On Friday, the volunteers of the Health&Help charity organization opened the doors of their newly constructed clinic to more than 15,000 residents of the Guatemalan village of Chuinahtahuyup and the surrounding settlements.
Sputnik Mundo was able to talk to the team about their project and find out what was behind the initiative.
Construction of the clinic finished on July 16, 2016. It was the dream of Viktoria Valikova, founder of the Health&Help charity project, which was born while she was travelling around Asia in the beginning of 2013, "seeing people, sleeping in the streets in cardboard boxes, eating food out of trash."
"I chose Guatemala randomly from a very long list of places where a doctor was needed. And I wasn’t sorry. By the time we landed, Guatemala had already found a place in my heart: I fell in love with this country, with its mountains, forests, volcanos, lakes, and, later with the people," says her story on the Health&Help's website.
One year and seven months after the start of the construction, Viktoria, a Russian doctor specializing in infectious diseases, seemed to be the happiest person at the opening ceremony of the newly constructed clinic.
"I am very happy! It is impossible to find the words to express it! It is something bigger than just a mere building for us: it is like a child whom we granted the gift of life," she told Sputnik's Spanish website Sputnik Mundo.
However it is not the end yet, she added, it is only the beginning; the clinic is finished however the team is yet to start working in earnest.
Viktoria and her team further told Sputnik about the numerous difficulties and hurdles they encountered during the construction. The clinic opened several months behind the schedule, they said, due to the differences in the way of life between the Russian volunteers and the local population.
"We have not taken into account the high pace of their work and complicated financial situation of the local residents, who simply could not skip their work in the field to be able to help us with the construction. It delayed the opening of the clinic for several months," Viktoria said.
Apart from the absent workforce, it was the unexpectedly cold weather of the Guatemalan mountains which complicated the construction and other logistic details, such as the slow local postal service.
Sergio Castillo, a young surgeon from Guatemala and Viktoria's right-hand man in the project told Sputnik that the experience he gained in Chuinahtahuyup has become a powerful source for his personal and professional growth.
"I have got a clear understanding of the real situation in the country's health care, social, political and cultural sectors not only of Guatemala, but of the other countries where our volunteers come from," he said.
"For me, as a doctor, it was a very useful practice as various habits, traditions and environment could cause different diseases. With this in mind, we are now able to prevent many diseases and help our patients using the positive experience of other cultures, for example, Russian," he added.
Sergio seemed pleased to note that during the construction he was working not only as a doctor but sometimes as a builder, a driver, a negotiator, a plumber, an engineer, a carpenter and many more roles.
"It is very useful for a doctor to put oneself in other people's shoes to better understand the diseases of our patients," he concluded.
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