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