National Hispanic Heritage Month: FFTP Donor Expands Care at Children’s Cancer Center in El Salvador
COCONUT CREEK, Fla. (Oct. 4, 2023) – Children from impoverished families in El Salvador will continue to receive lifesaving treatments for cancer, thanks to a generous Food For The Poor (FFTP) donor from Estero, Fla., whose faith inspired him to help.
Until now, only one palliative care doctor has been available to treat all patients at the Ayúdame a Vivir Foundation’s Pediatric Oncology Program in San Salvador. More nurses are needed to administer chemotherapy and medicines and provide basic care.
FFTP donor James Bala, who previously provided funds to assist the cancer center, is making a new gift that will strengthen the care and directly help more than 1,500 children and 74 staff.
The gift from Bala will cover the salaries of five nurses and one palliative care physician for one year plus food and kitchen supplies, hygiene products, stable internet service to input patient information and three months of electric bills. Bala learned about the charity from his wife, Marietta, who has supported other FFTP projects over the years, including a food center in Guatemala, and some projects jointly with her husband.
“In our later years, my wife and I are inspired to serve our Lord by helping people in need of care and love,” said Bala, who is retired. “Food For The Poor gives us perfect alignment to partner with it in wonderfully impactful projects such as Ayúdame a Vivir.”
El Salvador’s health system historically has faced a decrease in public health investment, especially in preventive and primary care.
Access to health care is low due to high costs. In the case of noncommunicable diseases, medical services do not typically cover all patient expenses, and private medical care is inaccessible to a significant percentage of the population.
“In our wealthy country, I believe every child fighting cancer gets the best of care as it should be,” Bala said. “In poorer countries, this is not always possible, but these precious children and their families should know that everything is being done to comfort and heal them.”
Alexis was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia last year.
Since then, he began his treatment at Ayúdame a Vivir, where he stays for 15 days at a time.
The nurses say Alexis is a “playful and smiley baby.” Alexis and his family are grateful to receive their treatments at no cost, thanks to donors’ generous support.
In 2021, Cristina was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia. She has been in treatment for a year and a half while she keeps growing, developing and learning. Her teacher at the medical center reports she has turned out to be an excellent student.
FFTP Executive Vice President and Chief Development Officer Natalie Carlisle said medical care and treatment are not always available in the countries where the charity helps and access is even more difficult for families living in extreme poverty.
“Donors like James Bala are making a real difference in the lives of families who struggle every day just to survive,” Carlisle said. “By choosing to put his faith into action, lives of children with cancer are being saved and transformed.”
Since 1996, FFTP has worked in El Salvador through several partners, including New Horizons For The Poor Foundation, Fundación Salvadoreña para la Salud (Salvadorian Foundation for Health), FEPADE (the nonprofit Salvadoran Business Foundation for Educational Development) and Ayúdame a Vivir.
In 2008, Ayúdame a Vivir, which means “help me live,” built its pediatric cancer medical center, which helped reduce early mortality due to overcrowding from 10 percent to 3 percent.
Today, the center offers two areas of care. A hospitalization unit can treat 42 patients simultaneously, offering medical treatment, around-the-clock medical and nursing care and a nutritious diet. An outpatient unit provides daily chemotherapy treatment to patients.
In the past few years, the center has provided comprehensive care to help families remain in the program during treatment. It offers nutritional care for its hospitalized patients at no cost to families.
Seventy percent of the treated children live in poverty, and 40 percent are in extreme poverty, with families unable to feed them properly. Patients receive three meals and two snacks daily, with almost 3,000 meals served every month.
The foundation’s pediatric oncology center has a survival rate of 70 percent, comparable to those in higher-income countries, and it’s one of the four most cost-effective global programs, as reported by St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. To learn more about other FFTP projects like this, or to provide a gift, please visit www.foodforthepoor.org/urgent-projects.
Food For The Poor is celebrating National Hispanic Heritage Month with a Facebook challenge and inviting everyone to join a special Facebook group where you can participate in fun and engaging posts about Hispanic culture. Additionally, there is the option to join in with fundraising for Latin American children. Join the challenge by clicking: https://www.facebook.com/groups/878738036917877/
Food For The Poor, one of the largest international relief and development organizations in the nation, does much more than feed millions of hungry children and families living in poverty primarily in 17 countries in Latin America and the Caribbean. This interdenominational Christian ministry provides emergency relief assistance, water, medicine, educational materials, homes, support for vulnerable children, care for the aged, skills training and micro-enterprise development assistance. For more information, please visit www.FoodForThePoor.org.