Archive article, October 2000
By Steven Colón and Agueda Martin, Project Managers of Hearts in Hands, Santiago, Chile
Our project, Hearts in Hands (now FEDES), began just over two years ago when we determined to do something to help the children in the community of Huechuraba, one of the poorest sections of Chile’s capital, Santiago. Our work began with organizing a team of volunteers united in the desire to improve the lives of these impoverished children. Our simple goal was to try to bring them some happiness despite their dire living conditions. Through these small beginnings, doors began to open, both here in Chile and in the United States, which has led to our being able to begin pouring a steady lifeline of supplies into this community.
|Project Manager Agueda (sitting on floor at left), and Viviana Finlayson (also sitting on floor) with team members of In His Love Inc. in
What began with us delivering bags of used clothing to this poor community of 70,000, soon grew to a mountain of aid that far surpassed our original goal. Thanks to the work of the Finlayson family, a direct link was established with In His Love Inc. in Florida, a group whose goal is to help funnel aid from Florida to needy areas of the world. Through the generosity of In His Love Inc. we received two 40-foot containers bearing much-needed clothing, beds, furniture, baby supplies, school equipment, toys, bicycles, wheelchairs, and other orthopedic equipment that we personally distributed to those in need.
The work we first undertook in Huechuraba has now grown to include three other communities of Santiago. These four impoverished communities have a combined population of nearly 800,000. We have been able to establish food donations from local companies that we regularly distribute to about fifteen facilities. These include an institution that cares for children at high risk of repeat child abuse, a center for teen pregnancy and drug prevention, an orphanage housing 70 children, a sports club for poverty-stricken youth, as well as a community of 5,000 people who live in makeshift housing.
Although the challenge seems daunting at times, we feel compelled to continue to seek out new means of supply and manpower to meet the need on an even larger scale. We are working with the mayors and directors of these four communities, along with a network of social workers, to determine the priorities. We have found so many individuals, businesses, and corporations who want to get involved. They only lacked a unified structure to be able to put all these pieces of the puzzle into place.
Among the many needs that we identified in these four communities is the lack of even the simplest of medical attention. Take El Bosque (pop. 290,000), for example, with its one small medical facility and six doctors, whose maximum output would only allow them to be able to examine each child in the community an average of 1.7 times each year. For adults, the ratio is considerably lower: 0.6. This entire community of over a quarter million lacks even one ambulance. Doctors frequently use their own personal vehicles to pick up patients and drive them to a medical facility. If an ambulance is necessary, a hospital in another part of the capital is contacted in hopes of negotiating a ride. As you can see, the need is great.
Just after the worst floods that Santiago experienced in 30 years, we received our second container of needed medical supplies from In His Love Inc. This container included wheelchairs, walkers, crutches, and other orthopedic supplies donated by Wheelchairs International in Colorado. Forward Air donated their services to help transport all the pallets from Colorado to the Port of Miami. Then Crowley American Transport shipped it free of charge all the way to Santiago, Chile.
Not long after we distributed these items locally, our parent organization in the States, Family Care Foundation, put us in contact with a nonprofit organization whose mission is to collect surplus medical supplies and equipment in the US, and distribute these to developing countries in an effort to raise the standards of medical services offered to indigent people throughout the world. This agency generously helped us fill a 40-foot container with 13 tons of medical equipment and supplies worth over $170,000 dollars, which we have just unloaded and delivered here in Chile to a host of waiting medical facilities. Furthermore, a shipping company kindly donated all the shipping from Texas to Santiago.
Among this invaluable equipment was: An ultrasound machine, sophisticated hospital beds including some specifically designed for giving birth, surgical supplies including gloves and surgical masks (which are almost nonexistent here), a dentist chair and sufficient supplies to open a dental care center, wheelchairs and orthopedic devices, as well as a host of other equipment and supplies. This donation will not only help replace antiquated equipment and provide essential medical supplies that are otherwise nonexistent, but it will also facilitate these communities being able to hire more doctors and professional help, increasing medical care for thousands, as well as creating job opportunities.
This has indeed been an international effort. Besides those already mentioned, we want to acknowledge many others who had apart in this first international effort, including the Chilean shipping company, the storage company who donated storage space, as well as all the institutions and companies who have helped to make this venture possible. Our gratitude also goes out to dedicated individuals like Roberto and Lorena, Felipe and Carmen, Christian and Sherry (FCF Project Hope in Miami), as well as Ivan, Millie, Claire, and the many other young volunteers who donated their time and hard work.
|A donation from In His Love Inc. allowed
us to purchase one ton of powdered
milk to distribute. Thankful recipients
at Padre Felix’s school for destitute