Saturday, August 18, 2007

A Saturday with Hurricane Dean

A typical house in Villa Faro

A combination of trash and the beautiful ocean (Villa Faro)

Clothes drying on barbed wire outside a half-constructed home (Villa Faro)

My family, from left to right:
Father Guelmy, Jayza (14-yo), Reyna, Claribel (19-yo)
Just before Jayza's graduation!

An entry written on Saturday, August 18 (posted later due to internet issues):

I'm hunkered down in my dim room, waiting for today's weather to pass. It looks like Hurricane Dean is blowing away from San Pedro, and we're just getting the edges. But there's a lot of rain beating on our aluminum shutters and the wind is literally howling! Surprisingly, the weather has made for a really fun day, since everyone's holed up in the house. We made homemade pizza for lunch, with onions, mushrooms, corn, ham, and oregano. Delicious! Jayza, the fourteen-year-old, has the equivalent of her junior high graduation today, so she is running around the house in curlers and hoping for less rain by the time of the ceremonies this evening. Tonight will be the first wearing of her new dress and shoes, which she proudly modeled two nights ago - gotta love an excuse to get dressed up!

Earlier this afternoon, Fr. Gulemy yelled to me that there was a rescue going on at the beach two blocks away, where two boys had been surfing and one was now stranded clinging to a buoy. The waves are too high for boats to be on the water, and everyone from the neighborhood was gathering at the shore to see how the boy would be retrieved. Half an hour later, Fr. Gulemy called me onto the porch to witness what he called a "Dominican tradition" - the streets chock-full of people leaving the beach after a successful rescue. He laughingly said, "A Dominican custom: where there is danger, go find it!" Nobody is working today because of the weather, but everyone will make it to the beach to see a daring water rescue. What an eventful day....

And now, The Week in Work:

The clinic has a great public health program that works to place local people in healthcare roles right in the community. Well-liked, responsible, and interested community members are recruited and taught basic healthcare and water usage information and how to make effective home visits. These volunteer "Health Promoters" serve as educators, sources of advice, and advocates for their local community. They are trusted by and accessible to their neighbors - and they know first-hand what it's like to live in the neighborhood - which makes them an invaluable bridge between the clinic and the community. The most recently trained Health Promoters are to be assigned regions of Villa Faro and given the results from our health census, including information on population, illness, pregnancies, etc. We did a workshop training for these H.P.'s two weeks ago, and finished the census this past week, so I thought this week would bring assignments and the start of the Villa Faro program!

Then I found out that there is no map of Villa Faro. Suddenly, assigning regions and giving meaningful geographic census information was really out of the question. So, there was nothing to do but make our own map! Compasses, addresses, pavement, streets with names, grids....oh, the things I have taken for granted! Dr. Dohn and I were lucky enough to start with (only slightly outdated) Google satellite pictures of the city, zoomed in extra close, printed, and taped together into a large scroll. Clutching those fuzzy pictures and a blank scroll, we drove and walked the southern half of the neighborhood, drawing solid lines for driveable roads and dotted lines for winding footpaths and impassable roads. We noted important landmarks: a church, a school, every "Colmado" convenience store, and a big abandoned hotel-type building. This week, we will hopefully finish with the north half of the neighorhood. Even though it's a long, hot process, it's fun (like a puzzle) and a great chance to talk to people in Villa Faro.

Before, I wouldn't have thought to link maps and medical care, even though maps are used everyday in healthcare in the US (e.g. ambulances, satellite healthcare sites, hospital transfers, even bills!). When you think about it, healthcare, governments, social services, religious communities...all of these are inextricably connected. A lot goes into quality healthcare! And I like the idea of a healthcare provider who can use many different skills, in addition to scientific and technical training, to care for his patients. What a wonderful challenge, to think outside the box, to tap into different talents and resources! We need a map. So we're making one. It's so far been an exercise in patience and creativity, but it will hopefully contribute to the improved health status of an entire community - plus, we're making a copy for the city as well.

This week has certainly flown past; today marks my first month in the DR! I really can't believe it - I still feel like I just got here. I'm happy and healthy and learning new things everyday! And now it's really started pouring again, so I should finish up in case we lose power. Love to all!


Jesse Zink said...

Man, Pritzker is going to love you when you get there! All doctors should be required to do what you're doing before med school. Thanks for the great story.


Leigh Preston and Andy Thompson said...

Hey Kate! We´re both enjoying your blog and the great pictures. It´s good to hear what you´re up to!
Leigh and Andy

Matthew Kellen said...

Kate, what a cool job, getting to map a town. If I could go back to school, I'd be a cartographer. I love maps.

Matt Kellen