Damien’s House, is a hospital and nursing home for people with Hansen’s disease, also known as Leprosy. (Just to clear the air: all the patients at Damien’s house have been treated, and are not contagious). It is a progressive infectious disease that deteriorates the peripheral nervous system, which diminishes their sensation in their extremities and causes unintentional injuries.
Damien’s House is run by Sister Anne; a small woman in stature, with permanent smile lines, a twinkle in her eye, and a heart set on helping humanity. Sister Anne also firmly believes that people should live and die with dignity, which led to her crucial role in the revitalization of Damien’s House.
The residents of Damien’s House have all suffered from Hansen’s disease, a population that has been neglected and ignored because of the stigma associated with their condition. The besmirchment is so severe that the majority of the residence’s family members do not visit, even if they live within the city of Guayaquil, making our presence that much more impactful. We toured the women’s wing first and before we reached the men’s wing emotions were running high. The gratitude that the men and women felt towards our us was overwhelming. Tears were shed when one of the woman expressed how seeing our faces gave her a new and youthful energy, then she insisted on meeting each of us and personally thank us for visiting.
The overwhelming happiness and joy emitting from the patience and workers made the entire experience a Utopia. Words cannot adequately describe what happened at Damien’s House which I suppose is what makes the experience so special and unique.
Hogard de Cristo, http://www.hogardecristo.org.ec/, is a nongovernment organization situated in the suburbs that provides sustainable housing and schooling at extremely low cost for low income families. This organization does a number of things to aid the community they’re situated in, such as: offer micro credit, helping individuals (generally groups of women) who don’t have any collateral to get smaller loans that they are able to pay back within a few months; educational programs, such as the school Colegio 20 De Abril that myself and other students will be volunteering at starting Friday; and numerous other small organizations who have all collected together towards the same cause. Through a partnership through a local business, Hogard de Cristo is able to teach women how to grow fish (yes, there is a specific process to grow fish); farm plants for medication; and how to reduce waste by finding new creative ways to reuse their resources. For example: water from a fish tank can be reused to feel the plants and provide them with nutriments, then the water d rips down into the soil and then drip back into the fish tank again. Hogard de Cristo gave us a tour of their assembly line, explained the different materials used, how they construct each piece of a house, and how it is shipped to its destination. It was quite interesting to see the happenings of the house before we assembled it, Hogad de Cristo is the organization that is providing us with the materials to help build the houses later on this week.