The start of this year has been busy. January has flown by in record time and by the looks of the calendar February is likely to do the same. This year has brought quite a few changes to the NDI team. My colleague Tony finished his work with NDI in December and has returned to the States to finish his studies and continue his journey with cinematography. He will certainly be missed in the office and on the island. The new volunteer ND, Dr. Patricia Beck, arrived two days after I did. We had met before on a brigade in April where she came down to see the island and get a feel for what it is like down here and working with NDI. I stayed in Managua to be able to meet up with her at the airport, it turned out to be necessary that I stay to deal with some legal paperwork for my license to be approved. Unfortunately this approval was not that easily gained. Tabby and Nestor had come into Managua for other reasons and on the Saturday we all made our way to the island.
Monday morning as I was on my way in to work I received a phone call informing me that my license and paperwork had not been approved and that I couldn’t see patients until I met certain requirements. Unfortunately the majority of these requirements were extremely challenging to fulfill and ideally would require that I be in Canada and have several appointments with a lawyer and the CNPBC. This meant that clinic would be stalled until we got my papers, and other NDI paperwork sorted out. One of the main goals of NDI is to work both sustainably and legally in the host country and so even though some of what was being asked of us seemed unnecessary or confusing we all worked together to get it done. I was also fortunate once again to have some amazing people working on my behalf and on my side back home to get papers sent/copied/faxed/signed and notarized so that I could get back into clinic as soon as possible.
By the second week of January we had what was needed and the clinic was re-opened. I had also been working a lot with Trish, helping to train her in the administrative office tasks, and she was going to start with me in the clinic to get an idea of what it is like and get comfortable with the language. Once we got back into the hospital she chose when and whom to shadow the other doctors or when to sit in on consults with me. The last week which was just before the brigade, was time for her to start to dive in on her own and she took over the consults while I shadowed her in case she needed any help with the translation. It was a very interesting experience for me to introduce many of my patients and hospital colleagues to ‘la nueva doctora’ as in many ways it was quite bittersweet to think that I won’t be there to follow their cases and work with people in the hospital. There has been more than one person who has told me that I won’t be leaving the island and that they will find a way to keep me here.
Already this year NDI has been quite busy with it’s community programs. An intern who stayed on from the last brigade in December helped to spearhead an organic farming project in Los Angeles with the help of a Nicaraguan organization out of Esteli called Fedicamp. From what I have heard the project has been quite a success and the farmers who were part of the original course have formed a group with regular meetings and are speaking with other farmers to grow more interest. Another new NDI team member, a friend who lives on the other side of the island, has reignited the DIOSA program. Since I have been here the DIOSA program has mainly consisted of doing PAP exams and work with International Women’s Day; as there just wasn’t enough manpower to be able to set up and run the classes for a group of women. Maria has taken charge of organizing the classes and after a few days of rather intense door-to-door surveying of the majority of houses in Los Angeles a group of women was selected to participate with classes set for every other Thursday plus participation in the International Women’s Day event. As Maria lives on the other side of the island near Volcan Maderas she also found a way to bring DIOSA to them and so classes will alternate between Los Angeles and Santo Domingo.
On a more personal note it was easy to slip back into life here on the island. The first Sunday after I arrived I went with my neighbours to the beach and we all had a great time swimming and chatting. There were a few surprised faces that didn’t realize I was coming back and it has been really great connecting with friends I have made here. The weekends have seemed to slip by and there have been the occasional fiesta or two thrown in there as well.