About Health&Help

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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.

Our story

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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.

The clinic in Guatemala

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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).

Our team

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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 spon­sors

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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.

Our pro­grams

Di­a­betes

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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.

Child­hood mal­nu­tri­tion

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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.

Birth con­trol

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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.

Preg­nancy check ups

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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).

Clinic con­struc­tion in Nicaragua

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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.

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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.

Our plans for the fu­ture

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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.