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CU students helping Guatemalans

6:39 PM, Feb 17, 2013   |    comments
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KUSA - Much like the cloud that frequently lingers around the nearby volcano, inequality and poverty tend to linger around the Guatemalan town of El Pomal. 

"We are in the Trifinio region of Guatemala in the southwest corner of the country," explains University of Colorado medical school student Lauren Mehner. "If we can do anything to build up the basic level of sanitation and health, then we should."

More than half of the children she sees on her trip will have parasites, and even more will have anemia. Both, she knows, are preventable diseases.
It's why the $1 million donation from the Guatemala-based Jose Fernando Bolanos Foundation could ultimately prove to be so critical for the area.

Jose Cordova Lopez works where just about everyone in the area works: a nearby banana plantation. The plantation not only provides a food that is a staple of the American kitchen counter, but also a livelihood for hundreds of the residents of El Pomal. 

"When my children get sick we take them to the nearest health clinic, but they often don't have the medicine we need," Lopez said.

"The standard of living for these people is very precarious," explains Gustavo Bolanos, the CEO of what was once his father's banana business. His company's donation is designed to keep medical school students and educators at the University of Colorado School of Medicine on the ground for years to come.

The donation will help build a clinic, a research lab, housing complex, and conference center near the Banasa banana plantation. It also has the potential to turn on its head the way donations flow in and out of the developing world.

"Unfortunately most of the money [from the north] comes though the [Guatemalan] government and that money can get lost, you know. So you don't get any impact. In this case we are going to be assured that every dollar we put in is going to help somebody," Bolanos said.

Dr. Edwin Asturias, a native of Guatemala and pediatrician in Colorado, will help spearhead the developing project on the ground. He says medical students will benefit greatly from their visits.

"To get an experience outside to see and test for themselves what the life of the [Guatemalan] people is like, what diseases they suffer, and how they can apply the knowledge they've gained will help immensely," he said.

(KUSA-TV © 2013 Multimedia Holdings Corporation)

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