A Vaccine or a Clean Glass of Water

Lorenzo Patti 

Returning to Cobán a year and a pandemic later I never thought I would be here. Driving into La Ciudad de Esperanza this year was definitely not the same as last year. While the bus was surrounded by a thousand smiles last year, it seemed barren this year. Covid has been a hard time for everyone this year but the struggles at home seem minuscule by comparison. At home, vaccines  are widely available and in some place things feel as though they are returning to normal, what ever that is. But here, it is nothing like that. Covid rates are higher here than they have been for the entire pandemic and only because we were privileged enough to receive the vaccine we’re we able to travel here for a week and partner with this community. 

Yet when arriving here Covid is not the same as it is in the US. People aren’t arguing about wearing a mask or whether or not to get the vaccine. Instead it’s a fight every day for them to be able to make just enough money to help care for their family. I met a woman today who had to be convinced for twenty minutes to get her daughter tested for Covid. The woman feared that if her daughter had Covid she would not be able to go to work. She worked every day of the week and needed to so that she could provide the ten dollars it makes for her family. People here are living in fear because if they get Covid it could mean their livelihood. Whereas people in the US are upset because they might have to return to work in person. Here these people don’t have the medical infrastructure or a government who will allow them to access or distribute a vaccine that could help millions. 

Yet despite this struggle walking into La Ciudad you can still find people here fighting for their communities. You can find people fighting for the the fact that everyone has a right to good, sustainable healthcare. Yet when sitting here and watching the few patients we are able to help, it’s hard to believe we are making a difference and yet the people make us believe that we are. When a woman hugs everyone in the room after getting a bottle of Tylenol and she thanks you for everything that you are here to do, she gives you hope that you are helping to make a change. When a man is excited that a pair of old used scratched glasses can help him to see one line further on the eye chart it makes you believe that the few things you can actually make a difference.

Even in despite of these moments it can be difficult to believe that you can help to create healthcare infrastructure in a place that feels like you are swamped by potential downfalls. Despite this you keep putting one foot forward in a hope that each step is closer toward others making the same climb as you. Steps that hope to carve a path to global change in healthcare that allows everyone the privilege of a vaccine for pandemics or even just a clean glass of water. 


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