As a high school intern, one does not expect to be given any kind of responsibility. FIMRC is different. Coming into the office at the beginning of this month I did not expect to be given work that would be seen by real people. As an intern this January at headquarters, I was given the opportunity to create tangible products, like this. I started my month by reading all the Monthly Progress Reports (MPRs) from each site and compiling raw data: how many patients were seen, breakdown of diagnosis, how many volunteers were on site each month and the number of health education sessions. The data I gathered was then used to update the Field Reports that are sent out to prospective volunteers. Going through 84 field reports gave me a better understanding of what FIMRC does and how each site operates.
While going through an MPR from El Salvador I came across information about a clean water initiative they started at Project Las Delicias in May. One of the main causes of disease in Las Delicias and the surrounding community is the poor quality of drinking water and the leading cause of death for children under 5 in developing countries is water borne illness. Families in the area do not have permanent access to drinking water and water that they are able to collect from the local storage tank is highly polluted due to the poor management of wastewater, which does not receive any treatment and gets discharged directly into the environment. The color of the water is usually brown and larva and microorganisms are easily seen. The contaminated water frequently causes parasitic diseases in children and adults. This can be very dangerous especially in children and the elderly. Sadly, a sick child will receive treatment against parasites but the parent, who is most likely the one who transmitted the parasite to their child, does not receive treatment and the child will become ill soon after. Therefore it is important to have a holistic approach to this problem and seek a solution for the whole family.
The proposed Clean Drinking Water Campaign is based around a year round plan to educate community members on the consequences of drinking contaminated water and how to treat water before drinking it. At Project Las Delicias, they are promoting the use of a water filter that would make clean drinking water available at all times. A complete water filter costs $33. Every two years the clay filter needs to be replaced at a cost of $14.
Generous donations have made it possible for FIMRC to offer families from Las Delicias an incentive. Families who already have a filtration system can obtain a new clay filter for $5 instead of the usual $14 because many of the filters currently in homes are 3 or 4 years old, posing a serious health threat. To explain that this is a fair deal, FIMRC leaders have been comparing the filter to purchasing gallons of water: one gallon of water costs $2 in the village and a family easily drinks three a week, which is a total of $6 for one weeks worth of clean water. By contributing $5 towards a clay filter families are provided with 2 years worth of clean water for less than the cost of one week of clean water. And if families who do not currently have a filter attend both educational initiatives hosted by FIMRC they will have the opportunity to receive the system as a reward.
Programs like this exist at every FIMRC site. From Post Test Club in Uganda for patients who have tested HIV positive to Superman and Chicas Maravillas for adolescent boys and girls in the Dominican Republic. In one month at FIMRC, I have learned more about public health and people then I ever could have learned in a classroom or from a textbook. Although I have never met staff onsite, the love for what they do is evident in their work. Volunteers come home with nothing but kind words of praise to share about their experiences; experiences that are shaped by FIMRC staff. I feel like I’ve gotten to know the FOMs, doctors, nurses, and clinic staff. The team at headquarters has mentored me and made me feel like a part of the FIMRC family and I will be eternally grateful to everybody who has been involved in making this an incredible month.