Hi! I’ve officially been at my site for exactly one month and one week. I’m still getting settled in and finding my way around, but I finally discovered a good bakery near my house and a few good pacas (thrift stores) where I can find a Free People shirt for under two dollars. Success. Poco a poco (little by little), I’m learning about the community and what my work will be like for the next two years.
The first few weeks were far from the busiest weeks of my life. Since I am the first volunteer at my site, I think that the health center and I were both a little overwhelmed and didn’t quite know exactly what to do with me. In these weeks, I observed a lot. Just… a lot. Everything from observing waiting room talks, meetings, pregnancy consults with the doctor and social worker, helping organize the pharmacy, to helping the secretary fill out forms for patients, and sometimes just holding babies and chatting with mothers to introduce myself.
Just two weeks ago, I was fortunate enough to meet a woman who works with Madres Consejeras, a program where mothers in the communities volunteer to train and work as peer support counselors for other mothers in the community. The mothers are trained by a Formadora, Rosa, who finds mothers to volunteer, and then trains them on important health topics including complementary food for babies after 6 months of life, nutrition, the importance of vaccinations, and breastfeeding, amongst others. Then, the mothers conduct house visits in their communities to make sure that mothers have the information they need to care for their children and to encourage healthy practices in the home. Rosa has been successful in starting three groups of Madres Consejeras in three different villages around my town. She has included me in her trainings and house visits and introduced me to the mothers she has been working with!
The first few months of a volunteers time at site involve writing a diagnostic on the health of the community. This includes general demographic information, and also specific health statistics, summarizing the services provided, and evaluating the way information is provided and used by the community. Volunteers use the findings of the diagnostic to better understand the community and what they need and want to improve the health situation of the population. This will influence what the volunteer will do for work in the future. This is currently what I’m doing and little by little I’m accumulating information and learning what my town and villages are already doing to improve their health, and what support they’re asking for.
There isn’t any set formula for a PCV’s experience, and every volunteer and community is different. There’s no one to tell you what you should be doing, which is both a relief and also overwhelming. I already have so many possible ideas and directions that my work could go in and I hope that by connecting more with my work partners and community members this will become clearer in the weeks to come!
Little by little, making progress!