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Fundación Alma, a non-profit NGO, uses a train as a makeshift doctor’s office to treat children in poor villages of Argentina.
Mónica Carrizo, a volunteer radiologist doubling as a clown, entertains dozens of children who visit the Alma Train for free medical treatment. Known as a “payamédica,” or clown doctor, Mónica keeps the children coming for doctor’s visits entertained. Children are seen by dozens of medical volunteers who work from 8 a.m. to 11 p.m. for seven months out of the year.
Volunteer biochemist tends to the children who showed up to the train for treatment. The medical workers give each child/patient a check-up, lab work, dental work and X-rays during his or her visit.
Volunteer pediatricians help children who sometimes show up first thing in the morning. “Some of them took many hours to arrive because they come walking,” one volunteer said.
The train has three wagons but no traction; it’s pulled by a cargo train. In one wagon they have a laboratory, X-Ray Equipment, a nursery and a basic-care room. Another has a cabin and meeting rooms, while the third has a kitchen and maintenance shop.
Since it was created in 1976, the Alma Train has made 176 overnight trips and assisted more than 80,000 children. For complex diseases, the patients are transferred to regional hospitals, and all their expenses are paid by the foundation.
Families show up early in the morning with five or six children in tow, some of whom are seeing a doctor for the first time. “Children are very grateful and they give us what they have: an old toy, home-made bread or a drawing,” one volunteer said.