About the project
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 caregiver and medical attention.
In three mobile children's surgeries, the Street Doctors in three teams, consisting of doctors, dentists and paramedics, look after the physical and psychological well-being of helpless children free of charge. They are there for them, listen, give a hug and help where they can.
Hardly imaginable for us: In Bolivia's prisons, many children also live in conditions that are unworthy of life - the Street Doctors' outpatient clinics also take care of their health.
Our team for the street children
The Bolivian medical team consists of three doctors, two dentists and three drivers, all of whom are trained paramedics and also provide medical assistance. Some of our team members have a similar background as the young patients. They come from poor backgrounds or have lived on the streets themselves. This gives the street children a sense of understanding and they can have the necessary trust in the team.
Ana Maria Iriondo is responsible for the organisation and coordination of the Street Doctors. The medical director of the travelling paediatric practices is Dr Marcelo Mauricio Alarcon Aruquipa. Our managing director of the Bolivian foundation on site is Adriana Rivas Volgger.
But it is not only the local team that takes care of the health of the street children. Again and again, M.A.T.E.'s travel to La Paz and help to improve the local medicine with their knowledge.
What we do
- Medical care for approx. 300 children daily
- Dental care
- Drug administration
- Spiritual care for the street children
- Arrangement of care and home places
- Further treatment at Hospital Arco Iris in severe cases
- Care for neglected children in problem districts
- Health Check Ups
- Treatment for diseases
- In case of need: Arrangement of care and home places
- Medical care for children living with their parents in prison
- Health Check Ups
- Spiritual care
In 2020, Artemed Stiftung took over the work of the travelling paediatric practices under the name "Street Doctors". We have set up our own independent foundation in Bolivia for this purpose, which enables us to manage our help for the street children there in a transparent way. The existing staff of the travelling children's clinics have employment contracts with the Bolivian branch of Artemed Stiftung, we also take care of the disbursement of all funds directly and have full responsibility for our outpatient clinics. We continue to work closely with the Fundacion Arco Iris and the Hospital Arco Iris, which continues to provide us with all medicines free of charge.
Every day, 12-year-old José sits on the streets of La Paz and shines shoes - masked. Because shining shoes is considered one of the lowest jobs in Bolivia and he doesn't want to be recognised under any circumstances. José was born in a corrugated iron hut in one of the narrow side streets in La Paz. His mother was only 14 years old when he was born and his father was a violent alcoholic. José bears scars on his body from the many assaults. He ran away from his parents when he was 9 years old because he couldn't stand it any more. He feels unwanted - neglected - unloved. José tries to earn a living by shining shoes and to escape from the misery into which he was born. But what he earns is not enough. He suffers from hunger and is traumatised. He numbs himself with drugs.
With the harsh winters in the Bolivian city of La Paz, severe colds and fevers are added to the freezing cold. José has often sought help from the Street Doctors and always received it. The team cares for the street children quickly and lovingly, and in cases of hardship like José's, they try to place the girls and boys in children's and young people's homes. We can hardly imagine the poverty and misery of the children. One thing is certain: we have to help the children so that they have a chance for a healthy and, if possible, happy future.