Fifth week at UPAVIM

This was my fifth and final week at UPAVIM. The past few days were full of good-bye hugs, photos, and food. On Monday, I had dinner with Carrie, one of the Sister Parish coordinators that I met during the delegation last year. It was great to catch up with her and tell her about my experiences at UPAVIM. On Wednesday, I had a second meeting with the consejo del hermanamiento (the UPAVIM committee in charge of the Sister Parish connection). We continued planning ways to improve communication between our two communities, including a "pen pal" email connection between youth. I hope that my presence here has helped strengthen the relationship between DGFUMC and UPAVIM. On Thursday, the women had a goodbye party for me, which was bittersweet. It was very difficult to say adiós to them, not knowing if or when I will see them again. They all hope I can return to work in the clinic after I finish medical school. On Friday, the volunteers threw a goodbye party for me, complete with homemade pizza by Elena. I've really enjoyed getting to know the other volunteers, and I wish I could have stayed at UPAVIM longer with them.

In Reforzamiento this week, the 4- and 5-year-olds worked on writing the vowels a, e, and i. Two of my students, Ruth and Jamilton, come to Reforzamiento for an hour by themselves, which allows me to give them individual attention. We worked on days of the week and months (in both English and Spanish), as well as some basic geography. For the third and fourth graders, I finished teaching them about parts of speech, and we started working on math problems that required addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division. I have really enjoyed working with these children, and it was hard to say goodbye to them on Thursday. The constant turnover of volunteers is also difficult for the children, because they form a relationship with a teacher for just a few weeks or months, and then never see them again. I will try to send periodic emails to Reyna, the main Reforzamiento teacher, so that she can tell the kids I am thinking about them, even when I am 1,900 miles away.

On Monday, I divided up the first aid supplies that I bought last week into four first aid kits. I delivered the kits to the Cuna (Nursery), the two Montessori preschool classrooms, and the primary school office. The teachers were so grateful for the band-aids, antibiotic cream, ibuprofen, and other basic medications. Then, to use up the last of the donation from DGFUMC, I bought a glucometer and some test strips, which the doctor will use to check blood sugar levels for the diabetic patients. Some sad news for the UPAVIM clinic is that the laboratory has closed until further notice. The technician quit to look for a more stable job, and now the clinic committee is looking for someone to replace her, as well as some more funding. I hope they can reopen the lab ASAP, because it is important for the patients to receive their test results quickly and affordably.

Also for the clinic, the theme for this week's charla de salud preventiva (preventative health talk) was gastrointestinal infections. Elena and I worked hard to research the best ways to prevent these infections, design trifold brochures, and make a PowerPoint presentation. On Thursday afternoon, about 15 UPAVIM women came to the charla, and they said they learned a lot. On Friday morning, nobody from the community came specifically for my presentation, but we convinced three women in the clinic's waiting room to come listen for a few minutes. Elena will continue presenting these charlas after I leave, and I hope that more people from the community will come to learn a bit about preventative health.

This morning (Saturday the 23rd), I woke up early to pack my bags, sweep my room, and wash my sheets. I said goodbye to Elena, Mattia, and their sons, who were very sad to see me leave. I have really enjoyed living with them on the techo (roof), which has been my rustic but cozy home for the last five weeks. In the photo, my room is the window in the top left corner, with the pink curtain. I took a taxi to the airport and flew to Miami and then (finally, after several delays due to thunderstorms) sweet home Chicago. Although it is wonderful to be with my family again, I already miss all the special people I left in Guatemala. It will take me a few days to adjust to life back in the United States, but I am excited to share what I have experienced with my church family, my friends, and my medical school classmates. UPAVIM holds a very special place in my heart, and I hope I can return to work in the clinic someday.

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