One official week has gone by in Oaxaca and I have already experienced so many things. This past week has had a major focus on helping the community through hands on activities. After getting settled into our new homes, all of us began working in our community placements. I was happy to find out that I was placed in Clinica San Antonio; this small clinic consists of about four doctor rooms, one dental room, one birthing area, and the main waiting area. Although the clinic itself is small, it services the large community in the surrounding area. This past week has been their community vaccinations campaign. This means that a couple of the nurses from the clinic go out into the community and hand out vaccines and medication.
On my first day at the clinic I was able to go out with the nurses and distribute medication. The work was far from glamorous. Most of the “houses” that people lived in were built out of sheets of metal nailed together. Often there would be five or more children living in a small shack. But the lack of material possessions was balanced out by the love and happiness you could see in the families. Most of the families were eager to learn about the vaccines that we were passing out to the community. As I have learned in class and in the community, people are open western forms of medication. Even though the culture that they grow up in offers many options for treatment, such as spiritual, herbal, and even mystical healing. Most people often avoid western treatment because of economic reasons. This is why it is extremely important for the clinic to reach out to the community and offer free medications to prevent the spread of diseases.
Later in the week I was able to participate in another community service oriented project. There is a school located in the same community as my clinic that has a large playing area for the kids at recess, but there is no shelter from the hot Mexican sun. (Most schools have metal roof over their playing area to create some shade.) So everyone from Proworld went out to the school on Friday and we worked with the entire school to plant trees all around the property. All of the kids were extremely excited to work and talk with us. Even though I was only able to speak a little bit of Spanish I was able to connect with the kids through the digging, planting, and heavy lifting. It was an amazing experience to be able to help out the same community in two very different ways.
When the week first started I was leery about the community service because I thought that Oaxacans would be reluctant of an outsider helping. But so far, everyone has accepted me with open arms and appreciates the fact that I am in Oaxaca trying to learn more about the culture. Every day that I am able to give something to the community I get lessons that I will carry with me for life. Simple things like sunscreen, shade, and band-aids are luxuries; the things that are really important in life are family and community.