Today was our second day of work, and while it was a productive day where our progress was evident, some of the glaring issues that you might anticipate when volunteering internationally started to emerge today. One of the major issues of today was that there were more volunteers/workers than there were jobs. While that may not be as bad as having too little workers for available jobs, it does allude to one of the central questions, one must consider when going elsewhere, namely internationally, to do service: Why are we here? Stemming from that major question follows: Are we useful/helpful? Could someone else do this better? All in all, today was not a waste, but we do need to take care to always stay occupied by eagerly asking where we can help, and by paying attention intently to facilitate our easy pick up of tasks. For me, one major takeaway from today is: international service is meaningless without structural analysis of neocolonialism, and a dedication to disrupt that system upon return to the States.
One rewarding experience today was building a wall. It was more visually evident that we were directly helping to create this building than it was yesterday. This particular wall, however, is specifically being created to house an X-ray machine, which will be a great addition to the clinic complex. The wall is extra thick and extra dense so that excess radiation does not escape the room when the machine is in use. When learning to build this particular wall, it became more evident that language barriers are not impenetrable, especially when learning a task that can be shown by example. The learning process was a little slow, however, so only one row of one wall was added to the room this afternoon. This also brings along questions of how helpful we are actually being. In the future, however, those who learned today will be able to work much faster and more independently, allowing the people who were teaching us to work on other tasks that need their attention.
I got the privilege of shadowing the Dr. Cassie today on her home visits around Nueva Vida. Before we left, a couple students and I had a conversation with Cassie about public health, bacterial evolution, epigenetics, and many more topics that brought my countless biology lectures to life. I found it very inspiring to get to apply some of the information I’ve learned in class back at Bucknell to real life patients. It was also eye opening to actually walk on the streets and have to constantly watch the ground to make sure I didn’t step in the gray sewage water. Until today, I was used to feeling worlds away from the people sitting outside their humble homes while I gazed out of the protection of the van window. We met with five patients in around an hour and a half. Our second visit was to a man with Parkinson’s, diabetes, kidney complications, and a fractured hip. I could see the defeat in his face as his wife told the story of when he fell and broke his hip and he began to cry. On a lighter note, it was heartwarming to observe how each patient’s entire family would gather around to listen to the doctor and support their loved one even if they were only receiving a checkup.