Earlier this month, our newest Ambassador Katarina Visnjic arrived on site at Project Alajuelita in Costa Rica. Katarina is a first year Masters of Public Health student focusing in Global Health at the Ohio State University. We are thrilled to have her on site and even more excited that she is sharing her experience with us through her blog, "The Costa Rica Files". Below, you will find an excerpt from her blog on the Ring of Poverty, the area of displaced Nicaraguan refugees surrounding Costa Rica's capital of San José.
Alajuelita is one of the neighborhoods that make up San Jose's "Ring of Poverty", and the community that the FIMRC clinic serves. San Jose is located in a valley, surrounded by mountains. As immigrants flock to the city in search of jobs they are pushed towards the outskirts and settle in communities such as this one. With such a rapid influx of people, the city was unable to keep up with the building of water pipes, electrical lines, and sewage systems. The people living in these communities were left to their own devices.
For water access, the inhabitants often attach their own pipes to city lines, but without proper measures the water that reaches the homes becomes contaminated on the way. Other times they rely on the water from a nearby stream. However, it is downstream from one Alajuelitan's pig farm and is contaminated with animal feces. These are some of the reasons many people suffer from parasitic infections of the digestive tract.
Because there are no city roads that lead to Alajuelita, there is no way for city workers to collect the garbage produced. Dumping grounds are the only option. Often, the piles of garbage are incinerated, releasing toxins into the air around the community. Years of breathing in toxic fumes could result in chronic respiratory illnesses among the residents, such as asthma and emphysema.
FIMRC sees the importance of making the people of this community feel like someone cares about their well being. When mothers come to us they do not mind waiting while their kids play with the toys in our waiting room because our clinic is often much nicer than their home. As we walked through the neighborhood people greeted us warmly and many inquired about appointment availability for the coming week. I am glad to have seen the neighborhood so early in my stay with FIMRC. It has helped me see the significance of the work being done at the clinic and has given me a deeper understanding of the people that we are serving.
To read more of Katarina's Blog, visit www.costaricafiles.com.