By Milca Nunez, Frist Global Health Leader
As cliché as it may sound, time does fly! It’s already our second week with Project HOPE. It has been an adventure already, so I can’t wait to find out what the future has in store for us.
During this week, we attended a forum on preventing youth violence and crime. Many organizations attended to hear about the results of a survey that was conducted on various municipalities to measure people’s perception of crime in their communities. Most of the findings showed prevalence of domestic violence, homicides, gender violence, dysfunctional families, etc - all of which are linked to lack of education and lack of community and family cohesion.
The strategic plan, overall, is to create a culture of peace among community members. Project HOPE is involved in capacitating and educating young people on health topics, and as a result, students are kept off the streets while learning how to care for themselves and those around them.
Last Friday, our boss had a Skype call with the business team for Project HOPE, where Chris and I interpreted, because they were discussing costs for hiring a consultant who would assist in preparing a grant proposal that aims to increase HIV testing and services to the most vulnerable populations. It was interesting to learn how organizations seek partnerships to create a stronger alliance in order to compete with others and obtain the grant. In that short time, we learned the pre-planning component for grant proposals.
We also had to summarize and present the information that was obtained at the forum in our weekly team meetings on Monday. Everyone seemed to like the presentation, and even some commented that they understood it better than at the forum (it might have been due to the visual aids).
The clinic has a program called “Madre 5 Estrellas” (5 star mother) that encourages women to obtain a star for essential health services that every pregnant woman should get before their delivery. I have been helping by developing certificates of completion as a way to recognize those who have passed the program successfully (credit for the idea goes to Chris), and we are also in the process of creating a simpler way to monitor and evaluate the success of the program.
On Tuesdays and Thursdays we meet with the students from Proyecto Alerta Joven to discuss various topics, whether relating to health, personal, or social. Last Tuesday we spoke about HIV/AIDS and teenage pregnancy. It was a very emotional session because they shared stories of their friends, relatives or neighbors who are discriminated against because they are HIV positive. Others related stories of young girls who became pregnant and had to quit school. Many others shared their feelings. We all gave each other hugs in solidarity. I really love the unity among the people here. Human affection is necessary for mental health.
On Thursday, Chris and I assisted in facilitating the discussion on effective communication. We spoke about the importance of communicating their feelings to their parents or an adult they trusted. Two girls had shared that they never talked to anyone about their emotions. They just bottle it up, and one of them said she was so overwhelmed she even attempted suicide. It was really difficult for me to hear this. I wasn’t the only one, of course, who was shocked. The other facilitators told them to feel free to talk to them any time and they would help them in any way they can. I am really glad the clinic offers counseling and psychological assistance.
During the discussion, we made sure they knew they should not suffer in silence, because that leads to depression and suicide. I was glad to incorporate the aspect of mental health in that discussion because some of these pre-teens or teenagers feel as if nobody understands them, so they do not communicate to anyone about their problems or concerns. Every day, I wish I could learn and do more. I crave knowledge, and I am eager to graduate so I can continue my education and be better equipped in the public health field. This experience just reinforces my desire to do so. I want to help people who need it the most. No matter where I go or end up.