In Nicaragua, where half of the population lives in poverty, and access to health care is extremely limited due to poor road infrastructure, 13 students set out to make a difference for the health and hygiene of those in need.
For nine days, my University of Pennsylvania peers and I worked on improving medical, dental, water, and public health conditions in two rural, remote communities. Students from Colorado State University and Oglethorpe University also joined us in our work.
First, we worked in Sacacli, which is a secluded community located between the cities of Estelí and Jinotega.
After turning off the paved road onto an isolated dirt path, we traveled for over an hour through the mountains to reach the isolated community. In Sacacli, there is just one health care unit, which has one doctor and one nurse. Accompanied by our own doctors and dentists, my peers and I helped to set up in the small clinic, and a woman across the street allowed us to use her home for triage and pharmacy stations.
We worked there for just three days, but in that time our team and the Nicaraguan doctors were able to see more than 900 patients from Sacacli and the surrounding towns.
“We worked there for just three days, but in that time our team and the Nicaraguan doctors were able to see more than 900 patients”
As student volunteers, we took the vital signs of patients at the triage station and asked about their medical concerns and family histories. Next, the patients saw a doctor and dentist, and by the end of their visit, walked away with their prescribed medications from the pharmacist.
Meanwhile, the children received fluoride played games with the volunteers, and learned about proper hygiene practices such as teeth brushing and healthy eating.
Working in the clinic was an incredible experience because this community normally does not have access to many healthcare services or medications for their health conditions. Although the medications we provided will not last them forever, it will relieve their ailments until the next Global Brigades group arrives in the area.
For the second half of our trip, we traveled to the small community of El Salto to improve their public health conditions.
We constructed sanitary stations which consisted of a toilet, shower, and wash basin. We also laid concrete floors in several houses which prevent illnesses from insects and rodents that live in the dirt. Additionally, we spent a day digging trenches for pipes that will eventually bring water directly to the community.
The public health portion of our trip was special because we were able to work alongside the community members to improve conditions right in their homes. We were able to see right there just how big of an impact we were making on their lives which was a humbling experience.
“We were able to work alongside the community members to improve conditions right in their homes…which was a humbling experience.”
UPenn Global Medical and Dental Brigades gives our sincere thanks to the Henry Schein Cares Foundation for providing us with medical diagnostic equipment, dental supplies, and hygiene products such as toothbrushes, toothpaste, and dental floss. All of the supplies were put to immediate use by the doctors and dentists and the community members’ faces lit up when they received a bag full of the hygiene products.
We are excited to continue working towards expanding access to and quality of healthcare in underserved regions of the globe!
UPenn Global Medical Brigades posted a video:
“Watch the cute children of El Salto, Nicaragua sing a song about teeth brushing! We were excited to teach the community about proper hygiene practices through educational talks called charlas.”