Global Health Volunteer Alum Mary Hahm visited Project Restauración in the Dominican Republic this August as part of a medical mission. She didn't realize that her volunteer experience would mean so much to her that she decided to return to Restauración a few months later! Read her account of her experiences (x2) at Project Restauración!
I spent most of my mornings observing in the hospital in the Dominican Republic. In comparison to the US, it seemed like a small clinic or doctor’s office. For anything other than minor treatment, the doctors sent patients on to the bigger hospital about an hour away. Many of the patients are Dominican, but there are also many who cross the border from Haiti seeking better healthcare. This summer, there were many cases of chikungunya, a mosquito-borne disease, and other routine maladies.
One of my favorite parts of my trip to the Dominican was running mobile clinics. Dr. Ricardo (the Dominican doctor who works with FIMRC) accompanied us on each brigade. We would transport the medications to remote areas and had consults with nearly every member of each community. These clinics are a great way to provide care to those without much access and to provide education on preventative health measures. I am particularly interested in infectious diseases, and I saw a broad variety of cases while running clinics.
I also taught a health class for pre-teen boys and ran a diabetes club (teaching about diabetes and its effects and then doing a blood pressure and sugar check the next morning). I felt a strong connection with the community and efforts of FIMRC in Restauración so I returned for my fall break. Another of my favorite opportunities as a French-speaker on this trip was the opportunity to travel to and teach in Haiti. We developed and delivered a lesson on germs for preschoolers in Tilori, a small town across the border in Haiti.
The FIMRC Staff is very dedicated to improving the health of the community and also amazing to work with as a volunteer. They are great at translating and make everything run very smoothly and comfortably. Since I was only in the Dominican for a little more than a week this summer, I didn't expect people to remember who I was since there are so many volunteers rotating in and out. But, everyone remembered me and was so excited to see me back in the fall! My Spanish went from nonexistent to a basic, functional level from the language immersion.
Overall, it was an amazing experience and I learned so much from going outside my comfort zone! I have a much better idea about what global health work is and what needs to be the focus, which, in my opinion, should be education and the creation of a sustainable system for the people who live in these communities! I think FIMRC is a great organization and I have a new outlook on my life path and opportunities now. It's cool to get out and see the world, but it's even cooler to be actively involved in a community abroad, and I got to do just that with FIMRC.
For more information about medical volunteer opportunities in the Dominican Republic, including our Summer International Health Fellowship, visit our website here.