Friday, March 23, 2012

Lessons from Salty Water, Bug Bites, and the Art of Rural Medicine

 This past week, I had the opportunity to spend some time with a wonderful group of people in a little community, Agua Salada (in English known as Salty Water), away from modern distractions.  Through getting to know this group, both Americans and Hondurans, I realized just how much I could learn from the people that I have come into contact with here. Whether it was the third year resident who served in Afghanistan and worked as a flight nurse for twenty years and went back to medical school at the age of 45 or the woman who has nine kids, is pregnant with her tenth, and walked hours to get the clinic, the resilience of the human spirit is truly astounding. We all fight our own battles but who we are, in a sense, is our stories and I was so grateful to get to share and listen to these stories with both community members from Agua Salada and the brigade members of the University of Wyoming.
Kate, Peter, and I on the hike to the Agua Salada waterfall
The week was spent running clinic out of the local Catholic church, doing home visits for those patients who couldn’t make it to the clinic, and educating local elementary students about proper hand washing, teeth brushing, and sun protection. We also hiked to two waterfalls, which was a refreshing activity during the heat of the dry season! Working alongside the community members, I was once again reminded that nothing is quite as easy as it seems and that even though the help we provide seems wonderful at first glance, there are often many unintended consequences. With the construction of the new clinic, this includes local struggles for power, putting the blame on others, and once again, the sense of entitlement that can come from the extension of aid. But I am just reminded that we are all human and when it comes down to it, across all cultures and countries, we are all more alike than different.
A group shot at the waterfall

The local elementary students rocking their new shades after a talk on sun protection
 I have thoroughly enjoyed working with the Agua Salada community though and I am excited for the future clinic. We have had countless meetings talking about what the clinic means for the community and how it can benefit the surrounding communities as well. There is a local committee that will include representatives from all of the outlying communities who will work alongside Shoulder to Shoulder to make the decisions, prepare for the brigades, and promote health in their respective places. While I will not be here to see the finished project, it has truly been a great learning experience to see the progress and all that goes into the construction of a new building. It takes many hands, materials, and minds for something that at face value seems so simple. 
One of the future buildings of the clinic
 I have also become close with Emeldo (the president of the local committee whom we work with) and his brother Leopoldo and I will be sad to goodbye to them in a few short months. I have worked with them to plan the brigade and they were literally there to help us everyday during the brigade, taking out the trash, cleaning up after us, guiding us to home visits, and making sure we had everything we needed. The hospitality of their family toward me was truly something! I already have plans to go back and visit Agua Salada (it’s about an hour and 45 minutes from where I live) before I leave.
Relaxin' in a hammock at Emeldo's house

Emeldo, his wife, and their granddaughter and I on the last night
Now that I'm back, everything here seems a little more quiet as I am not with the brigade at all hours of the day but I am working with the education project again. The first week of April is Semana Santa (which in Honduras is code for finding any body of water to cool off in) but I will be heading to Copan Ruinas, the site of the Mayan ruins in Honduras with a few people from the clinic. Supposedly tourist activity has picked up this year due to it being 2012...dun dun dun! It should be interesante. I hope this finds everyone well in their respective places! Paz.

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