A warm smile, soap, and the love of Christ go a long way in the Dominican Republic

By September 30, 2010

Dominican Republic (MNN) — What
do a warm smile, a bar of soap, and the love of Christ have to do with bugs and

Everything, if you ask Dr. Leslie
Trautwein of Kids Alive International. She works in the Dominican Republic where intestinal parasites are an

The problem is bigger than the
Dominican Republic. Intestinal worms
infect at least 2 billion people worldwide, and some sources report up to 3
billion–roughly a third to one half of the earth's population.

Three types of parasitic worms (helminthes)
prove to be the most common culprits: roundworm, hookworm, and whipworm.

Trautwein explains: "Poverty tends to walk hand-in-hand with poor
sanitation and inadequate hygiene practices, which results in high levels of

People get infected by eating the
worm's eggs through contaminated water or food that has not been properly
cleaned (with bleach). Trautwein says there's another way people get
infected: the larvae of the roundworm
lives in infected soil and will penetrate the skin of an unknowing host to
continue its lifecycle. 

"This is a really big problem in tropical
areas, especially places like the Dominican Republic. Kids Alive has a care center in a small
village that, until recently, didn't have running water or even pit
potties. Kids run around barefoot under
the hot tropical sun, picking up these worms without even knowing it."

While an infection is not deadly,
it does create health problems. "The
school age kids are the ones that tend to carry the highest parasitic load,
which sadly occurs at a time in their lives when they should be experiencing
peak growth and learning. These kids 
will end up missing school because they just don't feel well."  

If they're not eating because
they aren't well, the resulting malnutrition puts children at greater risk for
other infection diseases, creating a dangerous cycle.

Fortunately, the cycle can be
broken. Trautwein says, "Teaching them
how to wash is something that can be life-changing for them."  

Years of battling infections led
the team to tackle the worm problem by treating the person rather than try to
eliminate or control the worms in the environment. Through a generous donation, numerous Kids
Alive sites are now administering Albendazole, a de-worming medication. Treatment costs just $0.035 per pill; one tablet every 6 months is the treatment for kids in all programs. In addition to Albendazole treatments, shoes
go a long way toward helping the children to grow up healthy.

There's more. Kids Alive also provides an education,
nutritious meals, medical care and the love of Christ to more than 1200
children in the Dominican Republic. Most of these children are sponsored by Kids Alive donors. 

Why? Trautwein explains, "God tells us to ‘defend
the cause of the weak and fatherless, maintain the rights of the poor and
oppressed. Rescue the weak and needy. Deliver them from the hand of the
wicked.'  That motivates us to get in
there and get involved with these kids holistically."

The hope of Christ shines through
the Kids Alive team, and this is where the warm smile comes into play. "When one walks
into any situation of poverty, carrying your Bible and telling people this
great news, without touching the people or attempting to walk in their shoes,
or understand their lives a little bit more, our faith is really without

Trautwein hopes more people will
respond to the needs. There is great
potential to change the world one child at a time through people acting as the
hands and feet of Jesus. It's about walking in someone else's shoes (or
lack thereof) and getting an understanding of  how help means a future for many of these
children. "I believe that we have a
responsibility to step into God's creation and into His people's lives."

There's more here.

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