Can $1 change somebody’s life?
May 16, 2018

Hav­ing par­tic­i­pated in sev­eral mis­sions in Hon­duras, Haiti and Guatemala, I tried to take men­tal notes of good and bad prac­tices in or­der to make my own jour­ney of build­ing a char­ity pro­ject as ef­fi­cient as pos­si­ble.

While be­ing there, I loved lots of things: dis­eases and pa­tients. I hated a lot more: lack of med­i­cine and ban­dage ma­te­ri­als, faulty equip­ment and to­tal ab­sence of sched­ul­ing and busi­ness process man­age­ment.

Haiti shocked me with the fact a pa­tient could die if he/​​she or his/​​her fam­ily did­n’t pay first. This was one of the rea­sons why I left the monastery where the mis­sion took place. The sit­u­a­tion was hard to look at, but I could­n’t do any­thing.

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In Guatemala, pa­tients were charged for ap­point­ments, but there was a huge med­i­cine de­fi­ciency: we sur­vived by pur­chas­ing the cheap­est drugs, begged the Health De­part­ment for help, cut the course of treat­ment by half. My ID doc­tor’s heart was torn apart by this fact, but there was no other op­tion.

I work at the Health&Help clinic now, help­ing peo­ple in low re­sources set­tings. The fa­cil­ity op­er­ates free of charge. It just the way it is.

We work our asses off to raise do­na­tions, money, pro­vide the clinic with dif­fer­ent kinds of med­ica­tions and do every­thing in our power to avoid sit­u­a­tions when there is noth­ing to treat our pa­tients with.

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All Health&Help pa­tients are en­cour­aged to make an af­ford­able vol­un­tary do­na­tion in the sum of $1 (for chil­dren), $2 (for adults) or $3 (for long-course treat­ment pa­tients). I can’t help but stress the ‘vol­un­tary’ part: no one should leave the clinic with­out a proper treat­ment course pre­scribed as well as tests and screen­ings com­pleted - no mat­ter their fi­nan­cial sta­tus.

The do­na­tions they make are an im­por­tant part of their treat­ment course. No kid­ding. A free-of-charge med­ica­tion is con­sid­ered of a bad qual­ity in Guatemala, like in most of the third-world coun­tries. At the same time, $1 will not af­fect a fam­i­ly’s monthly bud­get that bad.

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An­other pur­pose of this do­na­tion is min­i­miz­ing the num­ber of pa­tients who come to the clinic to chat. Nat­u­rally, many lo­cals are amused by for­eign doc­tors, com­ing to have a small talk, ask for a vi­t­a­min, or take their blood pres­sure... There are days when we don’t have time to pee be­cause our wait­ing room is over­flown with pa­tients who re­ally need med­ical at­ten­tion, so do­na­tions help keep bored ones out of the clinic, giv­ing us a chance to of­fer proper care to those in need.

As doc­tors, we should al­ways pay at­ten­tion to pa­tients who re­quire more than med­ical as­sis­tance: shoe­less, poorly dressed, mal­nour­ished or out of school chil­dren. There’s a sim­ple so­lu­tion: giv­ing them free clean clothes, ap­pro­pri­ate for their age, talk­ing to the fam­ily and ask­ing why the child is­n’t at­tend­ing school, of­fer­ing dif­fer­ent pro­gram op­tions: ‘Child hunger” – to the child, ‘Planned Par­ent­hood’ – to the mother - could change a lot in their lives.

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**We should al­ways re­mem­ber that doc­tor’s mis­sion is­n’t giv­ing out med­ica­tion; eas­ing suf­fer­ing, both phys­i­cal and emo­tional, is one of the main aims of a med­ical pro­fes­sion­al’s ca­reer. **

By Vik­to­ria Va­likova