Thursday, June 23, 2011

Success in Jalapa, Nicaragua

JALAPA, Nicaragua -- Seven PINCC-trained medicos yesterday were certified to perform screenings and treatments on their own, which is a tremendous accomplishment, both for the trainees and for PINCC.
But it's an especially significant development for the women of Jalapa and the surrounding area, because now there are trained medical personnel who know how to screen for the precursors of cervical cancer and provide immediate, effective treatment.  And Jalapa's clinic now has a gynecologist assigned there -- for the first time ever -- by the Department of Nuevo Segovia (the equivalent of a state in the United States).
Lives were saved while we were there, and lives will be saved in the future.  "Brigades" of medical teams will now be able to visit outlying areas -- trained and equipped by PINCC -- and screen and treat women.  It's a profound experience to contribute to this kind of progress because one knows that lives will be changed for the better.
Jalapa is the poorest place I've ever seen.  I acknowledge that I have not been to some of the world's areas most well known for poverty.
That said, however, I and others on the trip were deeply affected by our experience.  If you live in the United States, even the poorest areas we see have an infrastructure that provides basics -- from toilets to running water and from electricity to protection from most public health hazards.
In Jalapa, life is a grind, plain and simple. At first glance, it's quaint and charming to watch people ride around on bikes and horseback, or to see people walking from place to place -- except these people are using these methods of transport for lack of any other way to get around. There are almost no private cars, and public transportation is only from town to town, not within a particular town or village.  They're unprotected in the rain.  They're in sandals in the mud. And they have no protection from the blazing sun or suffocating heat.
Unlike patients we saw in San Salvador, where people of limited means showed vibrancy and interacted with energy, the people in Jalapa were blank, extremely stoic and flat.  There are few smiles. 
Dogs are treated like, well, dogs.  Not the way dogs are treated in the U.S.   Here, they wander the streets and look skeletal and desperate.  They're shooed away; sometimes even kicked.  They wander through the clinic and scrounge for crumbs.  I didn't see any that were "pets" in the U.S. sense of the word. Black vultures circle and, frequently, descend for a meal on the side of the dirt road.
Some streets are paved with interlocking concrete blocks.  Many are dirt.  Some are formerly paved streets whose pavement has been destroyed by the elements, vehicles and time -- apparently never to be repaired because there are no resources available.
As I said in a previous blog entry: One can only focus on the positive -- that people are being helped now and in the future because of PINCC's work.  But I couldn't wait to leave Jalapa, which I'm almost ashamed to say.  At least I had the option to leave.
-- Larry Shushan, PINCC volunteer in Central America

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