27 May 2022

Who actually manages the Street Doctors?

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Thousands of children fight for survival on the streets of Bolivia's capital La Paz every day. They are often defenceless against hunger and abuse - and when illnesses come along, they have no chance without a carer and medical care. To help here, the Artemed Stiftung runs three travelling surgeries that look after the physical and psychological well-being of helpless children and homeless people free of charge. But who manages the project on the ground, ensures that it runs smoothly and reports on problems and successes to us in Germany? Adriana Rivas-Volgger is the managing director of the Bolivian branch of Artemed Stiftung in La Paz and manages the Street Doctors project on site.

This is how she describes her view of her country and her work: La Paz is a unique city. It is located in the Andes at an altitude of 3,600 metres and is full of contrasts: within a few hours you pass through cold, dry and damp areas; you encounter wealth and poverty. Adriana herself has the great good fortune to lead a privileged life in Bolivia, which does not correspond at all to the reality in Bolivia. She has enjoyed a very good education, went to Germany to study and now lives in a 'rich' district of La Paz. Perhaps it is precisely this good fortune that prompts her to work for the needy and poor in her home country. She herself says: "I also see my privileges as a responsibility to help [...]. I am very happy to be able to work for the Artemed Stiftung . Because it is not easy to find a job where you can really make a difference for people." She is particularly concerned about the homeless and street children.

These people not only lack the financial means to afford medical care, but are also excluded and frowned upon by society. Adriana therefore sees the help she is able to provide together with the Street Doctors as more than just health care. "It is about much more than treating physical ailments: With the Street Doctors, patients not only have a break from daily life and stress, but also a relief and a safe environment where they can talk about their worries and find advice," says Adriana. In particular, the fact of how much gratitude and helpfulness she experiences in her work, and the opportunity to give children the chance to feel welcomed and understood, fills her with great joy.

She was particularly moved by the story of a group of eleven children - all siblings: the Street Doctors team knew each child by name and knew their age. Each child was equally important and was addressed and acknowledged individually: the worries of the eldest brother, who was in charge, were just as welcome and listened to with the same patience as those of the 8-year-old sister. It did the children an incredible amount of good to be seen and to receive attention.

Every day Adriana reports to us about the missions in La Paz and sends us impressive pictures, some of which shock us, but most of which touch us and also make us a little proud. Last year (2021), more than 14,000 patients were treated by the Street Doctors. An achievement for which we would like to express our sincere thanks to Adriana and her team.

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