Tag Archives: volunteer

UK Medical Student Talks About Health Care in Teotitlan del Valle, Oaxaca

Edd Morris grew up in the United Kingdom (UK) on the Wales-England border.  He just finished medical school in London, England, and decided to return to a Spanish-speaking country to volunteer in a community service project before going on to a two-year hospital residency back home.  He has a passion for people and community health.  When he contacted us about coming to Oaxaca, we helped place him in the Teotitlan del Valle public health clinic. Here is his story.

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“I’ve always wanted be a General Practitioner (that’s what we call Family Doctors in the UK) and so I thought it would be an incredible opportunity to volunteer in a community clinic in rural Mexico.

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[Photo above left: Doctora Elizabet, clinic director, with Edd Morris.  Photo above right: Edd with patient and Dr. Jonas.}

I’ve been here for a month, working alongside the doctors and nurses of the Teotitlan de Valle Centro de Salud. I’ve observed consultations and undertaken my own, too.  I’ve accompanied the nurses on a community vaccination drive, And, I’ve dressed a lot of wounds and ulcers!

One programme here really caught my imagination. It’s called Oportunidades, and it’s a national social support system offered by the Mexican state.

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[Photo above, left to right: Ms. Mayra, administrative manager, Dra. Elizabet, Edd Morris, Dra. Guadalupe]

Through Oportunidades, disadvantaged families can receive financial support from the Mexican Government, as long as they fully participate according to the plan.

There are different strands to the programme — the children in the family must attend school and the head of the household is required to go to seminars about healthy living, for example.

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[Photo above left: Edd with village community service in-take volunteer, and above right, with nursing staff.]

Healthcare is a crucial aspect. Everybody who participates in Oportunidades  must attend a six-month health check with a doctor, and children must be up-to-date with all their vaccines. Doctors should bring up relevant issues at every health check-up.  For example, it is important to discuss pregnancy prevention with adolescents.

In Teotitlan, Oportunidaes participants are also asked to take part in group exercise. I went running with the men’s group last Thursday, then we played a 60-minute soccer match (it was exhausting — I was the one who almost needed medical help when the game ended!)

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[Photo above left, Edd with Dr. Pablo, and right, with Norma Hawthorne]

Families who demonstrate their engagement with the Oportunidades programme then receive financial support from the government. The money is paid directly to the bank account of head of the household – effectively wiping out any diversion of funds.

What’s even more impressive is that the role of head-of-household is always delegated to a woman. Mexican research has shown that when a woman receives the money, she’s much more likely to spend it on her family and children – exactly those the programme is meant to support.

Oportunidades is a really impressive programme and the doctors tell me that it’s been successful at breaking the cycle of poverty. Like any large-scale initiative, it’s not perfect or infallible, but it’s one of the things which really impressed me with healthcare in Mexico.”

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[Public health messages throughout the town help educate people about health prevention, including dental care, diabetes, heart and respiratory illness, and more.]

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Edd Morris leaves Teotitlan del Valle, Oaxaca, on June 18, 2014.  When he returns to London, he will begin work at Queen Elizabeth Hospital, London  which serves a diverse, low-income population.  He receives his official medical degree from St. Georges, University of London (www.sgul.ac.uk) in two weeks. Edd remarked about what a rich, meaningful and culturally diverse experience this has been to have a direct connection with the local population.  What he learned will help prepare him for the next step in his profession. From all accounts, everyone he has come in contact with has enjoyed knowing, working with and hosting him here.  When are you coming back? was a question I heard all day.

We are accepting applications for volunteers to serve in the public health clinic for 2014 and 2015.  You must be a student in a baccalaureate or masters degree program in the following fields: nursing, medicine, physician assistant, and be a Spanish speaker with at least one-year of university level language skills.  If you are interested, please contact us.

 

Colorful Necklaces Benefit Oaxaca Learning Center: Computers for Students

Who would ever think that putting together metal washers and colorful ribbon would result in stunning necklaces and a successful fundraising project for The Oaxaca Learning Center (TOLC)? That’s what volunteer Francine LaPorte did to help the Center recently raise almost $2,000 USD to buy computers for its students.

The Project: Necklaces for Computers

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“Everything about TOLC moved me, she says. There are dedicated and inspirational young people working so hard as students, tutors and coordinators, all together as a respectful community.”

“While in Oaxaca this year, I learned how to make a deceptively simple yet elegant necklace composed of washers and ribbon. At the same time, Armando badly needed to replace his almost dead, six-year-old computer,” Francine said. An idea was born.

How the Necklace Project Started

Francine was talking with a friend the need when the friend spontaneously handed her a gift of 500 pesos, saying only, ʻI want to help.ʼ Earlier that day the friend had complimented Francine’s necklace, so in thanks Francine gave her a necklace as a gift. “Voila,” Francine said, “an idea was born: Collares Por Computadoras.”

Order necklaces online at portedelaporte@gmail.com
 Order from Mexico or the USA. The price in Mexico is 100 pesos. In the U.S. the necklaces cost $10 each, plus shipping.

Since that epiphany moment, Francine has made and sold hundreds of necklaces and donated the proceeds to the Learning Center. She is a regular customer at the local fabric shop where she buys yards of rainbow-colored ribbon. The neighborhood family-owned hardware store is her source for metal washers that she buys by the kilo.

“I have shown the necklaces to friends, along with the TOLC brochure and personal photos of the young people needing financial help. I show them the three shades of red – or, as I have named them, vino tintobugambilia and jitomate.   Any color from the spectrum can be ordered, including red, green and white for the Mexican flag. She has also developed a pink one in honor of Breast Cancer Awareness.

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Recently Francine and Tracy Roach, another Oaxaca Learning Center ESL volunteer teacher, hosted a workshop with three scholarship recipients. Together they made 39 necklaces one Sunday morning. This will develop into a peer-directed, non-profit social business to build on TOLCʼs mission to provide financial support for tutors and staff. The new entity is called “Porte de La Porte”. They have new ideas and marketing strategies, as well as designs for men that include bracelets and belts.

How Francine Got Involved

Francine comes to Oaxaca for the winter from Tenants Harbor, Maine.  A former Teacher  of English as a Second Language, she discovered the Learning Center during an Internet search about Oaxaca. “I wanted to use my TESOL skills as a volunteer,” she says.  “I became involved with the Center during a stay in 2010 as a tutor working with Armando Carmona Cruz and Mirell Duarte, members of the senior staff who were both on scholarships given by the Cambridge Academy to study English.” From that moment, Francine became an ardent supporter of the Center.

Bravo! for this project, for the sustainability of the Oaxaca Learning Center, and in honor of founder Gary Titus’ 80th birthday.

How To Order

Order necklaces by sending an email to portedelaporte@gmail.com. 
Fran can fill your order from Mexico or the USA. The price in Mexico is 100 pesos. In the U.S. the necklaces cost $10 each, plus shipping.
All gifts are tax-deductible because the Learning Center operates as a U.S. non-profit organization. Think of this as a meaningful gift.

Student Physician Assistants Volunteer in Oaxaca Village Public Health Clinic

Two students enrolled in the Physician Assistant program at Methodist University in Fayetteville, North Carolina, will do a one-month volunteer clinical residency at the public health clinic in Teotitlan del Valle, Oaxaca, this summer.  Meagan Parsons and Benjamin Cook, who will both graduate in December 2013, land in Oaxaca next week!  Needless to say, they are excited.

And, we are grateful for their service.  They will work alongside local doctors, nurses, and other clinicians to support delivery of primary health care services to a rural and growing village of 8,000 people.

For those of you who don’t know, Physician Assistants (PA’s) are master’s degree prepared health care professionals who are trained to practice as part of a physician-led team.   This is usually a two-year program that includes a first year of classroom coursework followed by a second year of clinical rotations.

Nurse Practitioners (master’s prepared nurses who provide direct patient care) and PA’s are meeting the demands of our U.S. health care system, especially in underserved areas where there is a lack of adequate medical services.   Immigrant populations who speak Spanish and have cultural impressions of a health care system that hasn’t always provided access to quality treatment benefit from these professional services.  

Meagan Parsons, Benjamin Cook and Professor Deborah Morris, M.D., P.A.

Meagan Parsons, Benjamin Cook and Professor Deborah Morris, M.D., P.A.

Both Ben and Meagan speak Spanish and the experience will give them a chance to improve their language skills and learn more about how health care is delivered in rural Mexico.  What they learn will help them translate the experience to their own professional goals to work in rural North Carolina communities after they graduate.

Meagan graduated from The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in 2009 with an undergraduate degree in biology and a minor in Spanish for health care professionals.  She worked as a nursing assistant in a pediatric surgical unit before she decided to go on for the P.A. degree.  This will be her first trip to Mexico and Meagan is eager for the immersion experience that she knows will give her a greater understanding for the emotional and cultural issues facing North Carolina’s immigrants.  When she graduates from Methodist, she plans to return to Rockingham County where she will practice in a small-scale rural community working with Spanish-speaking populations.

Ben Cook completed his undergraduate degree in human biology and Spanish from North Carolina State University in 2011.  He always wanted to pursue a medical career and he wanted more time to have a family and be involved with family life.  He feels that by becoming a P.A., he will have the best of both worlds.  He chose Methodist University because it has a high pass rate on the national certifying examination and there is a dedicated laboratory for student use.   Like most men who pursue a career in health care, Ben wants to go to work in either the Emergency Department or in Urgent Care where the fast-paced excitement prevails.  He feels the Oaxaca experience will give him better ways to connect with patients here in the U.S.

Deborah Morris, M.D., P.A., is the faculty member who supervises the cultural immersion program in Teotitlan del Valle for Methodist University.  She says this experience is essential for giving students a broader perspective of the world and the ways that health care is delivered in a system that is different than ours in the U.S. She says, There is a flow of people between Oaxaca and North Carolina.  It is helpful for students to have this experience to be more effective as P.A.’s.

For the village of Teotitlan del Valle, the students will trail and support the work of Mexican doctors, nurses, social workers, psychologists and dentists.  They will start out doing basic health assessments and physical diagnosis, assist in giving innoculations, and update handwritten medical records.  As they get to know the population and their needs, they will develop a health education project with local participation and input, that can be used for continuing health care improvement.  The biggest health care issues in Oaxaca are women’s and children’s health, pre-natal care, diabetes and its prevention, and cancer treatment.

Meagan and Ben will overlap with UNC Chapel Hill School of Nursing student Leonora Tisdale who arrived to volunteer in the clinic in early June.  I am so gratified to be able to organize this experience that benefits the students, the people of Teotitlan del Valle, and people here in the U.S. who will be better served as a result of Leonora, Meagan and Ben’s immersion.

I work with universities to place students in the health professions for a volunteer experience in the Teotitlan del Valle public health clinic. Please contact me for more information.

 

 

Oaxaca Center Shelters Migrants

The migratory route for people from southern Mexico and Central America comes through Oaxaca, explains Melissa Harrison who is doing a year of volunteer work here at COMI El Centro de Orientacion del Migrante de Oaxaca.

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Melissa, pictured on the right along with Xindy Li and Lair Martinez, finished her degree from The New School in New York and is in Oaxaca to hone her Spanish before going on to graduate school in the U.S. Her goal is to work in immigrant services and social advocacy in the U.S. southwest.

“My life is the way it is because there are people who are willing to do the jobs I don’t want to do. This is my way of giving back,” says Melissa.

We are at Nuevo Mundo, a cafe that roasts and brews their own organic coffee, located on Calle M. Bravo between Garcia Virgil and Porfirio Diaz. We meet just by the chatter that happens through enjoying good food and service. Melissa and her friend, artist Xindy Li, from Philadelphia, met here. Xindy is volunteering at the Espacio Zapata, where popular artists create murals, paintings, lithographs, street art and tee shirts.

There are two ways to go north from Southern Mexico and Central America — via free train (very dangerous) and by bus. People who can afford it take the bus because it is safer, more secure. Those who don’t risk kidnapping, rape, and worse. They go in search of work and a better life, the motivation for immigrants throughout the ages. To support themselves, they may stop and find jobs along the way. They may have been deported from the U.S. and are making their way south to go home. The migration stream goes both directions.

Melissa tells me that the people who stay at the shelter come for no more than a few days as they transit through Oaxaca. Many now are from Honduras and El Salvador. She notes that El Salvador is one of the most dangerous states in Latin America where civil war rages.

Her particular volunteer work is about locating missing people using a database for unidentified bodies.

COMI is operated by the Archdiocese of Antequera-Oaxaca in response to the U.S. and Mexican Bishops to help people caught in the migratory urgencies to seek a better life.

Multicultural Learning Experience for U.S. Nursing Student in Oaxaca

“I loved it!”

Kathy Ray, a bachelor of science in nursing (BSN) student at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, spent two weeks volunteering in the rural public health clinic in Teotitlan del Valle, Oaxaca.  The learning experience was invaluable.  She developed what will be, she is certain, lifelong professional relationships with local nurses and doctors.  She improved her Spanish language skills and she developed a greater appreciation for Mexico.

The village has one of the better-equipped clinics in the region and many patients from smaller villages are referred there for their primary care.  Because of that, the patient census on a given day can be high.  The clinic has two general practitioners, a pediatrician, a psychologist, social worker, nurses and a dentist assigned for patient care.  It serves 8,000 village residents plus people from more remote rural villages.  They welcomed Kathy Ray with open arms.

Kathy loved living in the village and volunteering there.  “It was the first time in my life I have been on my own,” she said.  “I got married young and started raising children when I was 22 years old.”  She had never been out of the U.S. before.

What Kathy Ray was able to accomplish in two short weeks

She started a fun Brazilian exercise program, called capoeira, for teens and pre-teens held in the central plaza in front of the church.  The exercises incorporate music, games, dance, acrobatics, and martial arts (it is non-violent, she explains).  The children loved it, and she got several repeat participants. (You can see examples on YouTube.)  Pre-teens and teens everywhere are at risk for early onset diabetes and fun exercise helps overcome the risks.

Kathy gave rubella, DPT, and hepatitis-B vaccinations to children and adults, and shadowed the ob-gyn doctor.  She learned hands-on techniques, and also shared ways that Carolina nurses are taught to give emotional caring and support to patients who are in medical crisis.

“The nurses and doctors are all very professional.  I was able to shadow the nurse who was in charge of vaccinations and the OB-GYN doctor who cared for pregnant women.  I learned the techniques for vaccinating infants, children and teens, and learned to read ultrasounds to identify gender.  It was great.”

Kathy is a mature and wise 39 year-old mother of teenagers.  This gave her the ability and perspective to become a peer professional.

She shared her perspectives about needed safety education materials

Even in the two short weeks that Kathy volunteered, she knows she made a difference.  She recommended that the clinic publish educational pamphlets for parents about unintentional accidents, including how parents can protect their children by encouraging the use of helmets, seatbelts, and to not to ride in the back of pick-up trucks (how many accidents happen).  Kathy saw she could influence and encourage safety education by reinforcing the message that “it only takes one person to make a difference.”

Kathy and I spent over an hour together in my office while she recounted her experiences during her two-week stay with a local family.  She has written about living in Teotitlan del Valle and being a volunteer nursing student on her blog: http://onceuponatimeinoaxaca.blogspot.com/

She has posted photos there, too.

Placing student nurses between their junior and senior years

For me, it has been such a delight to place nursing students in Oaxaca as part of a global study experience.  It has been four years since I started this program with the help of Federico Chavez Sosa.  And, it is beneficial for students to be volunteering in Mexico since many of our immigrants are from Spanish-speaking countries.  Teotitlan is perfect because it is safe, small, welcoming and we have a network of relationships there.  The village health professionals receive the benefit of smart, educated and dedicated nursing students to help.

“I was excited, but also nervous about going to Mexico on my own.  It turned out to be one of the best experiences of my life.  The relationships I developed will be life-long.  I loved the beautiful scenery, the visual imagery, the rolling farmland surrounded by mountains. And, I walked everywhere.”

“And, of course, Oaxaca Cultural Navigator was my bible.”

How did Kathy manage on a strict student budget?

She bought pre-cooked food at the local market, purchased prepared yogurt mixed with fresh fruit, cooked beans, rice, red pepper, and choyote squash in the house she was staying where she had kitchen privileges.  She drank the purified water and didn’t brush her teeth with tap water!  She didn’t get sick :)

“Every day, someone would come to the clinic with a frozen milky drink flavored with cinnamon (horchata) that we would all buy for 40 cents each.  That was a highlight of my day,” Kathy remembered with a smile.

Kathy will receive university credit for this experience after she writes and submits a paper under the guidelines of the global study program at the school of nursing.

Norma Hawthorne works with accredited schools of nursing to place talented student volunteers for two- to six-weeks in public health clinics in Oaxaca.  If you would like to discuss this opportunity for summer 2012, please contact me.  (The relationship must be with the university/college rather than with individual students.)