Since returning back from vacation, I have had a full schedule. Here is some of what I have been up to:
1. Translating for the MACLA Medical Mission
- This has been one of my favorite experiences throughout Peace Corps. This year’s experience was definitely different from last year’s, but an amazing experience nonetheless. Last year, I was one of 3 triage translators helping to screen over 800 patients on intake day while primarily working in pre-op the rest of the week.
- For me, intake day is always the toughest. While many of the people operated on come in with conditions which they have had since birth, many others come in with conditions brought on by poverty (fires caused by candles, conditions either left untreated because of lack of access to doctors, or worsened by a poorly done operation), jealousy (acid throwing is a far too common practice by jealous spouses) or just being in the wrong place at the wrong time with their lives were drastically changed as a result. As the surgeons who come are all plastic or ENT specialists, no orthopedic surgeries are done and preference is usually given to children. Of the birth defects, there are always lots of people with extra digits, ear deformities, cleft lips and cleft palates. There are always lots of motorcycle accident cases (though these types of cases aren’t necessarily handled by MACLA surgeons), and a number of children burned by fires started by candles (necessary to light the house when electricity goes out at night), some who were burned while playing unattended, and occasionally by abuse from a parent (one little girl whose mother is currently incarcerated, was burned by the mother with a percolator).
- Two men this year both had surgeries done on ears which had been partially bitten off by assailants (one during a house burglary and another during a dominoes game). There are always heart wrenching stories such as the man who entered a burning house to save a woman trapped inside, and ended up severely burned himself. And cases which are hard to turn away, but are either too complicated for the amount of time the doctors are here or too severe to be able to cure, such as the woman who was missing the majority of her face below the upper jaw after being shot during an attempted rape. Dr. Geraghty has taken a special interest in helping the numerous acid burn victims regain mobility (whether it be in a hand, limb, or facial) who come in each year as well. Listening to the stories of so many patients, while having to turn a great number of people away makes intake day emotionally draining. Although it is tough turning away people in need, the amount of people who have been helped by this mission is incredible. In 2013, MACLA performed 274 surgeries in the time they were here and I have heard estimates that over 10,000 people have been helped by this mission over the last 30 years that Dr. Geraghty and MACLA has been operating in the Dominican Republic.
Pre-op pics from last year and this year. Pre-op mostly consists of translating basic information and instruction between patient and doctor, cheering up and calming down children and patients before surgery, and giving out toys. After actually performing surgeries, this is obviously the best job.
- This year, I worked to organize and control the crowds outside the hospital, while also screening out the patients who wanted cosmetic operations (even those with severe scarring/burns aren’t usually candidates for surgery unless they have mobility issues due to their scarring), and also spent more time in the O.R. One positive of coming back this year, was that I ran into a number of patients who I had befriended in pre-op last year. Also in contrast to last year where I brought in one patient who was turned away, this year I had 2 neighbors operated on (although a 3rd wasn’t deemed a candidate for her surgery), the neighbor turned away last year got treatment for her keloid this year, and 2 more came in to have their hearing issues checked, and I was even able to take one of my youth aspiring to go to med school back into the O.R!
2. Planning for the Construye Tus Sueños ’14 Regional Conferences
Since taking over as National Coordinator for the Construye Tus Sueños initiative, I have met with donors, begun to integrate into the team at the Fundación Dominicana de Desarrollo, and most recently began planning for our regional conferences in April. As volunteers, and a few past participants begin teaching the entrepreneurial business course to youth around the country this month, the April conferences will be used as a way to help youth better their plans which they will submit in July, before it is decided who will present their plans as part of the national competition in August. The below video was taken during last year’s competition:
3. Licey Campeon!!!
After two straight years of watching the Leones del Escogido capture the Dominican League title, this year my Tigres del Licey won, and I was lucky enough to be at the field for the clinching Game 8. Yes, the Championship Series in the baseball crazed D.R. is a best of 9 series! Licey led the series 3-0, before Escogido tied it at 3-3, then went on to win the next two games and clinch it. It was awesome to be on the field and around a championship winning team as they celebrated. I also saw a number of former Mets: Wilson Valdez, Ronnie Paulino, Timo Perez and Jose Offerman.
4. Sports Camp / Chicas Brillantes
- The “accomplishment” I’m most proud of so far in my community, has not been something that I have done, but rather the accomplishments of one of the youth I have worked with. Yudy is a 19 year old aspiring medical student, who is now in the process of teaching her second Peace Corps initiative – Chicas Brillantes. Once attending my meetings as a participant, she is now giving the lessons herself and was recently accepted as a member of the Chicas Comite – which allows her to plan conferences, bring her own chicas to the camps, and give presentations to the girls there, building their self esteem while teaching them to love their bodies and hair, aspire to their professional goals, and make healthy decisions.
- Last week while Yudy took 2 youth to the regional Chicas Brillantes conference, I took 4 youth from my community to a camp run by the Ministry of Sports. While the facilities were amazing (we used the Olympic Center from the 2003 Pan American games), the event itself was poorly managed and the youth ended up spending more time waiting around than actually partaking in activities and playing sports. While it was communicated to us to invite youth who enjoy sports, upon arrival it became apparent that they were trying to scout potential athletic talent and future Dominican triathletes. The thought process behind this was poor – as none of us selected our youth for their triathlete skills but rather for their interest in sports. As a result, we had many non-swimmers splashing up and down the Olympic pool, while they ended up taking the 100m times of our youth running barefoot and in sandals in the Felix Sanchez Olympic stadium. The former Vice President of the country and son of Dede Mirabal, Jaime David, attended a few of the events, but also made some awkward comments to a few of the youth with Haitian ancestry.
5. Rosa’s Wedding
On Saturday, one of the volunteers who came in with my group, Rosa, got married to a Dominican from her site named Ramon at a resort in Bayahibe. The two are a great couple and it was a beautiful place to host the wedding.
6. Baseball Field Project
- As part of an ongoing project to bring a baseball field to my neighborhood, and on the tip of a patient I met at the med mission, I visited Pedro Martinez’s foundation in Manoguayabo. Although we weren’t able to meet that day with Mr. Martinez, we did turn in a letter we had written to him requesting his assistance in helping us to realize our goal of providing underprivileged youth ages 8-12 a safe space to properly learn and play ball, while also lowering delinquency rates by allowing the youth to develop such values and life skills as teamwork, leadership, dedication, respect, punctuality, and more which will serve the youth throughout their lives, whether on or off the field. The Pedro Martinez and Brothers foundation has done incredible work in the nearby neighborhood of Manoguayabo and hopefully will be able to provide us with some advice and/or support in accomplishing our project.
- I also spoke briefly the other day with Moises Alou, another former star pelotero from our area of the country, but it doesn’t seem as if he will help our cause. Pero na’, seguimos pa’ lante!