When Elias Ramirez was brought to Casa Jackson’s malnutrition center run by Nuetros Ahijados in Jocotenango, Guatemala, he couldn’t sit up, cry or crawl. Elias suffers from a form of malnutrition called Kwashiorkor, which is a result of a protein deficient diet. At the young age of 21 months, Elias was losing muscle mass, had rashes all over his body and a swollen abdomen.
Elias’s mother, Aleyda Ramirez, is eighteen and currently pregnant with her second child. Not only is Aleyda a teenage mother, but she is unemployed and her spouse is a fisherman with a precarious income. Aleyda and her husband barely manage to visit their child twice per week as the four hour journey from their town called Tecojate is arduous for a family living in poverty. Elias has been staying at Casa Jackson for the last two weeks, where staff and volunteers constantly monitor his vitals and help with his condition. The medical staff and volunteers not only provide medical assistance, but also the tender loving care all infants need in early childhood. Before Elias is released, the staff will insure he is at 110% of the weight of a healthy and nourished child.
Caring for malnourished Guatemalan children is essential for the future of this Central American country, since half of Guatemalan children under the age of five suffer from chronic malnutrition. This issue is something the Casa Jackson Center addresses directly. I know you’re asking yourself, how could my donation help? Your donation would go directly to Casa Jackson’s malnutrition program, which works with families in a comprehensive manner to address their needs. All donations support the critical care and follow-up to identify and diagnose the children, along with follow up care done by nurses and dietitians and the social workers who travel bi-monthly to the homes of these children to follow up directly. Your donations will also go directly toward the vital care for Elias and the other children at Casa Jackson to sustain this integral service in the community.
I share with you today a story about two small “packages” and a wonderful opportunity to support malnourished children: Global Giving is offering a match of 30 percent for all donations received on March 16th, 2011. They will also award a cash prize for the project receiving the most donations.
Among the many joys that come our way in life, nothing compares to the birth of our children. In Guatemala, this also often a time of great challenge for many families. After 20 hours of hard labour, an exhausted mom, Mary, gave birth to precious twin girls. Premature and critically underweight at only three pounds each, they were so tiny that they could each be held in just one hand. No doctor was on-hand for the delivery. The family knew that the local doctor would not come, because they still owed him money for his recent treatment of Mary's father Antonio. The new babies were having difficulty breathing. They were fighting for their lives.
Antonio had just enough money for the journey to Antigua. From his tiny mountain village, eight hours away, he had heard that there was a place that might save his granddaughters' lives. Antonio wrapped the babies in tattered blankets and held them close during the day-long bus ride over the winding and rutted roads. He carried his precious cargo all the way to Casa Jackson.
The babies were two of the smallest ever admitted to Casa Jackson. As with every new patient admitted, we don't know for certain if they will respond to our care, or whether they will recover or not. But we provided them with intensive medical care, specialized baby formula, hugs and love in abundance. With time and love the girls began to open their eyes, move their small fingers and most importantly they began to grow and thrive. They each gained two pounds in their first 3 weeks and now weigh six pounds!
The story of these two very special girls, Maria Jose and Miriam Guadalupe, reflects the vital work of the GOD's CHILD Project. This is only possible with your continued support for the needs of these special children. As Guatemala has one of the highest infant mortality rates in the world, Maria and Miriam are not alone and this vital work needs to continue.
We need you to make a gift on March 16th so that the joy of happy recoveries can continue. Together with love, prayers and support we can change the world!
(Photos 2-4 courtesy of Christiana Dittmann)
Casa Jackson is, first and foremost, a hospital for malnourished babies. Young children between the ages of 0 and 5 come to stay for couple of weeks or, in some cases, a few months, and they leave with the capacity to stay happy and healthy from that point on. We prefer to take in the smallest cases, because the smallest cases have the biggest chance of a full recovery. The science tells us that, if experienced beyond the age of 2 or 3, severe malnutrition has long-term effects. These include lifelong poor health, slow speech, low IQ, and more.
That said, Casa Jackson has become a loving and safe haven for many special children outside of the “ideal” age range. We have one special child, Josafina, staying with us now. Josafina is ten years old and comes from a family who has never given her the love and care that every child deserves. She is a quiet child, because she never learned how to talk, and she weighs as much as the average six year old. These days, Josefina receives food and medicine and is beginning to open up to staff, nurses, and fellow patients despite the years of abuse and neglect she has suffered.
It is difficult to see children like Josefina, whose chance in life comes so late. We’ll do all we can for her, but we don’t want to let more children reach the age of 10, or even 5, without receiving the care that they need. With the help of donors like you, we are continuing our important work with the smallest victims of poverty. And because your donations support outreach in addition to in-house care, we will continue to reach more families and more communities and to prevent the permanent effects of malnutrition in as many cases as we can.
This week, we thank you on behalf of Josefina for your continued support.
Casa Jackson has been hopping since we joined the GlobalGiving family in December.
First, we said goodbye to several of our babies from last fall. These happier, healthier, and heavier children returned to live at home in the care of their families. We’ll see them again soon, when their parents bring them in for their monthly health check-ups.
Since the New Year, we’ve had 10 new arrivals. As we enter this second week of February, Casa Jackson nurses are caring for 16 little lives. Thanks to your continued support, everyone from Antonio, a 7 lb 7-month-old, to Josephine, a 10-year-old who weighs as much as the average 6-year-old, will stay with us until they are well enough to return home.
Last week, Oliver, the head social worker here at The GOD’S CHILD Project – Guatemala, visited the home of Gela Gricelda, who just turned 4 months old. When Gricelda was featured in ABC’s Global Health Special last December, she was recuperating from acute malnourishment at Casa Jackson. Gricelda’s mother Maria, like many mothers in Guatemala, thought she was helping her newborn by feeding her water mixed with barley and rice. Instead, Gricelda grew very skinny from lack of breastmilk or proper formula. After speaking with GOD’S CHILD Project staff at a field clinic last fall, Maria checked Gricelda into Casa Jackson for 1 month.
These days, Oliver reports that Gricelda is maintaing her weight and that her family is thrilled about how well she is doing. During his visit to their humble two-room house, he witnessed firsthand the huge and lasting change brought about by Gricelda’s stay at Casa Jackson. Gricelda, who used to cry all the time, is much more content, and Maria has heeded the advice of the Casa Jackson nutritionist and is breastfeeding once again.
We’re looking forward to sharing more of Casa Jackson with you, and we urge you to stay connected to this important project. Consider donating again, and tell the world travelers in your life to check out our Casa Jackson volunteer opportunities at www.casajackson.org. On behalf of Casa Jackson staff and the families whose lives you have touched: Muchas gracias.
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