"You Get More Than You Give" 

When Patty Prue headed out to last year’s event to honor her friend and former employer, Rich Meelia, she had no idea she would be leaving with a trip to meet the people of Ecuador who benefit from Por Cristo’s comprehensive services. During the Live Auction she ended up as the high-bidder on an once-in-a lifetime opportunity to travel with Por Cristo staff, Joe Reardon, Executive Director and Deborah Clark, Director of Medical Services, to witness firsthand how Por Cristo changes lives.

Last April, Patty, along with husband, Dave Wright, and sons Christian Wright and Ryan Wright, traveled to Ecuador for their “volunteer vacation.” Patty and Dave love this kind of “immersion” travel, because it is an opportunity to “really experience a different culture from the perspective of those who live there.” Their wish was to understand the difference Por Cristo’s work makes in some of the poorest parts of our world and “hopefully to provide some resources.”

Patty had taken part in service trips previously to Africa where she had witnessed significant poverty. While visiting the community serviced by Por Cristo’s health clinic in the Isla Trinitaria section of Guayaquil, she found the “poverty quite extensive, with lack of access to clean water, drainage runoff near dwellings and most people living in structures housing multiple families with limited electricity, cooking and refrigeration.”

In spite of what might appear to be an overwhelming situation, Patty and her family bore witness to the incredible difference that Por Cristo makes in the lives of the Ecuadorian people. Por Cristo focuses a great deal on “educating the community on healthcare as well as their children’s health and well-being.” Por Cristo staff regularly visits families in their homes, making house calls to ensure the health of all and assess the needs of those unable to travel to the Por Cristo clinic.

During their community visits led by Laura Villafuerte, Social Worker, and Teresita Arce de Teran, Por Cristo’s Ecuador Coordinator, who both have 18 years of service with Por Cristo, they met a young mother whose four-month old twin girls were gravely malnourished; Por Cristo provided her the help she needed through health education, nursing support, and healthcare for both her and her children. Thanks to this assistance, both Angelita and Vanessa are now doing very well, as seen in these images from a clinic visit in January, 2014,  just after their first birthday.

A small child with a skin rash was in dire need of treatment; once medicine was provided by Por Cristo staff and applied regularly the child improved. Without attention, the infection would have gotten worse with potentially deadly results. The many visits Por Cristo’s staff made to this young boy could be perceived as simple community visits, but those who witnessed his living and healthcare conditions know their work was a lifesaving mission.

On another visit, they met a woman with extremely swollen legs, sometimes referred to as “elephantiasis,” a disease caused by parasites. As is common in Ecuadorian culture, she had been using natural, holistic treatments. Por Cristo staff was able to connect with her, and, while being respectful of their traditions and practices, convinced her to visit the clinic for more comprehensive medical care.

At the clinic in Guayaquil, Patty and her family witnessed Por Cristo staff caring for patients – most were babies, pregnant mothers and children. Additionally, staff here delivers much needed educational programs to young girls focused on learning about and respecting their bodies. Through “self-esteem” programs, Por Cristo is able to teach many young girls good boundaries, instill confidence and create possibilities to further their education, and help them set long-term life goals. Another program led by Por Cristo’s dentist, Dr. Dick Armijos, serves both young boys and girls and teaches the benefits of good dental hygiene.

Visiting the capital city of Quito was inspiring. Patty and her family were fascinated by the culture there and impressed by missionary Sisters Philomena and Concettina, carrying out their missionary work in Jaime Roldos Barrio,  where they provide a range of health care and other social services. Through computer training programs, sewing classes, cooking classes, hair dressing instruction and certification classes, the two nuns empower women so they can become employable, take care of themselves, and provide for their families. Most impressive was realizing that the clinic operated by the Sisters and partially supported by Por Cristo served so many families in this impoverished community.

In Quito, they visited the Baca Ortiz Hospital for Children’s cardiothoracic unit and were amazed at the first-class medical care provided to children there. Families from all over Ecuador, and some even from Peru, travel a great distance to receive help that is not offered elsewhere. It made Patty think about what these families might do without the Baca Ortiz/Por Cristo collaboration.

Patty and her family would say that their trip was a once-in-a lifetime experience that reminded them that you always “get more than you give.” It was rewarding to see how Por Cristo helps so many health care providers, teachers, children, and families throughout Ecuador. Most importantly, Patty said, “I left knowing that all of the funds raised by Por Cristo are used effectively and efficiently. Anyone who supports Por Cristo can rest assured that the money is going to those that need it the most. We are grateful to Joe, Deborah, the Por Cristo staff and their partners for their warm welcome and introducing us to the wonderful Ecuadorians we met throughout our stay.”

Por Cristo wants you to know that the generosity shown by so many before, during, and after the night of the Tribute, is really making a difference!