Health&Help is a non-profit humanitarian aid organization with a clinic in rural Guatemala and plans to expand to other areas in South and Central America. The project was founded in 2015 by Viktoria Valikova, MD, an infectious disease specialist from Ufa, Russia, who has been working in Central America since 2014, and Karina Basharova, the CEO of the project. Construction for the first clinic began in 2016 and its doors opened in early 2017. Health&Help staff includes volunteer physicians and other medical professionals, as well as locally hired staff in an effort to create jobs and empower local community members.
The first clinic was built in the village of Chuinajtayub (municipio de Momostenango, Totonicapan, Guatemala). Health&Help clinic is the only health center in this area; the nearest ambulatory clinic is in Momostenango, and hospitals of Quetzaltenango and Huehuetenango are several hours away and not accessible due to the time, distance and cost of travel. Health&Help clinic provides health services to a population 20,000 of people, including the surrounding villages. Construction began in 2016 and the clinic’s doors opened on February 24, 2017. This site maintains multiple permanent staff positions and is open year-round. Health&Help has plans to expand in the near future to other areas in Central and South America using a similar service model.
In 2014 Victoria Valikova, MD, the founder of the project, graduated from the Institute of Tropical Medicine Antwerp, Belgium, majoring in "Tropical Medicine and Health Organization in countries with limited resources". In connection with the specifics of the profession, a large part of her training was devoted to the problems of developing nations, non-governmental organizations and the development of medical infrastructure in those countries. Out of the list of places where doctors and nurses were needed most, Valikova chose Guatemala due to the overwhelming poverty and lack of health services. There are no clinics or ambulances in rural areas, and those areas are far from big cities. Additionally there is no municipal transport to get people to the cities to seek medical treatment. Traditional medicine in Guatemala is generally at the most basic level; typically only healers and local midwives.
After returning to Russia, Valikova commenced work on the project. In Ufa, Russia, she met Karina Basharova, who became a CEO and the driving force of the project. Together they developed the idea to build a clinic, found volunteers through social networks, and raised money on the crowdfunding platforms Boomstarter and Generosity. Soon they found the architects Mikhail and Elizaveta Shishin, who previously built a school in Nepal, and who developed the Health&Help clinic's layout.
In June 2016 the construction process was started, and over 35 volunteers from all over the world came to help. Local people participated in the construction of the clinic as well. During the construction the doctors were seeing the patients in a small room at the local school, and the patient care was provided consistently despite the lack of space and shortage of resources. The construction was finished on February 24, 2017, and the clinic opened its doors for patients immediately. Today Health&Help is opened 24/7 for emergencies, and 8 hours a day/6 days a week as an ambulatory center for non-emergencies. The staff of the clinic sees from 40 to 70 patients a day, providing preventive care, delivering babies, doing ambulatory surgery, distributing medications and contraception, and educating local people about diabetes, hypertension management, child malnutrition, infectious diseases, and many other topics.
The principles of the work
The medical staff of the clinic and the volunteers, who help the project remotely, work salary free. Physician and non-physician volunteers come from all over the world. The assignments last between a few weeks to eighteen months, and provide volunteers with a breadth of experiences, including direct hands on medical help, medical education, helping with the operations of the clinic, and immersion into local culture. Specialists and non-specialist volunteers who are able to commit to a long stay are invited free of charge, and provided housing, transportation, and three hot meals a day. There is a modest fee for short term visitors and students to put a limit on the number of temporary volunteers. The goal of the project is to create and maintain an ongoing relationship between the staff and the local people, and foster development of jobs occupied by locals.
- The rules of the tropical doctor's life (in russian)
- A part of the project presentation in Moscow (in russian)
- Tripsecrets about Health&Help project (in russian)
- The interview for the magazine "I Pelmeshka" (in russian)