Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Project HOPE Volunteers Offer Care to Women and Children

Lynne S. accompanied Project HOPE volunteers day in and day out as they headed back and forth from the USS Kearsarge to shore to provide care for the people of Puerto Cabezas. Below she recounts what she sees and hears in Puerto Cabezas, Nicaragua.

Snap Shots from the field...Life in Puerto Cabezas

In Puerto Cabezas’s grinding poverty is awash in contradictions. One Nicaraguan woman familiar with Puerto Cabezas tells me how air conditioned taxis wait down by the docks for returning lobster fishermen whose pockets are loaded with cash. Lobster divers squander their hard-won cash on drugs, prostitutes, and air-conditioned taxis that drive them around all day. Little money reaches their families, she says.

Nonetheless, poverty is extreme and it’s the women and children who bear the brunt of it. Lack of working infrastructure means garbage is heaped everywhere you cast your eye: on sidewalks, streets, around the tiny wooden shacks that serve as unofficial stores. At the local hospital, buzzards feed on medical waste left on the ground. Piles of moldering garbage are scattered throughout the hospital’s boundaries, crowding the walkways that one worker swabs with a wet mop and some kind of disinfectant. Her efforts seem utterly useless.
What’s even more striking is that, despite the poverty, locals show up at the clinic in clean shirts and dresses, obviously their very best clothing. Little girls arrive in flouncy princess-style dresses that bring out the cameras. It could be a sign of respect for the volunteers at the clinic, or it’s simply customary to dress in your best when seeing a doctor.

Indeed, there is no mistaking the importance of the moment. People listen intently to the visiting U.S. medical personnel, leaning forward, absorbing every word spoken, whether it’s in Spanish, fluently spoken by many of the doctors and nurses, or through Miskito translators.

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