities that these children are faced with are harsh and unimaginable. Many of these children would not have warm, nutritious meals, clean water, or a shelter above their heads if it wasn’t for this place. Given the circumstances these children are faced with, the center offers the hope and opportunity to live a dignified life.

Watching Dr. Lauri and Dr. Richard treat and educate their patients and teach them about the importance of either changing their lifestyle and making drastic changes in their health was powerful. They’ve truly made a significant impact on their lives and helped contribute to their improvement in health and quality of life.

Being with Dr. Lauri and watching her interact with the children and figure out what health issues they had going on was amazing. So many changes and development occur in the early years of life which is why it is crucial to address any healthcare needs immediately or as soon as possible to detect any issues or prevent anything worse from happening. While teaching these children at this age, they have the ability to prevent many health issues that their parents or family have. It’s at this young age when children can begin to learn about how to live a healthy and dignified life and carry it on for the rest of their lives.

I was inspired by the work that these medical professionals manifested and felt compelled to also do some education. Even if it was just conversing with some of the boys and girls from the school, I emphasized the importance of certain health topics like drinking enough purified water and staying hydrated, washing their hands, and brushing their teeth as much as possible every time I interacted with the children etc. There was one day, after speaking to two kids, that I saw with their very own reusable water bottle after I had spoken to them about this and making sure to drink plenty of water. It felt really good to speak to these children about this especially since they may not really know or understand the importance of this.

Just as the Guatemala medical team did, everyone at Ciudad de la Esperanza works in community and as a team to offer the best quality of life. As a nursing student, I resonanted a lot with the school nurse, Esmeralda or Esme. She is the only point person for any and all health and medical issues for these children. Whether a child has diabetes, a sore throat, a fever, an injury etc., Esme has been the person to take care of these issues. Esme is constantly educating children and their parents on important health issues. She’s given them so much information that they would never had known or given access to. She’s certainly an inspiration and a light in many of these children’s lives.

Talking with Esme she told me about a specific experience that she had while working with the community at Ciudad de La Esperanza that truly impacted and changed her way of thinking and practicing. She told me about a young girl who had come to see her who was experiencing symptoms of an allergic reaction. She had given her Loratadine to help with her allergy but it only appeared to make her worse. Esme has had to adapt to the realities of these children. She mentioned how with any other child in the city or in any other place, she would not have had to think about if a child had ate some breakfast or not. For the kids coming to Ciudad de La Esperanza, the only food they get is what they get at the center. Given these circumstances, she has to continually think about whether a child has had any food to eat, especially when it comes to giving a child a medicine on an empty stomach, which is what had happened with this young girl. There are many things that one has to take into consideration when caring for a population like this one, and Esme has done an outstanding job. She has dedicated a lot of her time and effort into not only improving the health care situation in this community, but the lives of people.

Thinking back on the phrases that I first mentioned, you can tell how impactful some simple words can be. But to these children, this is all they have. Being continually motivated, to learn, to work hard, and to better themselves is what these children need. I am grateful for the opportunity to have been a part of the Guatemala medical team and to bring more resources and awareness to this community. I know that this community was inspired by us, but I was also inspired by this community. I know now more than ever, that I have the ability to help those in need through the power of education, and I strive to live a life that does just that. For the children are our future, and have the power to change the world.

Anakaren Nieves


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