Posted by: calloftheandes | October 30, 2009

Charity Fund: helping to meet Ecuadorians’ healthcare needs

Little Jhony (Johnny) Chuin Vargas is getting fat.

The bane of many, weight gain is blessed news for Jhony. At 4 months old, his plumpness connotes health despite the odds formerly against him. He began life in Ecuador’s Amazon rainforest with a brain/facial malformation called frontonasal encephalocele.

Jhony needed medical attention, but the geographic barriers to care were only outdistanced by what seemed like economic impossibilities. That’s where Patti Sue Arnold and the Love Fund at Hospital Vozandes-Quito (HVQ) were used by God to divert Jhony’s life from pain to gain.

jhony,mom, uncle
His Achuar parents, having few economic resources, took him to Casa de Fe (House of Faith) in the jungle town of Shell. He was then referred to HCJB Global Hands’ Hospital Vozandes-Shell and finally taken to HVQ for an operation by neurosurgeon Dr. Hugo Velasco. The hospital’s Fondo de Amor (Love Fund) paid $2,668 of his nearly $9,000 bill. (photo shows Jhony, mother and uncle)

“He’s doing great [and gaining weight],” Arnold said. “I have a therapist who comes two days a week and he says as far as he can see his development is that of a normal 4-month-old.”Jhony, Patti

Jhony’s case represents tens of thousands of patients helped with outpatient or hospitalization costs. The concept dates back to 1949 when Canadian physician Dr. Paul Roberts envisioned a full-service hospital to serve Ecuadorians of all social classes, regardless of their ability to pay. In fiscal year 2007-2008 alone, the fund helped 8,014 HVQ patients with $323,451.

The cost of private healthcare is prohibitive for the average Ecuadorian. Many rely on the country’s social security system or government hospitals, but the realities can be harsh and stark. A mid-2006 editorial in the Quito newspaper, El Comercio, spoke of “reluctance—even fear” of going for care at a government hospital. That same year, Ecuadorian President Rafael Correa campaigned on healthcare improvements as part of his platform.

At HVQ a young man ducks his head into the small office to the side of the information desk and asks for help with a pharmacy bill. “I used to sell people coffee to drink, but then my thermoses got stolen,” he said. In the tough Quito neighborhood of El Camal, his family of six needs money to fill the prescription, plus some used clothes.

Social workers Zonnia Robalino and Kely Cadena approved his request, sending him to the pharmacy with a note. It’s a tough job for them and co-worker Margot Soria, hearing the pleas, reading the faces and issuing funds for outpatient care. “We need to play ‘Sherlock Holmes’ sometimes [checking out patients’ stories],” Robalino says with a smile.
Financial help, used clothing and a small room to stay overnight at the back of the hospital—all offered by social workers to patients in need. Many are also referred to the hospital’s weekly health fair. When it comes to more expensive surgeries, a committee reviews applications for the funds and determines how patients are helped financially.

“The physician is key to helping us know how much longer a patient’s hospitalization will last and when, and if, a transfer to another hospital is possible,” Robalino said. “God gave us and continues to give us this responsibility. It’s God’s money and we answer to Him. We need wisdom in directing and administrating this fund.”

That same balancing blend of responsibility and fulfillment is expressed by HVQ Financial Director Geovanny Suntaxy. “This is a great blessing—the greatest in my job,” he said, adding that while “each case is really painful, we’ve been a part of the gospel” in helping people. A percentage of the physicians’ fees on HVQ-generated cases goes to the Fondo de Amor while those physicians may also bring in patients from their private practices, according to Suntaxy.

Now recovering at Casa de Fe, Jhony is seen twice a week by a therapist. “While his father remained in the jungle, Arnold said that “the mother and uncle were very excited to see how well he was doing.”

“Achuar don’t smile in photos,” she added. “But they cried tears of joy when we told them he didn’t need a shunt and should develop normally.”


  1. […] at HVQ, a ministry of Reach Beyond and presented her need for financial help to the hospital’s Fondo de Amor (Charity Fund) […]

  2. […] for nearly 30 years. Martha arrived in the country in 1973, initially working at the mission’s Hospital Vozandes-Quito and in mobile medical clinics before moving to Guaranda where she taught village health promoters […]

  3. […] of three siblings back in Coca with his mom. I was happy to tell the father of the Fondo de Amor (charity fund) for those who can’t afford […]

  4. […] (overnight shelter) was established in 1950 by HCJB Global physician Dr. Paul Roberts, an effort to provide indigenous Ecuadorians with affordable care has continued. The ensuing decades have added Hospital Vozandes-Shell (known in Ecuador as Hospital […]

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