Day 11: Carson’s Reflections

Carson spreading love and hope.

Hello from the DR!

All is well. I’ve actually completely lost my voice on two occasions now, but I’m alternating between sounding like a 92-year-old man and pre-pubescent teen boy, and we’re calling it my “sexy voice” 🙂 I’m lucky enough to be fluent in Spanish and have been using it every opportunity I can.

Today was our day off and I arranged to spend the day with Esperanza, a sort of liaison between Caminante and the HIV & AIDS clinic. Although I was bummed about missing out on the waterfall excursion the rest of the group enjoyed, I’m glad I took advantage of the opportunity to spend time with her. Esperanza is essentially a version of Mother Theresa re-incarnated. She is not a trained health care worker but is more of a community social worker and visits HIV patients (mostly children) in incredibly impoverished areas. I’m writing this blog post on one of the twelve homes we visited today…

 

Ms. J: This was one of the harder cases, but by far not the worst. After taking a motorcycle to the outskirts of Boca Chica and across dirt roads, we stopped and walked a little over a mile into the depth of a rural, impoverished community. We turned and went between a few shacks, emerging in front of a large trash pile with various livestock milling around and over it, picking for edible scraps. To the left of the pile was what I later realized to be Ms. J’s living area. There I met two young boys; a naked toddler and  his younger brother wearing an old, to0-large-t-shirt that swung down close to his knees to cover his otherwise naked body. They greeted both me and Esperanza with warmth. Ms. J is HIV positive and has been, to her knowledge, for the past eleven years. She has had five children. The first three died of AIDS. Their disease went untreated, mostly because she says she lacked the knowledge of the disease. Her two remaining children are currently HIV positive, but she refuses to take them to receive treatment, despite the fact that the treatment and medication are completely free and only on the other side of town. When I questioned her further about her refusal to seek treatment she replied with a distant look, a shrug of her shoulders, and the simple reply of “No quiero” (I don’t want to).

Ms. J was abused by her family and the fathers of her children. Her current husband returns home only to beat her and the children and then leaves to go work in the capital. She is emotionally unstable, justifiably, and has minimal comprehension over her current situation nor the resources to help improve her circumstances and the circumstances of her children. This is simply an example of a family I interacted with, there is so much more left unsaid about our conversations and interactions. Saying goodbye to her two boys was the hardest goodbye I’ve had in a long time, and was one of the few occasions I shed tears. My tears were not out of pity, or sadness, but they were tears of hope. I saw the light in their eyes, the joy in their hearts and the copious amounts of love they have to give in their hearts. Simply because I depict the reality of their circumstances, should not take away from the utter exuberance, tenderness and humanity I encountered.

With that said, does being happy with what you have mean that your human rights are not being denied? Our encounters within the schools were much the same, there were instances of incredibly happy children who worked and played in conditions that otherwise may be deemed inappropriate. These children looked content with the few toys they had and the poor conditions of their play center, but does that make it okay? Is it okay for the government to allow these kids to play here just because they haven’t complained? The room was small and cramped, and the toys were old and moldy. Is this right?

It’s been an incredibly life changing experience, and it solidifies the type of community outreach I want to do in the future. Interacting with these families has led me to not only understand the value of education- but the true heart of compassion, love and most importantly, community. I am taking so much more away from this experience than I could ever dream to give back, and for that I am eternally grateful. I’m not sure I’ll ever be able to express in words the experiences that I’ve been able to have, but will carry them with my on my future endeavors as an international public health nurse.

Carson

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