It is this vast distance, the physical divide between the city and the canopies of the jungle, that also separates families. Very few people from Pobre y Alegre make it to secondary school in the city (3-5% at most, according to Marlita), but those who do are beckoned by the educational and professional opportunities it offers. She was proud to share that her three oldest children are among the minute percentage that work in the city, but the cost of doing so weighs on her heart. Due to the demands of time and money to visit, her children visit infrequently and briefly – for only a few hours, or a day, if they’re fortunate. Even so, Marlita treasures the moments she spends with them, and tucks them into her memory as the happiest times of her life.
For every comment she shared that resonated with sadness or frustration, Marlita was quick to add how things have changed for the better in her community. Her village’s namesake was not lost on her; if anything, she epitomized it. Although she isn’t naïve to the need for a greater quality of life in Pobre y Alegre, she chooses to focus on the positive changes that have occurred in the 22 years she’s lived here – particularly in regard to vitamins and medical care.
When asked if there have been differences in the community’s children since vitamins were introduced, she responded with an adamant nod of her head as she leaned forward in her handmade hammock. The children are “more healthy, stronger,” she stated; the vitamins have notably helped reduce the frequency of diarrhea, vomiting, parasites, and colds, which she claimed are the most commonly reported ailments among children in the area.
As knowledge of the power of vitamins continues to spread, she’s noticed a difference in how the adults of the community perceive them as well. To support the cause, she diligently tells others about upcoming vitamin distributions, and is insistent that parents give their children vitamins on a daily basis. Her urging comes from personal experience – she took prenatal vitamins during her pregnancies, and her children have received vitamins since birth.