A needy woman in Bolivia receives help from Samaritan's Purse after her home was flooded.
Andrew James is the teams manager in the Samaritan’s Purse Bolivia office.
Natural disasters are devastating for the average person, but for someone who can barely walk, they are even more overwhelming.
As we navigated away from the community of Los Puentes after a distribution of hygiene kits, I couldn’t stop thinking about Francisca Cuellar’s life and how difficult the last two weeks must have been for her.
Francisca was one of the first people who greeted me when we arrived. The moment I saw her, I knew I would never forget her face. She had a severe disability and could walk only with the assistance of crutches.
“Someone like her should never have to go through something like this,” I thought. This lady had enough struggles in the course of her everyday life—let alone the additional challenges brought by the flood.
It all started six years ago when Francisca took a boat to buy supplies on the other side of the river. When she got off the ferry, she began walking up the slippery muddy bank behind a vehicle. The vehicle lost power and its motor stalled. In an instant, the driver lost control and the truck began sliding back. Everything happened so fast that Francisca had no time to react. Before she knew it, she was knocked to the ground and left unconscious.
When she woke up, she was lying in a hospital bed unaware of what had happened.
“The truck drove over your legs,” the doctor said. “We are doing all we can to help you.”
Francisca’s bones had been crushed like a bottle of glass. They were in pieces, and the doctors had little hope she would ever walk again. Francisca spent months on her back as she was submitted to a series of surgeries and treatments. She never recovered full mobility, but with time and the assistance of her crutches, she was finally able to get back on her feet.
“The accident was devastating,” she said. “At the same time, I was very thankful that God spared my life. I know I should have died that day.”
Francisca has spent the last six years adapting to her new condition. Activities that were once easy are now a challenge. Even menial tasks, such as fetching water, walking to the market, or working the land, became a struggle.
When the waters flooded her community, her already complicated life became even harder.
“I used to live over there,” Francisca said, pointing to a house that was halfway under water. “I had to move out of my house because the water rose to my waist.”
Francisca was forced to move into a makeshift tent built with the help of some friends.
“One of the greatest problems since the flood has been the lack of clean drinking water,” Francisca said. “We have been harvesting rainwater but run into problems when it doesn’t rain. We have no way of purifying water and are afraid of drinking it straight from the river.”
Francisca was thrilled when she received her hygiene kit. It included soap, detergent, toilet paper, toothpaste, toothbrushes, and other basic hygiene items. She also received a jerry can and two bottles of chlorine solution to purify the water. Now she has a steady source of safe drinking water—rain or no rain.
“This is not my first time in the community”, said Jason Edgerton, country director of Samaritan’s Purse Bolivia, as we distributed the kits. “But it is the first time under these circumstances, and it breaks my heart to see what the flood has done.”
It’s hard to imagine that tonight, while I sleep in my comfortable bed, Francisca will be sleeping on a board in her mosquito-infested shelter. There is so much need; it is so difficult to know where to start. We simply hope that these gifts encourage the people of Bolivia and remind them that there is hope in Jesus Christ.