Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Nicaragua - part 1

Hola! Hola! I've run into several people around town who apparently read the blog and have said, "Oh good to see you! You must be home from your trip."  Um, yes. It has been almost a month and I haven't updated yet! Shame on me for not sharing sooner.  It was much too full of a week to completely put into words in one blog post (which may be why I have been putting it off - sort of like trying to eat an entire hamburger in one gulp instead of breaking it up into smaller bites), but I'll try share some pictures to give you an idea of what the time was like for our team in Nicaragua. 

We had fourteen people on the team: 2 doctors, 2 nurses, 2 physical therapists, 1 chemist (who played pharmacist for the week), 5 translators, Tim (the "eye guy") and Nicole (the children's minister)


We were hosted by Henry Vargas and his gracious family in their home. Henry started MCA, which is the school were we held the clinic in Managua, and he has gradually been expanding his home year by year to host teams who come to Managua to serve.  

I love love love the hispanic culture and how hospitable and gracious the people are. I also love that most of their homes are centered around an open air courtyard.  You can't tell from this picture, but the main living area of the home is very open.  When I got back home I felt so closed in and stuffy in our house because I couldn't feel the breeze or hear birds singing when I was inside. 

The school was set up in the same manner.  All of the classrooms opened to a courtyard in the middle of the school.  In their current location they are short on space for classrooms so the older classes meet in the courtyard in makeshift "classrooms" made of metal sheeting.


The first grade class busy working at their desks in their classroom.
After the first morning, I commented to Henry about how happy and healthy the children looked. I guess I had prepared myself to see much worse poverty than the little faces that greeted us at the school that morning.  He explained that most all of them come from the most impoverished areas of Managua, but they are the happiest when they are at school because they are cared for and loved. They receive a meal at school and get to wear uniforms, which increases their moral. Later in the week we had a chance to see what home life is like for the majority of these children (which I will share in a later post) and it is indeed a stark contrast to what life is like for them at school.

Each morning we would arrive to the school for the clinic after classes had started.  All of the children would swarm Henry's white van to greet us with smiles and hugs as we were walking in.  I could never get away from the masses fast enough to get a picture of the rest of the group to document the experience, but there was no way I was hurrying past those sweet faces.  What a way to start your morning! :)

This is Miss Nicole talking to the kindergarten class while they were waiting in line to visit the clinic.

This was the room we used to set up the health clinic. It was very makeshift, but I think we did a great job of using what we had to accomplish what we did.  We were able to see over 500 students and adults in the four days that we were there!


Each "patient" would come first to my table where they would fill out their name and birthday and then I would try my best to find out what they needed to be seen for.  
The first day was hilarious as I tried to get my spanish skills working again. Who knows what I said to those poor patients that first day!?!


 Thankfully, most of those students we saw first were just there for a health check up. And thankfully I was feeling more confident in my abilities by the next day because word spread throughout the community that we were there and we started seeing other patients who came in for specific problems who were unable to receive medical attention. 

We had several different "stations" set up and I would indicate on their paper who they needed to see and for what problem: 1) vision 2) physical therapy 3) doctor 4) pharmacy (for their vitamins and anti-parasite meds)


This is Holly translating for Melissa at the doctor's station.  

Thankfully there were four other translators there who were much more experienced than I that were assigned to each station to help translate.   I think this picture was taken on the afternoon we held a women's health clinic. That green sheet behind Melissa was the "examining room" where she or the other doctor would do exams for the ladies who needed them.  Can you imagine laying on a towel on the floor to receive an exam with only a sheet between you and the rest of the room that had over 30 other people working and talking in? It was amazing to watch the doctors work with the little resources that we had and even more humbling to see the appreciate smiles and hugs of the people that they helped.  They were so grateful to be receiving any medical attention at all, not minding the hour-plus waiting time or meager accommodations of the clinic.

Holly's husband, Tim, set up an eye clinic and stayed busy all day long doing eye exams.  His station was the most popular by far!  But regardless of how long the line was at his station, he remained very patient with all of the children who came through requesting an eye exam (whether they really needed it or not!) 

These are our two physical therapists, Tina and Amy.  The little girl in the orange and yellow shirt came in with her family.  She was almost five years old (I think) and had never been able to walk on her own without assistance.  Tina was able to fabricate braces for her feet with some velcro (velcro!!) that she had brought with her and the little girl was able to walk for the first time by herself without assistance!  There is a video of Amy helping her walk, along with other highlights of the trip, on the church's blog:


Once the morning session for school had ended, we would close up the clinic to head home for lunch before the afternoon session.  While we were waiting for Henry to pick us up, we had the chance to interact and play with the children.  This picture is of David (one of the translators and leaders of the trip) entertaining a group of students with a broomstick.  See their smiles and how they just flocked around him?
They were all so eager to just be around us and shower us with hugs and attention.

Ok, I need to wrap this up for the evening, but I'm sharing more tomorrow...
yes, I know I've said that before, but this time I double pinky promise!

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