Ambassador Spotlight: Bhangra Blowout at Project Alajuelita

Follow Ambassador Madhuri Garg as she shares her experience at Project Alajuelita, Costa Rica! Each of our Ambassadors take on a project during their time on site that not only positively impact the community, but highlight the Ambassador's specific strengths. For Madhuri's project, she used her skills and interests in Bhangra, a popular Indian dance style, to help women in the community combat the current rise in obesity at Project Alajuelita.

When I arrived to Costa Rica, I thought I had a pretty good idea about what I would be doing. I was positive I would be working with kids on health education projects highlighting the importance of healthy eating and sanitation habits, but once I made it to Project Alajuelita I found that the staff had already been doing an amazing job with different health education presentations weekly. So again, I was off to ponder what I could do to help the community that had not already been getting done thus far. After my first week at the clinic, the one alarming trait I noticed with the patients was obesity. When I asked what they did for exercise, the most common response I received was nothing except for walking to pick up kids from school. People can be told what is good for them, and what they should be doing, but until they get a push of motivation to make the change it is hard to expect results. It is just human nature, I have heard multiple times not to procrastinate, but when a paper is due at midnight, you are sure to find me at the library at 11 o’clock freaking out! What the women of Alajuelita needed was a little push of motivation to exercise for obesity, and thus Bhangra Blowout was created.

 The goal of this project has essentially been to boost women’s mentality about their body, and increase their desire to exercise for the betterment of their health. Natalia, the superstar doctor working at the FIMRC site, sees many women on the daily and the most common underlying issue for health problems is obesity! Bhangra blowout is a project developed to target this issue, and by no means do I think after 3 months of classes obesity will be eradicated among the women, but it is a start to changing lifestyle habits. Bhangra is a form of dance originating from northern region of India, Punjab. It is not heavily focused on form, but more free flowing, it is like Zumba with more of an Indian flare.  Getting the women up and moving to loud, energetic music for an hour, to help take their minds off daily stresses in life is not just helpful for physical health, but also mental well-being.

 We passed out flyers to the community in hopes they would give it a chance. The day arrived for class one, all day my mind was circling in fear no one would show up. Then as it was almost 1:30, women started trickling in, and I was beyond shocked! THEY CAME, THEY ACTUALLY CAME! I was shocked by the turnout, these women, not knowing what the class would be about, had the courage to show up, which is half the battle. During the first class we went around learning a bit about everyone, and set the atmosphere of the class to have fun, forget about worries and just move to the music. As long as they are having fun and giving it their all, it is a success for me! The class exceeded all my highest expectations, the women were more than willing to learn the moves, seemed to have a great time, and were catching on like wild fire.

 As we come to a close on week 6 of classes, I would say our progress has been pretty stellar, we may even try to audition for “So You Think you can Dance”!

 At Project Alajuelita, we don’t only get a chance to help in the clinic, but out in the community in the local soup kitchen. The soup kitchen is filled with some of the most amazing, strong women I have ever had the pleasure of meeting. These mothers are struggling to make ends meet for their families, but still choose to dedicate their time and effort at the soup kitchen everyday to make sure 100-150 kids get a proper meal. Selfless does not even begin to describe the people of this community. The interactions I have had with the women and the children have been some of my best experiences in Costa Rica, if that may be playing games with the kids as they attempt to understand my broken Spanish, or sitting and talking with the women as if we have been friends for ages. This makes the experience at the clinic that much better, for many of the same people from the soup kitchen visit the clinic. When they see our familiar faces, I feel like it makes them feel a tad more welcomed. In the clinic the staff takes care of the patients to the best of their ability, making the patients (many without social security, so no other way to receive medical attention) more willing to come in when they have minor issues instead of waiting for major issues to develop. There aren’t words for just how helpful the FIMRC Project Alajuelita clinic is for the community. A big shoutout goes out to Tatiana, Dayan, and Natalia for making each and every patient feel content when leaving the clinic and to allow everything to run so smoothly!