I realized this morning that I never wrote about our visit a week and a half ago. Besides being short (24 hrs or so), it was fairly intense. Ten minutes into one conversation with a girl I have met once before, Vanessa started asking me for money for physical therapy. She is in a wheel chair and proceeded to explain to me a little of her history. I didn't understand all of what she said (loud music, soft voice, 2nd language) but picked up that she walked until she was 14 (now 19) and that her disability had something to do with hemorraging and TB at that age.
Round two was the next morning when Bea, another woman I know, asked if she could be my housekeeper. She was respectful and gentle in asking, but I know that she is desperate for some way to support her family. There will be many others interested in the job, in any job really, anything for a consistent paycheck. That paycheck will make a tremendous difference for one family over the next two years. I hope also that our relationship with that family will make a difference for them. How do I even begin to consider which person is the most needy or deserving or qualified or what the criteria would be? And what does that mean for the people I don't choose, who really have no local possibilities for a steady job?
What will my relationships look like in Puerto Supe if they are all based around people hoping I'll give them money? How will I ever have a friend? I guess it is obvious by now that I'm interested in helping in Puerto Supe, but I'd like to help in ways that stretch further than hand outs. I realized that evening that I need to come up with an answer to the money question pronto. As it turns out, there is one. A group from the Puerto Supe Christian Community (our churchish thing) meets weekly to choose individuals or families to support in specific ways. We intend to donate a monthly sum for them to distribute as they see fit. Is it a cop out? I'm not sure. Right now it feels like the right way to help.
Issue #2: health concerns. We found out the next morning that in addition to her TB, Vanessa has brain damage from a prolonged high fever when she was 6. All of the sudden her demeanor and personality made a lot more sense. The same night, Bea told me that her 2 year old was in the hospital and was very sick. He had a fever of 103.5 F for several days, but the hospital didn't really do anything about it. It seems like there is potential for another brain damage case here. The doctors told Bea that Jose had a virus in his blood. Is that even possible? Grace says the doctors don't think that people will understand, so they make things up to give as explanations. Furthermore, they gave her an expired antibiotic for him, and when she brought it back the next day, told her it was her fault for not checking when she got it.
The whole thing makes me angry in a way that I think could be just. The world should not be like this. Children shouldn't be getting brain damage from fevers, because people should be educated and willing to care for them. Doctors shouldn't be lying to patients and parents. The next question, of course, is what can I do about it? I don't have a clue. For now, I'll do what I know to do, love and pray for people one at a time.