Saturday, March 6. The advance team met this morning with the local “brigidista” for Chaguite, the community where we will direct our primary field research efforts this year. Brigidistas are volunteer coordinators who work with the ministry of health to develop and implement programs to improve health and health care within their areas. With limited resources, the programs are few in number and scope, but the efforts are genuine and persistent. The man we met and spoke with today has all he can do to care for his family and meet the daily requirements of existence in this harsh terrain and climate, but still he gives his time as a volunteer to the rest of the community – and to us as we attempt to understand in the hope that we can bring something of value to the effort.
We spent about an hour talking with him and learning from him about his work as a volunteer and efforts to improve health in Chaguite. He then took us on a hike through part of the mountainous area of his community to help us understand the complex of trails that run up and down the “quebradas” (steep canyons carved by rivers and flood waters) connecting houses, streams, watering spots, and wells. The way down was difficult, with precarious footing and regular threats to ankles and knees. The way up proved more challenging still – especially for a professor who prefers most often to disregard inconvenient realities like age.
The full team arrived Saturday evening and Ocotal was treated to a W&M lovefest occasioned by the several days of separation of team members. In addition to the hearty band of MANOS regulars, the arrivals included Dr. Roger Martinez, our Nicaraguan contract physician and dear friend who has worked with us from the beginning and Patrick Schembri (’87), Physician’s Assistant and this year’s U.S. medical director. Tomorrow is pill counting and logistics; the clinic opens and field work begins in earnest on Monday.