Maria came to see me in the health centre suffering from gastritis and helicobacter infection. She needed to take a course of medicine three times a day for a week. I sent her away with the medication and was surprised when she came back a week later not much better.
"Well, to be honest with you Doctor, you told me to take the medicines after meals. When I have had something to eat I have taken the medicine, but often I do not have any food to eat, so then I did not take the medicine."
I was just treating a symptom. The real problem was lack of food, which in turn was due to a lack of work.
Here in Ecuador there are still many people who if they do not work, will not eat. People around us work in the fields cultivating bananas, manioc and maize. Some days they have work. Some days they do not. If they are fully employed they may earn $65 a week. Many have six children or more to buy food for. I doo not know how they make the moeny stretch to buy their rice, eggs and tuna fish. I know they do not have any money left to buy clothes. People never go on holiday in their lifetime. People work every day they can. Even those in full time employment have only 2 weeks annual leave and many choose to work those as well.
If I am honest I have been known to moan about having to go to work on a Monday morning. Sometimes I have taken having a job and an income for granted, or viewed work as a necessary evil: something to be endured so that holidays and weekends can be enjoyed. Meeting women like Maria has changed that.
Maria is a single mother of six children. She can only find work washing clothes which pays very badly. She relies on the benevolence of her neighbours to survive. She would love to have a full time, permanent job: it is an impossible dream. She does not have the education to secure one. Every job that comes her way is a precious gift, which means there will be food on the table that night for her children.
I am so thankful to have work: work I love and enjoy. Work which means I can help others as I gain an income to raise my children. It is a gift from God.