Health Clinic for Displaced Colombian Community
Organized by: Tara Trombetta
November 10, 2016
EVENT DATE Sep 30, 2016
SUMMARY: I'm raising money to help build a community clinic and center for a remote village just outside of Medellin, Colombia, home to a displaced community of more than 2,000 people. These people have not only suffered from the civil war, having been displaced for many years, but are plagued my many health issues, which the center can help alleviate. Why give? This clinic is a critical part of infrastructure for this zone, which has been ignored by the government and denied any basic services or support. The first story and second story are built, but the facility lacks a roof, dividing walls, medical equipment and supplies, paint, flooring, and finishing materials to make the center a completed space. ABOUT THE WAR: For 52 years, Colombia has been engulfed in a civil war resulting in the largest internally displaced population in the world, second only to Syria. This summer, the Colombian government and the FARC have signed a historic peace treaty, marking the end of the world’s longest armed conflict of modern times. More than 6 million people in Colombia have been forcibly displaced due to the violence, not including the thousands of disappeared and killed. ALTOS DE ORIENTE: Nestled in the mountaintop above the modern city of Medellin there is a rural community of 22,000 people called Granizal. It is the second largest informal settlement for internally displaced people in Colombia. Within it, there is a village called Altos de Oriente, home to 2,300 men, women and children who have been displaced between three and 15 years. Altos de Oriente lacks paved roads, a sewage system, potable water, and electricity. In combination, the lack of these basic services greatly impacts the health of the population. The community suffers from chronic gastrointestinal problems as fecal matter typically contaminates the drinking water. When an individual gets sick, it costs them a tremendous amount of money, and many hours in transit, attempting to reach a health facility. In some cases, emergency cases simply can’t be treated in time. Most homes are cobbled together, featuring dirt floors, corrugated tin roofs, and makeshift toilets. Generally, the single room abodes accommodate the kitchen, bedroom, living room and bathroom all in one place. There’s no market to speak of, or commerce. You’ll need to travel down the road to find basic sundries or supplies. There’s a school, which operates in shifts to accommodate more than 200 students in varying grades. And there’s a community center made of cinder block and tin. THE COMMUNITY CENTER: This community center is the heart of the village. It’s their health clinic, frequented once a week by doctor from the University of Antioquia School of Medicine. It’s also their “town hall” and learning center, “movie theater” and “internet café”. But the one room facility isn’t big enough for the community or well enough equipped to health deal with the many challenges facing the community, leaving many without health care, or other services that add to community well being. THE PEOPLE OF ALTOS DE ORIENTE: After a two hour journey over mud, potholes and rocks, climbing up the side of the mountain, I had the pleasure of visiting and working with the Altos de Oriente community on a health fair, which is explained below in more detail. The people of this community welcomed our group with open arms. What little they had, they offered to us. Their warm smiles, open hearts, and stories of perseverance and resilience are breathtaking. Against all odds they prove that where there’s a will, there’s a way. Together, their community leaders have worked as a team to improve the village, from installing makeshift telephone poles so there’s light on the “streets” at night, to building stairs so they can traverse the hills between their houses, to watching each other’s kids when someone finally gets a job or educational opportunity in Medellin, or convenes to help fight for legal reparations and legitimacy despite the government who has repeatedly ignored their pleas for help and installation of basic services. In January 2016, as the Executive Director of Open Hands Initiative*, I had the privilege to run a health diplomacy exchange program in Medellin in partnership with Harvard Humanitarian Initiative and in collaboration with the University of Antioquia. As part of the program, we ran a health fair for the Altos de Oriente community, featuring First Aid training course, a deworming clinic, a census, and computer technology training. This unique exchange program gave us a chance to understand and discuss with the community leaders what the greatest health challenges are for the community. With their input and guidance, it was clear that the community center needed support. Of course, there is much more the community needs, but this is a starting point. Thank you for your interest and support. * The views and opinions expressed here are solely my own and do not represent the Open Hands Initiative in any way. This is a personal project I am undertaking because I was personally touched by the community and want to help them however I can.