Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Flying through a hurricane: being elderly and poor in Nueva Vida

“The elderly need special help,” our projects director César told us in a meeting last year.

To be seen by doctors and treated at our clinic in Nueva Vida, a patient must contribute to the community…they can either work (filling in mud puddles that are breeding mosquitos, cleaning trash off the streets, cleaning the yards of the schools, etc.) or they can contribute 30 córdobas (the equivalent of about $1.35), but frequently the elderly cannot work nor do they have family who can work on their behalf. The elderly tend to be destitute as well.

We were slow in finding the elderly patients who needed our help. Who has no family…who is destitute?

When our new health promoter, Jessenia, was settled into the Nueva Vida community and had the health promoters from each area reorganized and renewed, she took the challenge to the community to find 15 elderly patients we would see at no charge. It was easy and FAST…the community knew who needed our help.

Jessenia did an initial health and needs evaluation of all the patients, and then our volunteer nurse, Kim, went with Jessenia to see them. Seven of the 15 patients could not walk and so they needed rides the few blocks to the clinic.

We got all the patients to the clinic and evaluated by our doctor. Many have to take medications needed for chronic conditions. A few had acute problems but all, ALL, need to be evaluated on a regular basis and need to have access to a doctor. As soon as they all got to the clinic there were another five wanting to be in the program!

Kim makes rounds seeing each patient every-other-week and the 20 patients love her. One of the patients is 103 years old! 103 YEARS!

Now we are looking for funding to hire a nurse because, come August, Kim will leave to go on with her life. We feel that we are serving a population left out of the system as it currently exists.

Golda Meir (Israeli Founder and Prime Minister) said, “Old Age is like a plane flying through a storm. Once you’re aboard, there’s nothing you can do.”

For the poor it is like flying in a hurricane, but if someone can help you get to the eye of the hurricane, then maybe you can rest some. -- Kathleen

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Towards a Healthy Nueva Vida

Jessenia is our new health promoter! We were able to hire her with two designated gifts and she has been a true gift to the clinic!

She has used her artistic hand in putting up informational signs all up in the clinic and giving the clinic a brighter look.

Mostly she has being organizing health promoters. She has two promoters for each section of Nueva Vida. In the future she will help organize the “green” sections of Nueva Vida, areas where squatter homes have popped up, so that those who are very poor can have access to information and to the clinic.

We have given out emergency first aid kits to the health promoters so that they can clean and bind wounds, give rehydration fluids, and reduce fevers and allergic reactions. We are anxious to see how the community receives this aid and how it all goes.

We have a held a few trainings on diabetes and are looking at doing more. In the future, funding permitting, we hope to have comprehensive education on diabetes…a campaign to reduce sugar intake of children and adults, exercise to reduce weight, and how to use inexpensive food wisely for diabetics.

For the poor sugar is a cheap source of calories…but lots of sugar with no protein wreaks havoc on the pancreas and sets the body up for Type 2 diabetes. Plus the main food for the poor is carbohydrates…white rice, beans, corn, and white bread. Meats are expensive and many vegetables are also expensive. Culturally most fruits are drunk as watered juices with sugar added for flavor. Food in any culture is hard to change (look at the U.S.) and it is even more difficult if money is scarce…but we are looking at ways and we are looking for funding to try.

Our dentist, Inya, is going into schools for oral hygiene awareness raising classes that Jessenia set up. She is giving out toothbrushes and tooth paste and encouraging children to come in for sealants. Obviously with the above mentioned sugar intake, diabetes is not the only resulting health problem!

Then there are HIV/AIDS, family planning, hypertension, asthma, dengue, and malaria…all public health concerns! The list is endless…we are so grateful to have Jessenia on our staff. She has given us all a boost in our spirits. It is exciting, no? -- Kathleen

Friday, March 18, 2011

Nicaragua mourns withJapan

In light of the earthquake and tsunami in Japan, Nicaragua watches and mourns with the Japanese. In the 20th Century, Nicaragua experienced one major natural disaster every two years.

One such disaster was the 1972 earthquake which killed 10,000 people and left another 250,000 homeless, many of whom were relocated to Ciudad Sandino as refugees. Another, Hurricane Mitch, left 11,000 dead in Honduras and Nicaragua and another 2.7 million homeless – many of those were again moved to Ciudad Sandino and the huge barrio of Nueva Vida was started with those 1,200 families. Nicaraguans feel the Japanese pain.

We watch as Japanese pick through the rubble that represented much of their lives. Whenever Nicaragua gets too much rain (at least every two years) we see people here picking through the remains of the little they had.

We watch and as a nation pray that Japan’s nuclear reactors will not fail more – because as a nation that has been knocked down over and over again – Nicaraguans understand one blow after another after another.

We feared the tsunami would hit the Nicaraguan Pacific coast hard, which would be devastating – even a small one would wash away poorly built houses on stilts or shacks made from plastic and flattened metal barrels. Luckily, the tsunami had lost strength by the time it reached our coast, and did no damage.

The horror in Japan is – well, terrifying, completely overwhelming, and heart-rending. But I think if it had happened to a Third World nation – with buildings not built for earthquakes, no warning systems, and no real capability for rescue and then relief – then how much more horrific would it be?

Nicaraguans care because they understand. We can learn much from our brothers and sisters who know natural disasters. – Kathleen