Friday, November 25, 2011

Join us in raising $2,000 for Salud Sin Límites during our Season for Solidarity!

Season's greetings!

GlobeMed and Salud Sin Límites have so much to be thankful for.  Thanks to our donors, last year GlobeMed at Duke raised a grand total of $4,500 for our community garden project with our partner, Salud Sin Límites. The garden now provides one hundred and twenty families in the rural village of Las Quebradas with fresh produce, providing vital nutrients that were absent from their staple meals of beans and rice before. 

Celebrating the holidays in Siuna

It’s summer in Nicaragua. The rivers are slowly shrinking in the dry season, and the majority of Siuna’s 89,661 inhabitants are beginning to celebrate Las navidades, ChristmasYamileth will soon be taking the long bus ride to Managua to buy merchandise for the small store she owns and manages, in addition to preparing Sunday school events for her church and caring for her three children, ages 3 to 13. Because her husband, Juan, has a good-paying job as project manager of Salud Sin Límites, she will be able to balance these needs while keeping her family healthy and happy through the holiday season.

Salud Sin Límites and the route to access justice for Nicaraguan women

But not every woman in la RAAN (the North Atlantic Autonomous Region) has the blessings that Yamileth does. Domestic abuse has become a growing concern in this very rural, very poor community; the 64 domestic violence cases last year far exceeded the number of other reported offenses, despite the great lengths that women must go to file their complaint. It may be a day’s journey—walking, on horseback, or by bus—and a life’s savings that are the cost. When a case is filed, the victim must then find a place to stay; she might be lucky and have her story told to a generous family, like Yamileth and Juan, who will take her in for the night; she might choose to sleep in the police station hall; or she might simply turn around and begin the long trip back to the home of her aggressor, going the opposite direction down “the route to access justice for women.” Last year, 3 women died after making this decision.

When GlobeMed came to Siuna for our first Grassroots On-site Work (GROW) internship last summer, we asked Juan which project would best fit our partnership in the coming year, Juan identified the community need for a shelter for victims of domestic violence because local policymakers would not allocate funds for the cause. GlobeMed decided to commit to the cause and raise the $40,000 needed to save these women.

What we can do to help

This winter, GlobeMed is challenging itself—in the 31 days from Thanksgiving Day till Christmas Eve, our goal is to raise $2,000 for the women's shelter project. $20 can cover the price of a bed for the shelter. $100 can furnish a whole room. $250 can pay for a water filtration system to sanitize the polluted local water. $500 can provide a fence to enclose and protect the shelter. Check our online fundraising site, follow us on Facebook and Twitter @GlobeMedatDuke, or read our blog and watch us take on this holiday challenge! We appreciate all of your support—as always, every little bit means the world for Siuna. 

Wishing you the best through the holidays,

from Salud Sin Límites and GlobeMed at Duke

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Info Sessions in the coming two weeks!

Hello friends! Keep an eye on the calendar and make sure you attend one of our info sessions to find out more about who we are and what we do, and how you can get involved! We will have two on East and two on West, see below for details:

Tuesday September 6th, 6pm in Friedl 126

Wednesday September 7th, 6pm in Soc Sci 119

Tuesday September 6th, 6pm in Friedl 107

Wednesday September 14th, 6pm in Soc Sci 119

Can't wait to see you all soon! RSVP to our Facebook event here.

Friday, May 27, 2011

GROW Week 2

While last week's blog was difficult to condense, this week is going to be impossible. Instead of highlighting a single event, I'm going to try (key word try, haha) to give a glimpse of some of the most outstanding moments from our second week in Siuna. It's hard to limit them to a blog-worthy length--I never feel that I'm painting the entire picture. But here goes my best shot:

After being the strange foreign gringoes for our first few days in Las Quebradas, we've finally become the cool kids--sort of. Though they still stare and whisper like we're the weirdest thing they've ever seen, almost all of the kids in the community have made it a habit to show up on our doorstep every morning, afternoon, and evening--like clockwork. Sometimes we talk with them about life in los Estados Unidos, sometimes Amos teaches them Chinese, and sometimes we just sit and read while they observe us in our natural habitat (so to speak). One day, in the midst of Love in the Time of Cholera (a great read so far), I noticed that our friend Melvin, 14, was peering over my shoulder. He caught my eye, and sheepishly asked, "What does this word mean?" He'd stop me periodically to ask, sometimes to guess for himself. He was clearly interested in learning English, and before we had to leave to work in the garden he asked me to lend him the book when I finished. Days later, I realized that Ronald, 13, no longer attended school but worked in the fields with the other "adultos." Since Ronald is a very responsible type and a youth health promoter for Salud Sin Limites, I realized that this decision probably wasn't his first choice. I asked Melvin if he was still in school, and he answered, "There is no secondary school, but my mom teaches me."

It was a small moment, and a story I'd heard many times in my readings and experiences in global health--but to hear those words coming from the teenager sitting across from me, I couldn't shake a feeling of just... guilt. I remembered all the mornings I'd woken up (late) for high school, hating the whole system and all its parties for keeping me locked up 8 hours a day. I even thought of my time at Duke, when I'd skipped over readings because "I didn't have time" but I really just had other ways that I wanted to spend my time. And then to think that this kid, who still has his whole life ahead of him, would relish that experience--but will he ever get to have it?

¿Estas casada? (Are you married?)
There's an inevitable series of questions that people ask me here, usually going about the same way each time: Where are you from? What is the weather like there? Do you like Siuna? Will you come back one day? Once, a funny character I encountered on the trail to the community garden asked me, Nicaragua is in total ruins, isn't it? Next comes, how old are you?, and then, always a shock--are you married?

No, no, no, no. I am not married, nope. It always throws me off guard just to be asked that. Yet I've come to realize that, by Siuna's standards, I'm about to be an old maid. People get married here much, much earlier than we do in the U.S., partly because of the average level of education and partly because of early, unprotected sex (the wedding ring that comes after the baby). Yet even in wealthier, more educated families, early marriages are a standard--Juan and his wife Yamileth both went to the local university, URACCAN, but they had their first child at age 17. And early marriage is only the half (or rather, less than half) of it--in a meeting at Las Quebradas, Fabian quoted the statistic that an entire 70% of mothers in Nicaragua are single mothers. The widespread lack of condom use results in many men having their fun with women for a while, then jumping ship before the little one comes. Juan told me that he had 20 brothers and sisters--all with different mothers. It's becoming all too common a practice, leaving mothers and children with little means for survival in already tough circumstances.

On a funnier note, another question that was posed to me--Is Amos your husband? We got a good laugh out of that one.

A Big Slice of Watermelon
After just two days of our beans-and-rice diet in Las Quebradas, Amos and I realized that we were intensely craving fruit. "Strawberries," I said. "A big slice of watermelon," he suggested. Our mouths were watering the whole walk back from the garden, and our lukewarm water just wasn't enough to satisfy.

We finally noticed that these cravings, which became worse and worse over the course of the week, came from a complete lack of fruits in veggies in our meals. Plaintains were served with every course, but those are more starch than vitamins, and since they were in the meal that got me sick I haven't really touched them since. The few days of this lack caused our mealtime conversations to always gravitate towards food--we dream of hamburgers, pizzas, and other indulgences while we shovel in more beans and rice, beans and rice. But this is the only existence the people of Las Quebradas know. You can see it in their short stature and metallic smiles (good teeth are a rarity). While we'd spent most of the year supporting this community garden project on the grounds that it provided affordable access to these dietary needs, we've finally realized that it is to provide any access to fruits and veggies, because outside of what is imported from Managua--there are none. It made me think of the talk that Dave Law of Joy-Southfield Community Development (GlobeMed at UMichigan's local partner) about the "food desert" in Detroit and how it is affecting local nutrition. Juan and Fabian have even speculated that, with the establishment of this garden, Las Quebradas might even be able to sell its produce in Siuna (as opposed to importing from Managua, as it customary now). This would be a great future for our first project. Maybe one day, if Amos and I return, we can finally find that big slice of watermelon in the markets... until then, we're making do with orange juice and Gatorade.

Cosmo Crossing Cultural Barriers
There is a certain laugh that children have when they find something they shouldn't. During one of my recent "showers" (we pour water from a bucket to bath, old-school style :) ), I heard it. I knew what had happened immediately. They had found my Cosmo.

It was straight out of something from a movie. I finally got Amos' attention, and he withdrew the naughty (but not actually) magazine from the still-giggling young'uns. When I finally came out, they were gathered around with innocent eyes, and Amos asked what could have been the problem. "Was it the last part? Or the part about bikinis?" They burst into giggles all over again. "They keep laughing whenever I say the word bikini." (Giggle giggle giggle.) When they'd finally calmed down, I asked them what they were looking at, and they all avoided my eyes. The ones I knew by name had been getting water, or just weren't there--uh huh, sure. "Mentirosos," I shook my head, but I couldn't suppress a grin. They burst into giggles again, and I had no choice but to brush it off, and hide the forbidden magazine someplace far away with the burden on my soul that I had just inadvertantly stolen the innocence of about ten rural Nicaraguan children. Well, at least they couldn't read the articles...

Saturday, May 21, 2011

What April said...AND

Duke GROW 2011 has been an extremely humbling experience thus far. I like to think of myself as a pretty low maintainence person who adapts well to different conditions. But after a week of being in Siuna and Las Quebradas, I´ve realized how untrue that really is. For instance, having meat at every meal (besides breakfast) has always been an assumption for me. Meat, for me, is a staple. But this is not the case for most people in the world. In Nicaragua, rice, beans, and plantains are the main dietary staples. There are no showers here, as we know them. We have been washing by pouring bowls of cold water on ourselves. We are handwashing our clothes.  But they are not unhappy. Quite the contary, actually. Juan´s family, for instance, is honestly the happiest family I have ever met. This really got me thinking about what I can live happily without.

In chinese, there is a term, chiku, which literally means to eat bitter. Figuratively it means to bear hardship. I used to consider myself quite able to chiku. Not anymore. Spending 2 or 3 hours in the gym cannot even compare to an hour of work in the garden in Las Quebradas. April and I have the sunburns and the blisters to prove it. During our first morning session, we cleared the field with machetes and raked the remains with forked branches, experiencing both a downpour and a blazing hot sun. It was the toughest physical job I had ever performed, not because of the energy spent, but because of my pasty white skin and my girly hands, which are both signs of privelege. So the next time you´re in the gym and you feel like you are invincible, remember: you are basically in a laboratory with controlled conditions. Sorry to burst your bubbles, gorilla juiceheads.

One thing I am just starting to realize is that when we travel abroad or even domestically to ¨serve¨ underpriveleged populations, we need to focus less on pitying and more on respecting/admiring. When we pity, we see ourselves as the only ones with something to offer, when in fact, quite the opposite is true. It is only when we view service as a mutual process that we can have a real impact.

OK. So this post was way more philosophical than I would have liked. I´ll try to keep it more lighthearted next time. We are a third of our way into GROW and I am having an awesome time. Everybody we´ve met so far has been  extremely helpful and welcoming. I feel terrible that I cannot communicate with our freinds here on a deeper scale. ¨Baxter, you know I don´t speak Spanish.¨

GlobeMed Love,

GROW internship 2011, Siuna Nicaragua - Week One

After much ado--hello from Nicaragua! Amos and I have been having an amazing time so far and have so much to tell (unfortunately, our opportunities to use the internet have been somewhat scattered). As an overview, we are here in Siuna, Nicaragua working with our partner Salud Sin Limites on a "huerto comunitario" (community garden) in Las Quebradas, a nearby rural village. Let me go ahead and say--although I´ve loved our experiences in Durham, this garden is practically nothing like SEEDS!

This week, our plan was to spend two days in Siuna, getting to know the Salud Sin Limites office and the area, and then three days working in the garden in Las Quebradas. Because Las Q is so far away (approximately 40 miles, an hour and a half drive) we stay in the house for medical personnel behind the health center there. However, the night before we were supposed to leave, my stomach decided there would be a change of plans. You know how they always tell you not to eat street food? Really don´t. The family I was staying with wanted it for dinner, and to avoid looking like a spoiled American, I joined them, despite all warnings. About an hour or so later, while packing my bags for Las Quebradas, the carne asada that I shouldn´t have eaten came back up. I thought that was the end of it, and went to cool off in front of the fan in the living room, only to realize that Ligia´s little girl had gotten sick too! We sat nursing ourselves back to health until I felt okay enough to sleep. In the middle of the night, however, the saga continued--and Ligia told me I should go to the hospital.

Now, earlier that day we had had a tour of Siuna, starting with the hospital. There are only two doctors, a limited number of nurses, and zero bathrooms there. Dogs were sleeping on the patio in front of the farmacia. Conditions are so far from what you´d expect anywhere in the US. So when Ligia said the h-word, I got a little bit scared. But finally, after consulting my dad, I decided he was right: better a third world hospital than none at all. Juan picked the three of us up--Ligia, her daughter, and me--in the Salud Sin Limites truck, and we rushed over. It was an experience different from any medical visit I´ve ever had, if nothing else because it was extremely fast. They put me on an examining table with bloodstains still on it, and when I set my things on the floor Ligia moved them, saying there was too much bacteria. So much that we take for granted! They gave me a simple injection to stop the vomit, but I was a little afraid the whole time. I kept asking if the needles were clean, and when I explained to Ligia that I was just nervous because the hospital I´m used to at Duke is so different, she replied, "These are our conditions." Definitely an eye-opening experience from the health perspective!

We finally got to work on the garden Friday (there was a meeting on Thursday and I stayed in Siuna to regain my strength Wednesday) and it´s been incredibly rewarding so far. Amos and I used machetes! A big first for both of us. Since we didn´t do a very good job with them (the adults had to clear the land after us and the children, ha) we spent most of our time "raking." By raking I mean using forked sticks to collect all the underbrush that we had just macheted, a process called desbasurando. Got a good core workout--looks like this trip will jumpstart my new summer exercise routine, haha. After we were exhausted from working 3 hours, Fabian (from SSL) asked us, "jugamos?" And so we began a game of futbol (soccer!) in the middle of a cow field. We hit the cows from time to time, to their chagrin, and almost everyone stepped in cowpies (although the barefoot kids didn´t care at all!), but the game was so fun that I almost forgot about all the excrement and how tired I was. I remembered when I got back to the house to take our siesta, which wasn´t nearly long enough.

The children are wonderful there, and think we are just the funniest thing they´ve ever seen. One of the babies literally sat and laughed at me during the entire 2 hour meeting we had when we got there! They´ve been so fun to spend time with though, and I can´t wait to write more once we get to know them better. Oh, and my dad would be happy to hear that they LOVED the rocket balloons he made me take with me :).

As always, GlobeMed love--


PS- The internet here is incompatible with both images and video :( so those will have to wait until we get back, sadly!

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Wednesday, January 26, 2011


The GROW internship application for this summer is out!
The trip will most likely occur mid/late May through early June. It is a great opportunity for you to understand first hand what GlobeMed is all about, to work with our partner and community in Siuna, Nicaragua, and to share your experiences with the rest of the club and campus.

You can access the application here (as a GoogleDoc).
Click File > Download Original before you start filling it out.

Applications are due by February 9th.

I hope you guys will all apply!

 You can do it!