After the rush and near panic of almost missing my flight, I’ve finally boarded American Airlines 1868 headed to Managua. As I read through the pre-departure information, I’ve begun refreshing myself on the nature of healthcare in Nicaragua and the very limited medical Spanish I know thus far. I’ve learned that Nicaragua is the second poorest country in the Western Hemisphere with a per capita income of around $1,500 annually and one doctor for every 10,000+ people. The poverty and lack of medical professionals in comparison to the country we live in are astounding.
I’ve been asked about why I want to live and work in this poverty-stricken country of Central America for four weeks, so I’d like to take some time to explain my motivations. Last summer, as some of you know, I studied abroad in Mexico. Living with a host family and experiencing a completely different way of life was an immensely rewarding and enjoyable experience. I left Puebla with a greater appreciation for the many amenities we have in the US, a newfound sense of energy and love for life, as well as a strong desire to return to Latin America and grow once again in my knowledge of Spanish. As a future physician (hopefully) who will likely practice in the Southern US, I’m determined to speak Spanish fluently so that I may communicate with the majority of my patients. I also just really love the language!
I knew the next time I went abroad I wanted to become involved with a medical-related organization. Upon my return from Mexico, I began searching for such a program. Eventually this is how I came across ISL, an organization that sends medical and educational volunteers to underprivileged areas in Central America, South America, and Africa. The program I chose is for 3rd-4th year premeds and medical students. It is my understanding that there will be around 7 other students traveling with me. For the first two weeks we will set up clinics in the rural outskirts of Managua, specifically in the communities of La Concha and Los Altos, to see and treat patients under the supervision of Nicaraguan doctors. For the second two weeks we will participate in rounds at the Masaya Community Hospital, a 70-bed hospital closer to the heart of the 2+ million-person capital.
As I sit down in the cramped window seat and look out at the view, I begin to think about what the next 28 days may have in store for me. Am I ready for this journey? What will the other students be like? Can seven volunteers truly have an impact, however small, on these communities? What will I learn about myself and the world around me? A never-ending series of questions and potential scenarios like these are jumbled in my mind. I relentlessly try to fit them together like small pieces in a vast puzzle, but with every passing minute I’m realizing the picture is still far too unclear for me to wrap my mind around. The unknown journey that lies ahead is nerve-racking, yet incredibly exciting. The only thing I’m certain about is that whatever life throws my way in the next month, I will do my best to tackle any challenges I face, and pray that I can learn and grow from them.
Thank you to my parents, Spenser, and all other family and friends for your encouraging words. Your support means the world to me. I will try to update daily about my experiences in Managua (given I can find internet access that often) and I hope you occasionally have time to check-in on me! I will write again once I’m settled in my NICA living quarters.