The FIMRC Experience

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Fall 2011 FIMRC Ambassador Bridget McDugall shares with us thoughts about her time with Project Las Delicias and in El Salvador from late September to early December of this year. Enjoy!

How time flies!  I vividly remember arriving at Newark International Airport early one September morning. The sun had not yet risen as sounds of airport activity obscured the peaceful quiet of dawn.  Another day of arrivals and departures had begun – thousands of people traveling to and from cities around the globe, each with their own story.  And there I was, destined for the developing world, wondering what I had got myself into!

Working in the clinic pharmacy:

Of course, I was thrilled about the opportunity to serve as a FIMRC El Salvador Ambassador.  Having recently graduated from the University of Pennsylvania, I recognized the tremendous value of this international experience.  Nevertheless, I was about to plunge headfirst into a vast sea of unknown.  What would I do in a third-world country without the comforts of home? Would I be safe? Would the community welcome and accept me?  What work would I perform?  Would I make any kind of difference?  After walking through security, I turned back to give one final wave to my parents. The smile on my face concealed the anxiety of leaving behind all that was familiar.

Now, after 2 ½ months, I am returning home.  My time as a FIMRC Ambassador is rapidly coming to an end, my initial fear and apprehension having long since disappeared.  I have come to love El Salvador and the remarkable beauty of its culture, people, and landscape.  And, quite naturally, I am left with one final thought:

What was the meaning of this experience?

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Playing with some of the children of Las Delicias 

The answer to this question is long and winding.  I cannot possibly narrate my entire 10-week stay from start to finish.  I have done too many things, seen too many places, and met too many people.  Above all, this experience has opened my eyes to the world of global health and non-profit organizations.  FIMRC El Salvador is a busy site – daily to do lists are never-ending and constant interruptions only add to the list of necessary tasks.  Sitting in on patient consultations, participating in group meetings, refilling medications, conducting house visits, brainstorming new ideas and evaluating old, managing administrative files, venturing out into this mountainside site…no two days have been the same!  However, amidst all of this controlled chaos, FIMRC’s vision for the future remains strong.  Staff members continually dedicate themselves to innovation as they develop engaging and effective programming – all for the benefit of the local community.

I have learned, through all of this, that no matter where you are in the world and provided the opportunity and resources all mothers want to take care of their children.

In addition to participating in clinic operations, this experience has allowed me to fully immerse in a foreign culture.  Last September, I entered a new world.  Sure, Spanish replaced English and my noticeably “gringa” features – red hair and freckles – stood out like a sore thumb.  However, various other sights, sounds, and smells overwhelmed my senses.  The blaring beat of “reggaeton” echoed in my ears.  The distinct aroma of tortillas and “pupusas” freshly prepared on the side of the road made my mouth water.  The enormity of the surrounding mountains and volcanoes as well as the deep green hue of their flora, no doubt, diverged from the cityscape of my hometown.

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At a soccer game in ES!

As an Ambassador, I have tried to embrace all of these differences and have developed a deep appreciation for this country and its people.  In the process, I have acquired enough experiences to last a lifetime.  I have swum at the base of a waterfall, soared through the treetops of Apaneca, and climbed to the top of the Izalco volcano.  I have visited ancient Mayan ruins, colonial towns, and Pacific beaches.  I have seen Maná in concert and cheered on the El Salvador’s national soccer team (face paint and all!)…they won, by the way!  I have shared in the festive celebration of Día de los Muertos and salsa-danced the night away.  These experiences and many more have comprised my life as a FIMRC Ambassador.

So I return to my original question – What has this experience meant? What have I done? Too much to fully describe in words.

Thanks, Bridget!