Bania is small for her age and visibly fragile. She struggles to walk and so her father carries her into a meeting with Puente de Solidaridad social workers at their office in Cochabamba. The little girl barely speaks and has a frightened expression on her face as the social workers talk with her father Mario, and aunt, Paulina. The social workers listen attentively to the painful saga of what the child has been through in her short life. Until recently, Bania was living in an unstable environment with her alcoholic mother in the city of Tarija. Eventually, Bania’s mother left her with the girl’s father and disappeared. Bania doesn’t speak much about what she has been through. Her situation is complicated by malnutrition and congenital heart problems. Years of neglect have caused her health problems to come to the point of crisis. She suffers from high fevers, colds, lack of oxygen, and agitation. She is unable to go to school and spends most of her time in bed or in the hospital.

Bania requires a level of care that is untenable for her father, a bricklayer in Santa Cruz. He works all day and lives in a rental room in a neighborhood far from the city. He has basic services and an income that fluctuates and yet he does everything he can to support Bania with his meager income. During the interview with Puente social workers, Bania’s aunt Paulina shared:

Seeing her like this, I have agreed to help my brother raise his daughter. For now, she is with me in Sucre. When she gets better, she will go to live with her dad. For the love of God, we ask you to help us save our little girl’s life. We will be eternally grateful.

Paulina has hired a lawyer to address the legal issues of the child’s case and is doing everything she can to find support for Bania’s medical bills. Paulina and Bania have traveled from Sucre to Cochabamba for specialized medical care. Cardiologists diagnosed Bania with atrial septal defect (ASD), a condition characterized by a gap in the wall of the upper portion of the heart. This gap disrupts the flow of oxygen-rich blood and can lead to lower-than-normal oxygen levels in the arterial blood that supplies the brain, organs, and tissues. As a result of this condition, Bania also suffers from abnormally high blood pressure in the arteries of the lungs. Her heart and lungs have to work overtime to compensate for the defect.

Through the help of Puente de Solidaridad, community support, and the generosity of Dharma Social Projects, Bania was able receive medical attention at the Belga Hospital in Cochabamba. On August 3rd, Dr. Erika Perez performed the surgery to close the hole in Bania’s heart. At present, she remains in therapy and is continuing to regain her strength. The Puente de Solidaridad team continues to accompany and support Mario and Paulina as they strive to do all they can to build a new and more positive life for their beautiful little girl.

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