Greetings from Bolivia, land of Lake Titicaca, lots of smiling children and a fully functional integrative health clinic in the heart of Chilimarca & Cochabamba.
After a couple of weeks settling in I have found some time to share my experiences with you all. So far, I have been splitting my time at the clinic and the nearby primary school while living just up the hill from the compound in a beautiful and simple bungalow.
MAP Bolivia is a truly unique organization that embodies what it means to be integrative in health. Located in Chilimarca, a low income suburban community about 20 minutes by car outside of Cochabamba, the "Centro de Salud Integral Chilimarca" boasts a community level clinic with emphasis on prevention and early detection of disease, a primary school, community library, and the office space for "Aprendiendo de las Diferencias" or Learning About the Differences. This latter program is a community based initiative aimed to better integrate community members with physical and mental disability into the homes, schools and public spaces of Chilimarca by working to improve understanding of disease, reduce stigma and normalize diversity in its numerous senses.
All of these programs are run on a minimal budget funded primarily by MAP International with assistance from the Bolivian federal government. MAP is an organization founded by a Chicago born christian philanthropist in the 50s that has expanded to a half dozen sites around the world. MAPs roots are in donation of medications donated from pharmaceutical companies, as well as bought with money donated by other organizations and individuals.
Although MAPs collaboration with the local government largely guarantees the clinic's survival, several newer projects are funded by outside NGOs. One such venture is C.U.B.E. which stands for Centro Una Briza de Esperanza or A Breeze of Hope. This affiliated organization is run by Dr. Jose Miguel´s daughter Brisa and her husband Parker and aims to provide safe shelter for victims of sexual abuse and their children, as well as raise awareness to the problem on a local, national and international level. I had the pleasure of providing well child care one day to over 30 children involved in this program. If you are interested in learning more they have created a lovely website with opportunities for internship (I believe predominantly in law) here: http://www.abreezeofhope.org/index.html
My role here so far has been predominantly as a provider at the clinic and well child care for children in the school. We have slowly been working our way through all the grade levels checking anthropometrics and treating low weight or height with vitamin supplementation and antiparasitics. In the afternoons I have been working in the clinic where I´ve seen numerous common childhood illnesses, namely lots of colds and diarrhea. I´ve had the chance to confirm the etiology of a couple of the diarrheal illnesses under the microscope which has been fun.
Finally, for my academic project, I brought about 100 books at Dr. Jose Miguel´s request (courtesy of Reach Out and Read and Dr. Howard) and have been working slowly but surely to give them all away. I designed a questionnaire for the families to get a baseline on attitudes and habits surrounding reading to children. The initial results do seem to show that there is a lot of work to be done regarding getting books into the homes earlier and educating parents on their value for early cognitive development. I have heard from the teachers in the school that a couple of the children absolutely love their books and bring them with wherever they go. Hopefully, as the parents see this enthusiasm, it won´t be difficult to get books into every household regardless of age.
With Carnaval coming up next week, well child care has taken a turn for the hilarious with whole classrooms of kids covered in confetti and wearing a variety of masks and costumes (spider-man seems to be a favorite). Pictures to come as soon as I can figure out how to link my phone to the computers here!