January 31, 2011

First Volunteer Day in El Salvador

Hola, we made it safely to San Salvador, El Salvador on Saturday night.  Sunday we unpacked and explored the local area.  Our clinic is located in Las Delicias, which is approximately 40 minutes away by bus.

This morning, we met the staff.  In addition, a local nurse, Morena works with the FIMRC clinic.  She is also part of the ministry of health for that area of San Salvador.  She does home visits throughout the community and focuses especially on pregnant women and ensuring children are up to date with their vaccinations. Today, she took us to several homes in the community and let us practice our interviewing skills as well as vaccination administration.

We had a lecture from the local physician, Eduardo, about common diagnoses and treatment.  We are excited to work with him and seeing patients.  Over the course of the next 4 weeks, we will be seeing lots of children, dispensing medication, and offering basic health education.  This will be an amazing 4 weeks!

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January 27, 2011

¡Comida de Peru!

WARNING: The pictures to follow may cause your mouth to water, please keep una servilleta (napkin) in hand...

One of the wonderful parts of Peruvian culture is the delicious cuisine! We have been lucky enough to have the majority of our meals prepared by our host mom, Margarita, who we are trying to convince to write a cookbook! Her food is muy, muy rico!! She makes us everything from sopas con pollo (soups with chicken) to cabrito con arroz (goat with rice). Every meal is followed with a melt-in-your-mouth fruit which has included mangos and a cactus fruit called "Tuna." Outside of our casa we have tried three different ceviches so far, but there will be more to come! Our favorite thus far was at a restaurant on the beach in Huanchaca that was sprinkled with onions and perfectly flavored with lime juice. We all fell in love!
Another delicacy in Peru is Cuy (Guinea pig). A mildly fatty meat reminiscent of duck was enjoyed by our group in Lima.
Don't worry we didn't eat the ones to the left, we saw those at the Huaca Pucllana ruins.

Additionally, Causas are a popular potato dish stuffed with chicken, seafood, and chicken. We experienced a lovely Causa prepared by our very own Margarita. ¡Deliciosa!

Last but not least, many of us have tried the national cocktail, Pisco Sour, which is created with local grape brandy, fresh lime juice, sugar, and topped with frothy egg whites.

Looking forward to experiencing more culinary wonders of Peru! ¡Buen Provecho!

January 24, 2011

Happy Monday from Costa Rica

Hola from Costa Rica!

After an eventful weekend of tourism, we were back to work bright and early this morning. This week we are running a mobile clinic in an underserved area of Santa Ana (a suburb of San Jose), which also happens to be the place where we live. Apparently, there was a movement a few years ago to help a group of unfortunate families in San Jose to obtain better housing. These families were given new homes in Santa Ana, which is a safer and nicer neighborhood to live in. However, this move didn’t solve all of the problems of this population, and so many of the people who live in this particular area are still very poor, unemployed, and/or sick. And, interestingly, the move makes them farther away from work opportunities in downtown San Jose and leaves their children in a district where the school is quite far away (and still not very good). We are set-up in a building which is in the process of becoming the equivalent of a soup kitchen, which is called a “comedor” here in Costa Rica. We forgot to pack a few key things, but were able to make it work for the day and we’ll bring more supplies tomorrow. I worked in the waiting room and pharmacy today, but it sounded like the patients had different health concerns than the population in Alajelita, so I’m excited to see some more variety of the medical kind. Dr. Stedem also explained that there is a large population of handicapped persons here, so I am interested to learn about the difficulties that such minority groups face in Costa Rica and the ways the health system, government, and foundations like FIMRC can help.

We parted with the Harvard students on Saturday during our weekend of adventures and were greeted by a new volunteer, Joe, a junior from Princeton, this morning. The additional volunteers were very helpful in coming up with ideas for evening and weekend adventures, and they definitely provided some great ideas and lots of energy and extra bodies for the health education programs and day-to-day activities in the clinic. I hope we were able to teach them a few things about some simple medical terms, conditions, and medicines, and that perhaps we opened their eyes to medical school programs like LMUV. I didn’t speak much with Joe today since he was in the doctor’s room with Claire, but I’m sure he’ll get the hang of things. And after Joe, I hear that we’ll be getting two more students during our last week here.

We had Spanish session #4 today and I think I am picking up on a lot more—certainly much more than last Monday! But I can tell that my brain has its limits—while I feel like I can understand WAAAYY more than a week ago, it seems that my vocabulary hasn’t improved much, or that I am now stuttering and speaking more slowly than ever. But it reminds me of learning the new “language” of anatomy in my first year of medical school. There is a time-period where you are taking everything in, then it needs to simmer in your brain, and then, finally, your mind puts everything together and you can understand and speak the language. So, hopefully all of that happens within the next week ;)

And finally, I’m sure you’re dying to hear all about our weekend adventures. On Friday we (all 7 MSU and Harvard students) drove to a resort near Jaco on the Pacific coast (about 2 hours away) and got to swim at two beaches and several pools. We went back home on Friday evening and went out dancing at a local salsa club. On Saturday morning we made the three-hour trek to La Fortuna, where we got to see a waterfall up-close, gazed at the volcano from afar, and went canopying (a.k.a. ziplining) through the jungle. The Harvard students went back to San Jose that evening, and left for Boston early on Sunday morning. We stayed the night in La Fortuna and took a public bus back to San Jose onb Sunday afternoon. It was an exhausting weekend, but the experience was well worth it.

Harvard kids—good luck with starting your new semester!
Families—we’re still alive and kicking!
Classmates in Peru—hope you’re having as much fun as we are!
Everyone else—Pura Vida!!!

From Angela.

January 20, 2011

The FIMRC Clinic at Alajualita: The doctors office:

Playing soccer at the soup kitchen after giving the nutrition presentation:

Mike tending to a minor injury during the game:

Hard at work preparing the presentations with the students from Harvard (next to Angela, in the upper left corner, is Jessica, then Rosmary, Denni and then Marie is next to Mike)

Hola from Costa Rica! It's been almost a week in Costa Rica already. We spent our first day here visiting the local Sunday market and then went out to celebrate Angelas birthday. There are 4 undergraduate students from Harvard that joined us this week and have been a great addition to the group. Once we were oriented to the clinic on Monday we began working with the doctor and the psychologist. We have also been able to spend time in the pharmacy and in the front office doing patient intake. We had two days of lecture on the health system of Costa Rica and the use of psychology in the clinic. We also planned and executed two health programs for a local soup kitchen. The first was a presentation to a group of women about hypertension and stroke, and the second was a presentation to the children at the soup kitchen about nutrition and exercise. Both were well recieved by the community.

We have also had three spanish lessons from a Costa Rican medical student. He created a complete book geared towards medical spanish complete with grammer lessons, patient-doctor dialogues and a medical dictionary.

Our three different homestays have been a great immersion experience since none of the families speak english. They have been very gracious in their introduction into the local fare of Costa Rica including Gallo Pinto, a taste of the fresh local produce and plently of coffee. The coffee has definitely lived up to its reputation.

We spent one afternoon in downtown San Jose visitng the various stores and the souvenir market. We also took a tour of the Museo de Oro while downtown.

Dr. Schnuth has been very welcoming and enthusiastic. She seems to know everyone here.

This weekend we plan on spending some time on the beach, visiting a live volcano and relaxing in the Costa Rican sun.
Pura vida!

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January 19, 2011

Health Care in Peru (H.I.P.)

Well we have definitely been busy and have so much to tell you. For now we decided to give you an update on one of the things we care about most- health care! Aside from all the wonderful food- more to come from Shawna on that- we have been feasting on some food for thought. You see what I did there? Here are some morsels for you digest.

1) Public H.I.P. - similar to say... Oh Canada! Peru has a public health care system that provides care to the:
A) Extremely poor and Poor via "Seguro Integrad de Salud" (SIS) which is free.
B) Employees/Companies via "Es Salud" which has some minimal cost covered by employers or those that can afford.
C) Policia y Armed forces

2) Private H.I.P. - similar to say... America the beautiful!
A) For Profit
B) Non-profit

Disclaimer: I have provided some well known reference health care systems but in no way is H.I.P., Canada or the US summed up in the above quick and dirty contrasts and comparisons.

Well enough theory let's see it in practice:

Hospital Belen: We will be working here over the coming 6 weeks focusing in pediatrics, internal medicine, surgery, ob-gyn, family med and psych.

Bella Vista Health Center in Nuevo Jerusalen: The doctors, dentists and nurses are really excited to work with us and us with them. Especially as part of their TB program.

Jerusalen Health Center: We have already started working along side the doctor(a)s and nurses (enfermero(a)s) doing well child checks, psicoprophylaxis (preparation for joys and wonders of pregnancy, birth and the bliss thereafter), vaccinations and HIV screening of new mothers.

It's been three short days here in Trujillo and while the above is just a snapshot of what we have experienced we look forward to learning more about H.I.P. and bringing you more news from the proverbial front lines. Be well. Salud!

January 17, 2011

¡Hola de PerĂº!

The Peru folks (Shawna, Rachel Brim, Julie Celebi, Alisan Fathalizadeh, Erik Hemingway, Paul Johnson, Emily Jackson, and Steve Moyo) have arrived safe and sound and jumped right into the culture and excitement. A little bit on our time in Lima--

We arrived in Lima late on Saturday night and stayed in a hostel. We were fortunate to have the day to explore the city, and had an amazing full day together. We walked more than any of us have walked in a really long time- we got a great view of the coastline...
tried some Indian-Peruvian fusion cuisine at an all-vegetarian restaurant, including, much to our surpise, tofu ceviche..

visited the Huaca Pucllana ruins...

joined in some traditional folkloric dance at a major festival in the downtown square and Steve & Alisan made it on the big screen! [vid to be posted soon]

Celebrated Shawna's birthday and she was spontaneously serenaded by a local musician...

This was a fantastic nosedive into Peruvian culture, and we are so energized to begin our work here. More to come on our initial introduction to the FIMRC program --
¡Hasta pronto!

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