HHI works in four rural communities, and Arroyo de Leche (River of Milk) is one of the most remote. I go there every Thursday to follow up on our patients with community health workers Mercedes Sanchez García and Santa Corina Sanchez. Mercedes’s husband Franklin drives me from Montellano to Arroyo de Leche on his motorcycle.
The road to Arroyo de Leche takes about an hour to navigate by motorcycle on a good day. When it rains you have to walk through muddy sections and over flooded bridges.
When I arrive in Arroyo de Leche I meet with Mercedes and Corina to chat while they prepare lunch on their fogones (outdoor stoves). How are their families? How are their patients doing? Do they need any medical supplies from our office in Montellano? Lunch is the biggest meal of the day, and everything they feed me is delicious. My Thursday lunches are-by far-the best meals I eat here. After lunch we go from house to house checking on their patients.
There are tradeoffs to living in the campo (countryside). Campesinos lament the lack of cell phone reception, internet access, libraries, schools and medical facilities. But they don’t have to worry about paying rent. And food is abundant in the campo; they have plenty of land to raise animals for food, fruit trees are everywhere, and the river that gives Arroyo de Leche its name is a source of fish, shrimp and crabs (see photo below). The city-dwellers in Montellano, on the other hand, live in a high-tech world but unemployment is high and many of them struggle to pay for rent and food.
On Saturday we went to the air force base for HHI’s third annual community health workers celebration. They were awarded certificates in recognition of their hard work, and they renewed their vows of service. We also had a super fun pool party!
I’ve been in the Dominican Republic for about a month now. On Monday evening I played 4 v. 4 soccer with some little kids at the local park. I love soccer. Tuesday was my 26th birthday, and my coworker Rachel hosted a cozy birthday celebration, complete with cupcakes and cocktails, on the balcony of her second-story apartment. I spent all day on Friday helping one of our patients undergo testing to be cleared for a Saturday-morning surgery at an excellent private hospital in Puerto Plata. The most difficult challenge was finding two units of blood for our anemic patient; unlike in the United States, hospitals here don’t have blood banks, so patients have to solicit blood donations from their family and friends, or from paid donors. On Saturday I moved into a new apartment. My roommate is Laura McNulty, HHI’s executive director and one of its founders, and I am enjoying her stories about how HHI began and how it has grown and improved over the years.