Sunday, January 4, 2009

Reflections from a past Nicaraguan experience

Marisol (nutritionist), Marie-Isabel, Dominiqute and Nora Lagos (health educators)

This is a guest post from Dominique Volney '09, who spent last Summer in Nicaragua through a CPS scholarship.

Who would have imagined that my first experience with a bone injury would happen in Nicaragua? For three out of my nine week visit, I was in a foot cast. It was during that time that I reminded myself that I needed to remain flexible and positive because I was experiencing a range of emotions as I started my internship a week and a half later than anticipated and my physical independence decreased.

At times, as much as I wanted to deny that I no longer had full mobility, I needed help. But, first I needed to humble myself and be honest in realizing my circumstance, then to accept the help of my friends. For example, when it rained, if we were close to our destination, my friends took turns carrying me on their back so that I wouldn’t fall while using the crutches. Despite my situation, I was still able to accomplish several tasks with the assistance of my co-workers.

During my time in Nicaragua, I interned at Hospital Nilda Patricia Velazco in the education office. I worked on various public health-related assignments: (1) bulletin-boards raising awareness about HIV/AIDS and upper respiratory infection which were placed in the public eye (outside the hospital) (2) a mural on breast-feeding with the brigade from Stanford University (3) and a mural on vaccination with Jose-Luiz, a local artist.

In addition, my major project was to organize a workshop highlighting the importance of good nutritional habits for pregnant mothers. This entailed creating a brochure for the mothers, inviting the hospital’s nutritionist to speak, and a hands-on cooking experience. It was well attended by expecting mothers and women who already had children.

The mural on breast-feeding informed the mothers and others that breast-feeding is better than the other food options that they may be using through the use of pictures and symbols. The mural on vaccinations informed the citizens on the importance of protecting their selves and their children from various illnesses through words and pictures. Theses murals were created in a fashion that catered to the population in order to equip them with the knowledge concerning healthy living and preventative health measures. During the nutrition workshop, the mothers were informed by the nutritionist about the major food groups and their health benefits in relation to the foods they commonly consume and of those that they will need to incorporate in their diet. Now, the mothers are better equipped with the knowledge to share this information with their family members and friends which will be a positive dominion effect in reducing the cases of malnutrition in Ciudad Sandino.

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