Health&Help is a non-profit organization providing medical aid to some of the poorest people on the planet. We started out in 2015 as a small group of individuals passionate about making the world a better place through providing communities with access to healthcare without discrimination regardless of their skin color, gender, national identity, religion or financial status. We are grateful and excited with our success thus far, and we are growing day by day, working towards our common goal of improving lives of people in need.
Health&Help started out as two girls with a big dream. Having volunteered in Guatemala, Viktoria Valikova together with Karina Basharova wanted to help address the healthcare crisis in Guatemala. According to USAID,
“Guatemala ranks as the largest country and economy in Central America, with over 15 million inhabitants, more than half of whom live in poverty. Guatemala’s population is roughly equally divided between urban and rural areas, yet large disparities in economic development, access to health services, and health outcome indicators persist, with rural areas faring much worse than their urban counterparts. The rural population is predominantly made up of indigenous peoples from Guatemala’s many ethnic and linguistic groups”.
Viktoria and Karina founded Health&Help with the goal to bring healthcare to rural parts of Guatemala that are home to the most vulnerable communities which are typically of Mayan decent. From the Guatemalan Civil War of 1960-1996 and to this day Mayan communities suffer from poverty, hate crime and overt discrimination, including discrimination at urban healthcare facilities that operate in Spanish and do not accommodate for indigenous people speaking over 20 Mayan languages.
To find the right place for the clinic, Victoria contacted the Ministry of Public Health (Ministerio de Salud Publica) to find out where the help was most needed. The most impoverished areas of Guatemala are located in the so-called “dry corridor” (corredor seco), that has the highest mortality rates and the least amount of resources available. After several trips to remote villages the perfect location was found at the intersection of several roads from different villages in Chuinajtajuyub, Totonicapan region of Guatemala.
Funding was raised via Boomstarter and architects Mikhail and Elizaveta Shishin joined the project in 2016, taking over the design and construction plans and schedules at no cost. Community members, motivated by the opportunity to have the first and only healthcare facility in Chuinajtajuyub or any adjacent village, eagerly volunteered and participated in the construction process.
We faced many obstacles during construction, but as our clinic grew, so did our team. New volunteers took on different responsibilities, brought a variety of experiences and a breadth of knowledge to the project.
The management core was formed from long term volunteers, friends and sponsors. Nonprofit organizations were registered in Guatemala, the USA and the Netherlands.
The clinic opened its doors on February 24, 2017. It has become the only medical facility serving nearby villages, where patients can receive quality medical care even if they don’t have money to pay for it.
The clinic operates as an ambulatory care center 8 hours a day, 6 days a week, and as an emergency care facility and an ambulance access point 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Volunteers from every corner of the world come to work at the clinic, examining over 50 patients daily. Consultations are given, prescriptions are filled, small surgeries are performed, gynecological examinations are provided daily for 20,000 people living in the area, as well as for visitors from other areas. We never advertised the clinic, but our patients spread the word - and today we have many patients visiting from further and further away, all through the word of mouth. Some people travel up to six hours to get to us, even if there are medical facilities closer to them, just because those facilities don’t have supplies, medications, healthcare workers available, or they have too many patients and have to turn people away. We are happy to see everyone, without discrimination by income, village of origin, or language (our patients speak 6 different Mayan languages, and to meet their needs we hire local people who speak both Spanish and one or two Mayan languages to interpret for us).
Health&Help team members are ordinary people. We work hard and believe in what we do. Every one of us gives a part of themselves in order to make other people’s lives better. We share common values and goals and have a common dream - to make this world a kinder place. Our volunteers come from all over the world, and from all walks of life. To name a few, we have physicians coming anywhere from several months to a year from Russia, USA, Europe, South and Central America (including Guatemala!). Our nurses, PAs and EMTs are a mix of local people who we hire to provide jobs in the community and visiting volunteers from all over the globe. Our students come for short term visits to gain experience working in the humanitarian aid field, and help healthcare workers with simple tasks, organize and distribute donations to local people, and provide simple health education on nutrition, hygiene and child care. Our managers and development officers are working remotely from Guatemala, USA and Russia. The list goes on.
Our work would not be possible without our sponsors. The people and companies who support us come from different cultures and countries. Hundreds of people have supported the project by donating money, medications and medical supplies, construction materials, or their time and expertise to the project, sometimes volunteering for many weeks and months without expecting anything in return. Our sponsors and volunteers are truly the lifeblood of this organization.
Health&Help brought a diabetes education program to the area, which is a unique approach for the region. People diagnosed with diabetes receive extensive counseling, learn how to use glucometers to control their blood glucose levels at home, and receive life saving medications. We encourage patients to come with their family members to ensure home support and diet modification.
Guatemala has the sixth-highest rate of chronic malnutrition in the world and it is a growing concern. The overall prevalence is over 40%, and in the Totonicapán region where we practice it reaches a heartbreaking 70%, affecting indigenous populations the most [link]. We provide children with nutritional supplements, vitamins, antiparasitic medications, and educate parents on the basics of nutrition, hygiene and child care.
Diarrhea is one of the major causes of childhood morbidity and mortality in developing countries, including Guatemala and Nicaragua. We work very hard to change these statistics and improve our little patients’ health outcomes.
According to WHO, access to reproductive healthcare is severely limited for indigenous populations throughout Central America. We educate local women about women's health, STD prevention, provide a variety of short and long term birth control options, and address fertility problems. An average woman in our region gets married in her mid-to-late teens and has over 6 children in her lifetime. We empower local women to take control of their reproductive health, and to teach their daughters to do the same. We believe healthy families start from healthy women, and we work extremely hard to support local women in their reproductive decisions.
We are actively encouraging women to come for pregnancy check ups as soon as they find out they are carrying a child. We offer all women of childbearing age pregnancy testing, as some of them don’t know they are carrying until many months into pregnancy. We put a tremendous amount of time and effort into counseling pregnant women, and providing prenatal care and vitamins. We respect the local traditions of childbirth, and work closely with local Comodronas - traditional doulas or birth attendants. Indigenous older women who fulfill this role provide support, guidance and help to pregnant women throughout pregnancy and birth, however they are not trained to recognize and treat emergencies that can arise during labor. Comodronas bring women to us when a labor is abnormal, and stay with the medical team throughout the delivery process to help women feel safe and comfortable. We also attend and supervise home labor if a woman feels strongly about not going to the clinic (there are many rituals and beliefs that come into play, and there is no established association of childbirth with a healthcare facility in Guatemala).
In October 2017, the founders of the project decided to build a second Health&Help clinic in El Rosario, Chinandega region, Nicaragua. The construction site is located in the remote area, in one of the poorest communities in the country. There is no electricity or running water. Most of the houses are hovels built of plastic wrap, food is cooked on open fire. There is no paved road to the village, which is one of the reasons why locals can’t get timely medical help.
The Health&Help clinic will be located on the Fonseca Bay coast. It is designed to provide the necessary ambulatory care, emergency care, as well as access to diagnostic laboratory services to the community free of charge, and empower local people through creating jobs and educational opportunities.
The construction works are planned for November 2018 and will be managed by Health&Help architects, Mikhail and Elizaveta Shishin.
Every volunteer at Health&Help works very hard trying to make this world a better place. We dream to spread our vision across the planet, building, operating and supporting free clinics all over the world.
This is your chance to touch someone’s life and to make a difference by becoming a sponsor or a volunteer. We are always open to any kind of partnership, just send us an email at mail[email protected] and we will come up with something together.