First week at UPAVIM

Hello from Guatemala City!

The weather is great up here on the techo ("roof," actually the 4th floor of the UPAVIM building), and I have a nice view of the La Esperanza neighborhood. I am sharing the volunteer living space with Elena (who works in the clinic and the Montessori classrooms), Matt (one of the English teachers), and their two sons, Sam and Michele (who attend 1st and 3rd grade at the UPAVIM school). They gave me a warm welcome on Monday and they've taught me many useful skills, like how to wash my clothes by hand, how to take the bus to the market, and where to buy the best bread and fruit. I've also met three of the four young women that teach English, but they live in a house nearby, not on the roof.

On Tuesday, I took a tour of the UPAVIM building and met some of the UPAVIM women. It was great to see some familiar faces, such as Dina and Tirsa, who we got to know last July during the North-to-South delegation. Everybody was so friendly and welcoming. I also met Nurse Johana and Dr. Hector, who work in the UPAVIM clinic. This week, I have spent my mornings helping Johana weigh patients, measure blood pressures, file patient records, and organize medications. I also talked with Dr. Hector about preparing some charlas ("chats" or informal classes) about preventative health. Elena and I will collaborate to host a charla in a meeting room near the clinic every other Friday. We will advertise these events to the community and also invite any patients in the waiting room to come and listen. Our first charla, on July 1st, will cover common respiratory infections and how to prevent them. I hope that these classes will encourage families to make some small changes that will greatly improve their health and wellness.

After I finish my shift at the clinic, I help with the Reforzamiento tutoring program. The Guatemalan schools are on vacation this week, so Reforzamiento has involved more free time rather than the usual math and reading lessons. The 4- and 5-year olds come in the morning, and the elementary kids come in the afternoon; they are all full of energy and laughter. They have enjoyed teaching me songs, playing board games, and organizing the disastrous puzzle cabinet. The kids call me "Seño" (a generic nickname for all teachers) and sometimes "Doctora." On Thursday, I brought my stethoscope with me, and they loved listening to my heart and their classmates' hearts. I am looking forward to getting to know each of them over the next month as I help them with their homework and play Jenga or dominoes with them.

Today, Saturday, we spent the morning cleaning and doing laundry. We took a break to go to the Chocofruta store, where a lady sells chocolate-covered fruit out of her kitchen window. One stick only costs 1 quetzal (13 cents!). So far this week, I have tried strawberry, watermelon, and mango. Then, Elena and the boys took me to the big market, where I was overwhelmed by the huge variety of fresh fruits and vegetables, as well as dried beans, rice, and nuts. It is much more fun to shop here than at a boring Jewel-Osco.

So, overall, it has been a wonderful first week! Even though I sometimes feel nervous or confused, the friendly UPAVIMas and their children are happy to help me. It is also comforting to know that my church family is supporting me from 2,700 miles away. I am excited to continue strengthening my relationship with UPAVIM, both personally and as a representative of DGFUMC. Stay tuned for more updates and photos.

Peace, Claire

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