Global Health Volunteer Shares Her Experience with Project Alajuelita

Nurse Practitioner Rebecca Skoler shares a beautiful account of her time as a FIMRC Global Health Volunteer with Project Alajuelita, Costa Rica. Keep reading to learn about it!

As a Family Nurse Practitioner from Minnesota, I have been in Costa Rica on a six-month Sabbatical with my husband and two children, ages 10 and 12,  and have had the great opportunity to volunteer with FIMRC.  Now my time is coming to an end, and it is sad to leave this beautiful country, the great work that everyone does with FIMRC, and the women and children with whom I have had the privilege of knowing through my volunteer work here in Alajuelita.

Through the months I have performed a patch-work of tasks. In the clinic, I have given individual medical care to children and adults.  It has been rewarding to work with patients who are so appreciative of the care that they receive, not to mention forgiving with my Spanish!  Being here for an extended period of time allowed patients to trust me and confide in me, and allowed me to appreciate their inner strength, their struggles, and their courage.

I have given slide presentations about tropical diseases to the inspiring groups of students (Global Health Volunteers) who volunteer in Alajuelita, and I have assisted in general office tasks.  At the comedor (soup kitchen), I started doing Yoga with the women and teens.  No fancy mats, no fancy clothes, no new-age music, just our bodies and movement.  The women appreciated the movement as they rarely give themselves any attention and are always in the same positions, cleaning houses and cooking in the kitchen.  Simple stretches were comforting and complicated ones brought lots of laughs.  They know how to laugh, and that is a great stress reliever.

I also started an informal chat group with the moms, where they could ask anonymous questions.  We provided supplies for the children to decorate a big box that had a small slit in the top, and we called this the “Confidential Questions" box (in Spanish, of course).  Each week the women wrote anonymous health and medical questions, that they would otherwise have felt embarrassed or timid about asking, and they would slip the question into the box.  We would then pull out a few questions and discuss the topics.  Topics included questions about breasts lumps, sexually transmitted diseases, pap smears, migraine headaches, back pain, weight gain, spousal problems, and other topics.  These chats helped the women gain information on topics, but it was done in an open, informal format so the women did not feel like it was a lecture.  This allowed a lot of room for straying from the topic, which, while at times broke down into teenage silliness, at other times led to opportunities for deeper discussions.

One of the best parts about working at FIMRC has been witnessing the immense enthusiasm and curiosity from the students (Global Health Volunteers) who volunteer in Alajuelita.  They are eager to learn new things, lend a helping hand, and despite going out at night and waking up early for clinic, they always seem to have enormous amounts of energy to play with the kids at the comedor.  They are also thoughtful and creative with their presentations.  I have been inspired by this next generation of people, who by coming to FIMRC at such an early point in their studies, show great potential to contribute to many of the public health problems that people face around the globe.  Clearly, these students are stellar people and will make a difference in the world.  It has been not only a pleasure but a gift to work with them and with all of the staff in Alajuelita.

FIMRC thanks you for your contributions and efforts to Project Alajuelita,  Rebecca!