I had to get to the clinic early this morning, so I told Gonzalo to meet me after the cataract surgeries were finished.
The theatre is quite small and there’s only one room used for operations, which limits the clinic’s capacity somewhat but I was able to go in and take a few photographs.
After breakfast I met up with Gonzalo and we returned to Aprecia to interview the Theatre Manager and some of the other staff members involved in the surgical unit of the hospital, including Fernando – one of Aprecia’s Trainee Surgeons (pictured).
Gonzalo met me again at the hotel from where we were then driven back to the clinic.
This morning there were plenty of new patients coming into the clinic and they kindly came to talk to me while they waited to be seen. They all told me about how grateful they were to be receiving either cheap or sometimes even free medical treatment and life changing surgeries.
My fourth day in Boliva saw me visit a clinic called ‘Aprecia’ in Santa Cruz de la Sierra which caters for the needs of people with various visual impairments including cataracts and blindness through to diabetes, glaucoma and eye injuries.
My translator, Gonzalo, was blinded eight years ago as a result of diabetes and as we walk together in the morning from the hotel to the clinic, he fills me in on life in and around Santa Cruz.
I woke up for my second day in sunny Riberalta and braved a motorbike taxi ride back to the ARCA Maranatha Deaf School where I met with Ricky – one of their teachers.
Ricky was the first person to go through ARCA and to go right through High School with the help of a translator. He now teaches at the school and his enthusiasm has helped Andreas Kolb recruit many new members of staff and provide out-reach into the surrounding community.
With Carol translating Ricky’s sign language, she helped me understand just how hard the staff at ARCA have worked to maintain the school and to help its pupils.
After another early start, I managed to get my flight on to Riberalta, which saw me travelling further north in Bolivia. My next stop would be the Arca Maranatha Deaf School.
When I arrived, I was met by the head of the school, Andreas Kolb (who is deaf himself) and his assistant Carol. They were thoughtful in coming to the airport to welcome me because I didn’t realise that car taxis are unheard of in Riberalta. I would have had to balance my suitcase and camera equipment on the back of a motorbike, so I fully appreciated their offer of a lift!
The school was lovely – teaching around 30-40 pupils in the morning classes and running workshops and classes in the evenings for the older students, parents and trainee teachers.
I arrived early in the morning at Trinidad in Bolivia, and after dumping my bags at the hotel I went straight out into the muggy tropical air to visit the first of the projects that I had been sent to report on.
The Clinic wasn’t too far out of town and I bounced along in an old Nissan Sunny to where the new hospital had just been built, complete with an Operating Theatre that provides a much needed service of advanced medical care in the area.
The clinic saves money by making ear moulds that a local dentist helped to design. He came up with a way of making them locally using his knowledge as an orthodontist. His design has helped the clinic to cut the cost of importing them in from elsewhere.