Week 6

1 04 2010

After catching up on a bit of sleep, we started classes again on Monday morning.This week we continued working in la Zona Sur, a very poor part of Santiago. We worked within a public health system called Juan XXIII. The system is run by the government and PUCMM. It is based off of the work of supervisoras and promotoras (who are usually women) who live in the community and work to promote health in their neighborhood. We were placed into groups and assigned different neighborhoods within la Sona Sur. We were assigned to “Los Martines Abajo” and worked with the promotoras and supervisoras traveling throughout the community speaking with the people about their health practices and diseases of importance. We spent the afternoons giving charlas (informal talks about diseases), making house visits, and learning more about the community and the health system.

The health system (Juan XXIII) is an interesting model because it is based off of the initiative and kindness of the supervisoras and promotoras. For example, Lauren and I gave one charla and did about 20 house visits while another group gave over 100 charlas. The idea behind the system is that health is a problem of democracy and the community in its entirety should work together to promote health. I think the idea behind the system has a good foundation but the problem is implementation of the practices that are taught. Lauren and I gave a charla on Dengue which is a virus spread by mosquitoes and in the prevention section we spoke about the importance of using repellent and disposing of trash but the people barely have enough money to feed their families much less buy repellent. The community receives the information and understands its importance but because of logistical factors cannot utilize the information or put the theories into practice.

One of the largest problems in la Zona Sur that I observed is the lack of trash collection. The poverty level of the community is probably equivalent to that of the rural community in which I worked, but it’s more of a “dirty” poverty. We visited an overlook where people threw their trash. I asked the promotora why there wasn’t a regular trash collection in a place where there were so many people living in such close quarters. She explained to me that there is a trash collection service run by the government but it doesn’t come on a regular schedule and the people are charged to use it. Imagine that you lived in a one room house without running water and had just enough money to feed and cloth your family, would you spend money on trash collection that isn’t even reliable? So people dump their trash where ever they can and this creates an extreme amount of health hazards. Seeing and experiencing la Zona Sur really opened my eyes to the complexities and challenges that a developing country faces.

I learned how to salsa this week! I really enjoy the dancing here. The music is very appealing and the culture around a night out is very enjoyable. I also got to try some more traditional Dominican food which I have come to love. Although, when I get home I don’t think I will be able to eat rice for a month or so!

On Friday we left for the beach. It was a weekend packed with sightseeing different natural beauties. We spent Friday at Puerto Plata and then Saturday headed to Caberete and from there visited la piscina natural (the natural pool). There is a section on the north coast where a river runs right into the ocean. We took a boat from the river into the ocean and docked for a bit and a gorgeous part of the coast with crystal clear waters and stunning rock formations. Next we visited Dudu, which is a lake (or more like natural spring) that is very deep and sits in between large rock formations such that when the light hits the water, it is pitch black. The next day we spent at Caberete and then headed back to Santiago in the evening. It was a wonderful last weekend in the DR. The beaches are truly beautiful.

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