The mission of MEDICO is to promote and provide health care. One of the greatest promoters of public health is a sense of community. When people form a community, they become greater than a sum of their parts. They gain strength and tools to help themselves and one another.
MEDICO believes in communities. It is this belief that gave rise to our construction program. We build or repair clinics, schools and water systems. A school is more than a classroom. It is part of the foundation of a community. It is a place where people meet, where under-nourished children can receive their one hot meal of the day. A school encourages families to work together to improve all of their lives.
At MEDICO, we don’t just show up and build things. We begin with area surveys and meetings with community leaders, pastors, nurses, schoolteachers and the local residents. We work to understand the priorities and needs of the community.
MEDICO builds WITH a community. Our volunteers work with local residents. We hire crews locally. We commission local woodworkers to build fixtures and furniture. We hire cooks to feed the workers. We re-purpose usable materials from the old structure when possible or distribute them to the community for people to use to improve their homes. When the projects are completed, the entire community can be proud of what they accomplished.
MEDICO began decades ago with doctors, dentists and nurses working on the ground, treating people in places where there is no health care. We worked with dedicated, hard-working local community nurses trying to help their neighbors working out of decrepit, leaking "CLINICS". We began by recruiting US volunteers to put a new roof on a clinic, then doors and new windows on another, and so on until we began renovating and even constructing new buildings from the ground up. We now have skilled and experienced local crew leaders who, with the help of US volunteers, supervise workers we hire from the communities themselves. We even have the furniture built with locally milled wood by community artisans. The wages stay in the community. The local people take pride in a clinic they built. We all win.
Soon after we began our work rebuilding clinics, village elders and teachers came to us asking our help to repair their schools. These are often tiny 1-2 room structures made from rough timber and palm fronds. The wind blows through the cracks, and rain leaks through the soggy roof. Kids sit on the floor. It occurred to us that public health is improved when there is a sense of community. A community has the inspiration and the power to accomplish things that no individuals can. A critical nexus of community is the school. Not only do children learn there, but they get what may be their only meal of the day there. Parents congregate and meet there. A school helps create community, and the creation of community helps promote public health. For these reasons, we started repairing, renovating, and rebuilding these small community schools. Depending on the need, we might add a lunch area for community meals and latrines. We provide funding to help build benches and tables and may add chalkboards and other teaching aids. A functioning school creates its own energy and community.
What could be more basic to health than water? At first, you'd think that people in a rainy tropical climate would not need water. That's what we first thought but we learned otherwise. Rain runs off quickly and surface water sources dry up. What remains is often contaminated by people and domestic animals. While our doctors, dentists and nurses work, our construction folks will be helping develop clean, reliable water sources. Most basic and common are rain catchment systems, capturing runoff from large roofs such as school and churches. We help local people install the gutters, filters, and tanks. Instead of scooping muddy water from a sluggish stream or shallow hole, a family can bring a container to the clinic, school, or church, turn a spigot, and get clean water. It is not a complete answer, but it moves us forward. What is a drink of clean water worth to you on a hot day?