Today was unbelievable! We have tried so hard over the last couple of years to involve the communities in our planning - it has always been an uphill battle. Now I realize why! It's because we were involving the community leaders and they are all men!! But now I found the right women!
After we had the conference with the health promotors and midwives the other day, a few of them asked to meet again. So this morning, we had a group of about 20 from 9 different communities. They all got their by 8 AM and many had to travel at least 2 hours.
I talked to them at length about what I see in the clinics - how people want medicine to fix problems that are primarily related to poor water, horrible nutrition, poor sanitation, etc. For 3 hours, we all chatted and they were unbelievably enthusiastic to be involved in these changes. Many of them are clearly intelligent and very insightful and totally agreed with everything we were saying. We talked about making short and long term plans and they were honestly shouting out ideas and telling stories which proved the points we have been trying to make for so long. Ismael did an incredible presentation regarding the water filters and they were all signing up to buy one by the end!
We ended the "charla" with some real goals. They are going to meet with Ismael and Orfe in a couple of weeks and present goals for their communities in 6 months, 1 year and 5 years. They all agreed that the 5 year goals would be for everyone to have clean water, usable latrines, safe stoves, decent nutrition and yes, even animals out of the houses! They promised that they would start by being examples in their communities. At the end, I filmed all of them and they repeated over and over that they were so glad to have an organization that would listen to them and include them in the planning.
We also talked at length about our upcoming cervical cancer prevention program. I asked for volunteers to help us and within minutes, I had it all covered - we'll have 4 volunteers with us every week thoughout the month! They all agreed on one woman to be in charge as she is known for being organized and passionate about improving the health of the people. She's the one in the picture that I posted yesterday that is standing in front of her stove.
One funny story from today.....A 60 year old woman came in because of hearing loss. As I was getting ready to tell her that I'm a gynecologist and don't really treat hearing loss, her eyes filled with tears and she took my hands and said.."You know, I came here from El Naranjo. I've been traveling since 1 PM yesterday!! I came here because I heard that your group can cure anything! I know that God is working through your hands and I have complete faith that you'll be able to fix my problem!" Hmmmmm.......now how do you respond to that???
Somehow, between Sara and I talking to her at length and doing a few things (oh and also telling her that Dra. Coral Matus would be here next month!), she left as a happy customer.
Too many other stories to tell......Good night!