Photo Above: Maria Alba (second from left) and three of her children who currently live at home.
Meet the Alonso family. They live in Mescales, a small, rural community in the impoverished country of Honduras. They experience the daily struggles of living in poverty just like every other family in their town, but they face an extra challenge. The matriarch of the family, Maria Alba, and five of her six children have all been diagnosed with diabetes. Her husband, the healthiest family member, provides their meager income milking cows on a nearby farm.
In the US, patients diagnosed with diabetes are instructed to manage their disease with a healthy diet, exercise, monitoring blood glucose, and taking specific medication. However, many of these options are not available to the Alonsos and other families living in poverty that suffer from chronic diseases. They do not have access to medications, blood glucose monitors, or a variety of nutritious fruits and vegetables needed for a healthy diet. At the moment, they are only able to grow papaya, corn, and beans as well as harvest eggs from their five chickens.
Rudis is Maria Alba’s oldest son, 26, and he currently lives at home. He left school in the sixth grade to earn money to support the family. When he was healthy, we worked in the agricultural fields as a laborer until six years ago when he began to experience immense pain in his legs. He visited a doctor who diagnosed him with diabetes. The disease has left him weak, thin, and unable to work. Some days he cannot get out of bed or even walk down the street. He suffers from diabetic ulcers and has been hospitalized twice this year in Tegucigalpa, the capital city, a two-hour bus ride away.
Kevin, another son, is 19 and was diagnosed with diabetes at age 12. Just last year, he dropped out of school due to pain in his legs which prevented him from walking the two miles to and from the school. He wants to become an agricultural engineer someday, but until he is able to go back to school he is maintaining the family’s crops of corn and papaya to help keep himself active. He also wishes to someday buy a soccer ball to help him strengthen his legs.
Yensi is one of the youngest in the family. She is 17 years old and was diagnosed with diabetes last year. Luckily, she has been able to stay in school. She wishes to become a nurse so she can help sick children in pain, like herself and her siblings.
Global Brigades, IRT’s on-site partner in Honduras, met the Alonso family in their home and learned of their family’s unique condition. IRT supplies Global Brigades with medicines and medical supplies every year. These shipments support mobile medical team reach remote communities without access to medical care. The Alonsos’ local community health clinic does not have medications, supplies, or the capacity to treat patients with chronic illnesses. For the first time, through Global Brigdes, Maria Alba, Rudis, Kevin, and Yensi were able to receive diabetes medications to keep their glucose levels under control. Rudis also received a cream and gauze to treat his diabetic ulcers.
Kevin has now taken on the important role of family “nurse”. He monitors everyone’s medications and checks their glucose levels regularly. Maria Alba hopes her children will be able to eventually regain their health and their strength so they can continue their schooling.
Despite their difficulties with their health, the family has bonded together to care for each other and have shown great love and support towards one another. Since beginning their medications, they now have hope that their health will soon begin to change for the better.