8-25-11 DR Encuesta Trip
Animo is a Spanish word for a positive outlook when circumstances are tough. This is the perfect word to sum up our little working group here in the DR. We flew from Phila to Miami to have the flight cancelled because of Tropical Storm come Hurricane 3 Irene. We stayed overnight in Miami with no luggage trying to collect information from the DR and peers to decide whether or not to attempt the trip the next day. The next morning there was no new info but the decision was- if the plane leaves-so do we.
Under the leadership of Maura Murphy (a woman who has been working with Global Health for only 8 months but seems to have been doing with for ten years she is so knowledgeable), with an incredible sense of humor and a desire to get to work we got on the plane to Santo Domingo in our clothes we had been wearing for 24 hours and flew to the DR. Upon arrival, the bags of course, had been lost and the storm was beginning full force in the DR very shortly after arrival. With promises of our luggage later that night and Martina’s famous cooking we travelled the 45 minutes to Consuelo with our invaluable friend and collegue Abel.
The following day we got up, had some coffee, still with no luggage or running water headed to the Centro de Salud. Work in the Barrios was impossible with the still raging storm locals were scared and stressed, many not home because they were forced to head for friend’s homes or sturdier buildings. In Consuelo, schools were closed, the Centro de Salud closed at noon and we were sent home, wondering if we going to be able to work at all this trip.
That night we collected ourselves, our luggage arrived in pouring rain (It had been three days since we last saw it leave on the belt in the Philadelphia airport) from a brave driver from Santo Domingo who was the only one willing to drive around in the flooding streets. We counted our blessings, ate more of Martina’s famous cooking and enjoyed each other’s company and Maura’s version of 20 questions.
Finally Wednesday came, the weather cooperated and we headed to the Barrio Chachipero where our work was to enroll children under age five in the preventative health program set up here. The neighborhood of Chachipero gets it s name from the ashes that used to rain down on it when the now defunct sugar cane plant was still operational. The small neighborhood of about 150 homes stands in the shadow of the skeletal buildings that processed sugar cane some 10 years ago. When the factory closed, so did the economy of Consuelo. There are now precious few jobs, the main economy now is pulling the metal and copper out of the plant and selling it on the black market. Abel told us stories of folks being shot with regularity by the plant guards, while stealing the metal. We met one man who had been shot in the foot while stealing metal who told us that even though he had been shot, the price of the metal was well worth it because there is no other way to make any money for food.
Working through the day we enrolled the entire Barrio in one day. Parents over and over again were amazed that two doctors, Deb Voulalas and Marc Callender, would travel out into their homes with unpaved streets to talk to them about their children’s care. Abel and Larissa Slavic (herself from the DR, not far from Consuelo) chatted with families, weighed children and interviewed families with such ease it did not seem at all the fledgling effort it really was. Ramona, the Nurse at the Centro and NPS shared her knowledge and experience with the team and it was clear to us all that this effort would have been almost impossible without her. Finally, two medical residents from Robert Recabral Children’s Hospital were with us and though they were there to learn they showed grace and skill beyond what was expected of them.
Tired, sunburnt and with much Animo, our little team returned home to La Casa Roja Wednesday night. We had come this far not knowing exactly what to expect, not expecting at all what actually had occurred and like the little engine that could, succeeding with the sheer will and positive attitude.
It is now Thursday morning and our energetic little group is headed out to Barrio 41 to work in the torrential rain and mud. While conditions are difficult we are all aware and appreciative, of each other and that families allow us to share their experiences and our knowledge. Viva La Republica Dominicana!