Jenn chamberlin, a nurse practioner student, interns with Compas
Jenn Chamberlin, a Registered Nurse who is currently studying at the University of Vermont to become a Nurse Practitioner, recently carried out a 4 week internship with Compas from January 1 through 28. Read her personal account of her trip below. This is actually the third time she has visited Nicaragua with Compas, with the other two times being about 15 years ago when she was just starting high school. She spent the first days of her internship in La Primavera working with Women in Action. She gave sexual education talks to young people and diabetes, nutrition and exercise talks to WIA members. She spent the next two weeks in Granada at a Spanish Language School where beyond taking 4 hours of class each day, she volunteered at a local public health clinic. Her last week was spent in La Paz where she also volunteered at the public health center and also gave talks to patients, pregnant women and adolescents. She also worked with a farmer to create bio-intensive raised garden beds using the forest garden method Compas is helping promote with farmers as part of our Peaceful Nature initiative. Jenn was also able to visit the Pacific Ocean, a volcanic lake, take a tour of the Granada Islands, make homemade chocolate,
Jenn's personal account of her trip
I just spent a whole wonderful month in Nicaragua with Compas and Women in Action; I feel very lucky! I first went to Nicaragua when I was 12 but I have not been back for over 15 years. I learned so much from my childhood experiences with WIA and I had always wanted to go back. I now am a Registered Nurse and and also in school to complete my Doctor of Nursing Practice so that I can work as a primary care Nurse Practitioner. I went this time to learn about the healthcare system in Nicaragua and to give some educational talks. My trip started in Managua, it was so lovely to be back and to see some familiar faces as well as many new ones. I couldn’t believe how much some of the women who I remembered as children had grown up! Over the course of a week I worked with Ana and Pamela to gather mountains of uniforms, backpacks, shoes and other school supplies to give out to the children on WIA. I also gave a few health talks, one to adolescents and teenagers about puberty, consent, contraception options and preventing sexually transmitted infections. I was initially nervous to give this kind of talk as I was not sure how it would be received by the members of WIA but Ana insisted that it was something that needed to be talked about. I also discussed some of the same topics with a group of WIA as well as information on breast cancer screening and symptoms and diabetes. The women were engaged and asked some really hard and thoughtful questions. We brainstormed on ways to cut down sugar intake and increase physical activity and everyone seemed excited when I proposed the idea of an exercise class! The next stop for me was Granada where I spent two weeks staying with a host family and attending the Spanish Dale! Spanish school. While in Granada I was able to go to one of the health centers and observe a number of patient encounters. It was incredible to see everyone getting free care and free prescriptions, and I wondered how it was that an impoverished country like Nicaragua could provide free healthcare, including an emphasis prevention, when my own country cannot. I was so impressed to learn that pregnant women are required to attend four appointments and if they miss one, a healthcare team will go to their house to do a home visit and remind them of their responsibility to care for their baby. During this time I noticed a two trends; there are many young women having many children and that the awareness of sexually transmitted infections seemed to be low. After my time in Granada, I spent a week in La Paz with Yara’s mother, Doña Maria. Michael had coordinated with the Mayor of La Paz and the local health center so that I could spend time shadowing there and also giving some educational talks. I was very impressed with the health center in La Paz as it was well organized, clean and the providers and nurses were excellent with patients. I gave talks on nutrition during pregnancy, breast feeding, for young children and in general for a healthy lifestyle. Another talk was focused on Diabetes prevention and symptom control through lifestyle choices including diet, exercise and weight management. It was a bit intimidating to get up in front of a crowd of 30 or more complete strangers but Michael was a huge help and even translated my bad jokes which helped the audience (and myself) to relax. I chose these topics for my talks because I noticed that many people were overweight and also that there is a high amount of sugar and fried foods in many Nicaraguans’ diets. On the bright side, I also noticed how healthy and affordable the traditional nicaraguan diet can be and talked about this in the talks. The cornerstones of the nicaraguan diet are rice, beans, cheese, eggs, fruit, vegetables with very little meat; these are all great options! My final few workshops were at a government funded house for pregnant women who were at high risk or needed to be close to the health center for other reasons. This house was a wonderful, clean and bright place where women could stay and eat for free. They also learn hand crafts while there to sell and how to use soy protein in various recipes. My talks here were similar to the ones I gave at WIA but focused more on the need for a contraception plan to be in place shortly after giving birth. Lastly, I had another talk for teenagers with members of an all female soccer team. I thought it was so cool that the girls had their own team because historically, sports were for boys. I was even happier to hear some of the girls knew a good deal about contraception and the importance of respectful relationships. I think I embarrassed everyone by speaking so openly about sexual health but I could also tell that they were listening intently. When I wasn’t doing health related things, I spent a few afternoons helping Mike’s neighbor Jorge work on a garden plot by digging up very hard dirt. Jorge spent a lot of time telling me about the different types of trees he grew and feeding me delicious oranges! I also learned to make chocolate from scratch with Jara, Haro Lee and Amaya. Overall, I learned so much and had a wonderful time! Just as I remembered, the people Nicaragua are incredibly cheerful and kind and they went out of their ways to make me feel welcome. I can’t wait to go back again soon! I am currently planning a return trip in August to implement an exercise plan with Women in Action members which would include weekly zumba, stretching and exercise activities at the WIA center.