Bay Area nonprofit helping to transform health of poorest residents in Peru

Saturday, July 2, 2016
Bay Area nonprofit transforms health of poorest residents in Peru
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A Bay Area nonprofit is making life-changing differences in the health of the poorest people in Peru and Latin America.

EMERYVILLE, Calif. (KGO) -- A Bay Area nonprofit is making life-changing differences in the health of the poorest people in Peru and Latin America. ABC7's Cheryl Jennings went to Peru with Vida USA to see how it works.

Vida USA gets helps from Bay Area hospitals, medical clinics and individuals to gather surplus medical equipment and medicine, which the charity ships overseas. This helps provide free clinics to people who might never see a doctor. The searing poverty is in a country better known for its stunning beauty.

The name of the nation Peru evokes its rich history. It's the location of one of the seven wonders of the world high in the Andes Mountains.

People think of the beautiful Machu Picchu area when they think of Peru. Tourists can see traditional methods of cleaning and dying wool, from llamas, or alpacas out in the country.

They can enjoy authentic Peruvian music. Or, in the big city of Lima, capital of Peru, visitors can see museums with incredible artifacts. Or, they can try to get close to the metal gates at the presidential palace and watch the changing of the guard.

Visitors can head to the well-maintained zoo and see the big cats, or other critters that come out to play. There are so many interesting sights to make tourists grab their cameras.

But, then, there's a sobering reality, that locals and visitors will never see.

In Pamplona Alto, 40,000 people live in shacks on the mountain. There are dirt roads, no running water, no indoor toilets, no sewage system. Kids play with broken toys in contaminated dirt.

Water trucks come in several times a week and sell it to those who can afford it. It's stored in unsanitary conditions. It's a harsh life, but Pamplona residents are getting help that can transform their lives, thanks to a Bay Area organization called Vida USA.

This undated image shows patients getting treated in Peru with the help of Bay Area based Vida USA.

A free health clinic is the region that's coordinated between Vida's chapter in Peru and the government's Ministry of Health.

People need to be healthy to work.

"We're going to speak to in general to 500 to 600 patients in a day. It's a great job," said Doctor Edgar Ruiz.

"What VIDA does is we bring all the supplies and equipment they need on an ongoing basis," said Adam See, Vida's executive director.

Ramon Alzamora is with Intercorp, a banking organization giving major logistical support to Vida's work.

"One of the most important tasks we have as a country, is to be a healthy country," said Ramon Alzamora or Intercorp in Lima Peru. "Everything is oriented to allow you to participate in a modern economy and its benefits."

Education will make the difference, but, children need vaccinations to get an ID to enroll in school. Vida and the government provide these clinics on a regular basis.

Vida USA collects supplies from Bay Area hospitals, and other facilities at its warehouse in Emeryville, California.

"This is the same supplies used in every hospital in the u.s. and this is surplus supplies that they're clearing out of their inventory," See said.

Then Vida ships containers to its warehouse in Lima, and, then, distributes it to more than 80 hospitals, clinics and organizations.

Haydee Rodriguez pastor co-founded Vida with her late husband Carlos 25 years ago. They're both from Peru, but came to live in the bay area. They saw a desperate need to help the poor in Peru.

"I never thought it would be 25 years. At that time, I had my own art gallery, here in San Francisco for 15 years. But the work was so hard, I had to close my gallery. I had to choose,"

It's life-saving work that's steadily changing the nation.

"But I am sure, in not more than 20 years, we are going to beat poverty for sure," Rodriguez said.

If you would like to volunteer for Vida USA in Emeryville, or donate, click here.