Helping the less Fortunate through Health Care and Education
“We are ordinary people bound together by the two-fold commandment of Our Lord; Love of God and love of neighbour. For these reasons we give of ourselves in the cause of our brothers and sisters less fortunate than we are.” Fr. Andrew Cuschieri
The Canadian Association of the Order of Malta has developed a long-term relationship with a number of agencies supporting healthcare, education and social development in the area around Cochabamba, Bolivia. Thanks to the fund raising activities and leadership of a late member of the Canadian Association, Fr. Andrew Cuschieri, the town of Colcapirhua, on the outskirts of Cochabamba, benefits from a well functioning general hospital (Hospital Cuschieri) and two comprehensive schools. These institutions are governed by the Archdiocese of Cochabamba and supported by The Human Family in Christ Society, a Canadian lay organization founded by Fr. Cuschieri in 1989. The Society has been raising funds for its building projects, their ongoing maintenance and for the sponsorship of healthcare and educational needs of the poor. Relying entirely on volunteer staff, Fr. Cuschieri’s organization has no overhead: donations are received from across Canada, in the knowledge that all the funds raised will benefit the recipients directly.
Two schools and a hospital have been built in the district of Cochabamba, Bolivia. The schools, Colegio San Lorenzo and Sagrada Familia, teach students from kindergarten through the end of high school. The schools run in two shifts, the morning shift instruct secondary school students, while the afternoon shift elementary school students learn basic academic skills. The enrolment for both schools now exceeds 2,500, a testament to the quality of the academic experience.
The hospital in Colcapirhua is small but well equipped. It contains operating rooms, a delivery room, an emergency room, pediatric care rooms, offices for general medicine, an out-patient clinic, pharmacy, laboratory, dental office, x-ray room, ultra- sound, physiotherapy and ophthalmology departments. Much of the hospital’s equipment is donated surplus from Canadian hospitals and retiring doctors and dentists. Clinics are also run in outlying areas associated with the hospital.
The Canadian Association has been contributing to the sponsorship program for children in Colcapirhua, administered by the hospital, for the second consecutive year. Each sponsored child is ensured good nutrition, health care and education.In recognition of his work, Fr. Cuschieri was awarded the Order of the Condor (El Condor de Andes), the highest civil decoration issued by the Bolivian Republic.
Father Cuschieri was diagnosed with an untreatable form of lung cancer (malignant mesothelioma) before completing his plans for development of the Bolivian mission. After a rapid and debilitating deterioration of his health, he unexpectedly recovered. He was able to direct the completion of the hospital, of two schools, and of several churches, before his death two years later. Many of his close associates ad friends consider his recovery miraculous.
The scope of Fr. Cuschieri’s work was expanded in the Summer of 2000, when the Canadian Association sponsored two University of Toronto medical students and facilitated their participation in a pilot project for public education on Chagas disease in Cochabamba. Another member of the Canadian Association, Willem Langelaan, has successfully implemented an agricultural project in cooperation with Agroecologia Universidad Cochabamba (AGRUCO), an agricultural research and development institute at the San Simone University in Cochabamba. The objective of the project is to reduce hunger and poverty in farming communities in the Andean region of Bolivia. Women are empowered to use their traditional knowledge of seeds, planting and harvesting techniques that are essential to the thriving of their communities. The project is supported by a grant from CIDA.