The previous story about the abandoned elderly of Tonala continues – as does our support of them. Apart from the monthly food packages, we are looking for ways to make their lives a bit easier and more dignified. Karen has been tirelessly working at finding additional support and has enlisted the help of a university student to create a short promotional video for a fundraiser.
The interviews with the elderly are eye opening – they talk about their life before receiving any help and it is a story of depression and hopelessness. Not only does the monthly food package allow them to eat better and save a little of their meagre pension, but the activities run weekly in the rented space that Karen has secured, add a new dimension to their life. They now smile and chat and have a sense of belonging, of human connection. The activities represent a reason to walk daily and interact with the world that until recently was hostile and full of peril. No one is kind to these people or treats them with respect. Until recently they were discarded and abused.
Having a place to come and play games, laugh, share a joke is unbelievable – as one woman told us “I have worked since I was a little girl, then I got married. We lived far from the village, on a hill; I never knew what it meant to play”. Another man said: “I used to only think about death. Now I am laughing again” – he ends, with a huge, happy, toothless smile!
On my visit I could not do much beyond talk about some of their many health care issues and offer basic preventative suggestions and education. All have high blood pressure, some have diabetes and the food package can only be tailored so much to help with their health issues. Osteoporosis and arthritis are deforming and disabling their joints. Health care comes in the form of a weekly (at best) visit from a doctor: he arrives at the village’s health clinic, writes prescriptions and shrugs his shoulders. There should be free medication available but there is none. To pay for the prescription requires at least 10% of the monthly income…which most are not receiving due to some obscure administrative issues that no one can explain, let alone resolve.
All I can do is offer some anti-inflammatory creams, demonstrate basic exercises, and suggest simple joint care methods. I know they are happy for the attention and some remember things I have said last year, much to my surprise. We share hugs and best wishes, the human connection they are so deprived of. If only it would last, if only it would change their life a little…..