I’ve just returned from “Pounds of Love” – AmeriCares-supported program providing maternal and child health care, nutritional support and other critical assistance to families in rural El Salvador.
AmeriCares helps serve families living in tin-roofed shacks in the jungle bordering a coffee plantation. Without running water or electricity, families collect rainwater to drink and fire wood to cook. To reach the community, we drove along steep gullies on muddy roads up the Santa Ana Volcano, four-wheeling it for close to an hour.
When we arrived, families and program workers were sharing how to improve self-esteem and early childhood development. Families spoke of their children’s first steps or new words. After the session, children and expectant moms received health check-ups, supplements, fortified foods, hygiene items and any necessary medicines.
Veronica, a two-year-old girl, benefits from Pounds of Love. Her mother, Maria, says the program helps her develop Veronica’s language and motor skills with educational exercises, playtime and songs. And when Veronica was sick a few months ago, she saw the doctor at one of the program’s regular local clinics. Veronica received free antibiotics and other medicines to help her respiratory infection. She soon recovered and is back to playing with her favorite dolls and teddy bears.
For families like Veronica’s, going to the doctor for an urgent visit is an expensive ordeal. Medicines are expensive and medical transport is virtually impossible for families to afford – $50 for one trip, two weeks pay for a coffee plantation worker.
Maria also told me of a regular problem for Veronica and other children in her community – a lack of clean water. During the rainy season, it’s hard to collect enough dry wood to boil water long enough to kill contaminants. Maria asked me if AmeriCares could please send more water purification supplies, antibiotics and antifungal medications to help prevent infections and treat the children during the approaching rainy season. I could see the worry in her eyes as she looked at her child.
As the day wound down, we exchanged hugs and kisses all around. I promised to share Maria’s story and let her know people will read them and be inspired to help more mothers just like them. I’m so lucky to have been able to spend time with the wonderful families from the Pounds of Love program.