Changing Lives

5

Hope through IMAHelps

Since IMAHelps was established in 2000, the group has organized 12 medical humanitarian missions to some of the most impoverished areas of Latin America and Asia. In their mission to Estelí, Nicaragua in August 2011, IMAHelps volunteers provided care to 12,277 patients.

5

Santos de Cruz Meza

For 67 years, Santos de Cruz Meza was the neighborhood pariah. Born with a cleft lip in a poor village in Nicaragua, her deformity worsened with age, twisting her nose while the top of her mouth produced a frightening jumble of rotting, unusable teeth.

“She wouldn’t dare go outside without a towel wrapped around her face,” said Guadalupe González Cruz, her 22-year-old daughter. “Everyone made fun of her.”

Moved by her suffering, IMAHelps volunteers removed Cruz’s teeth and shaved her maxilla so that she could be fitted with dentures. Then they sewed her cleft lip shut, closing the fissure that had subjected her to nearly seven decades or torment and ridicule.

“The first thing I’m going to do when I get home,” Santos de Cruz Meza said after surgery, “is take a walk down the street, just like everybody else.”

4

Darwin Bolaños

Darwin Bolaños was a 35-year-old chauffeur in Ecuador when he lost both of his legs from the knee down in a traffic accident that devastated his family, particularly his 10-year-old daughter and six-year-old son.

“To see him go from being very healthy and fine one day to missing both legs the next was very hard,” said Anita Tello, Darwin’s wife. “It was very hard on our children, too. At first, they were just happy to see him alive. But after that, it was very hard on them. I had problems with my son in particular. It was very hard for him to accept the fact that he may not be able to play soccer and other games with his dad like the other kids could do with their dads.”

3

Nataly Benavidez

Nataly Benavidez was only 6 years old when fireworks exploded in her home in Ecuador and burned nearly half of her body, horribly scaring her arms, stomach and legs. The accident was so devastating to Nataly’s self esteem that she became a depressed and reclusive child who never left her home.

IMAHelps volunteers changed Nataly’s outlook on life and gave her new hope for the future by performing a series of skin graft operations that have restored her movement so that she can play like a normal kid again.

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