Monday, October 20, 2008

Dios to all our family and friends,

We know it has been a long time since we have been in touch but our time is being consumed. Being in the small town of Punta Gorda we find ourselves very busy. Everyone knows everyone and we are all "hailed" out to be of service.

Michael is involved in Red Cross Disaster Preparedness work, HIV/AIDS work and various development projects in villages.
"Me works" with the hospital in many areas, computer training and work, nutrition training at the hospital (would think they would have that knowledge??), a pharmacy database for a free medical clinic staffed by a monthly rotating group of med-students both from the US and from the UK. We both continue our work on the UNICEF funded WASH project in water, sanitation and hygiene. Working with the hospital and clinic has led to the impression that I am a nurse or doctor and people are starting to show up at our door looking for help.

I spend time getting people the help they need and or getting them to the clinic for help and assistance...anything from illness to dental health.

One of the biggest areas of our health work has to do with maternal and child health. There is momentum growing on the part of the women getting to the hospital for deliveries. Due to a high instance of hypertension (high blood pressure) and urinary tract infections (due to lack of sanitation) many pregnancies are at risk. Our local hospital can only handle simple pregnancies and simple fractures and stitches everything else has to be ambulanced to another area for higher level care.

This is a very patriarchal society and men still have the majority of say for the whole household. In many of the village households women are only allowed to speak anyone outside their home with the permission of their husband. He may also not allow them to get medical care at the hospital either due to custom/tradition, prejudice towards the medical personnel or who knows what. There is a wonderful existence here between many ethnic groups but 99.9% of the doctors are Nigerian or Cuban and the Mayan men don't want their women "open" to these doctors. There recently was a woman from one of the villages near by who tried to get to the hospital for delivery but her husband found her, returned her home - they delivered the baby and there was an infant mortality 2 days later. Heartbreaking.

Recently, we tried to get a Mayan mother, Carmelita to take her seven year old son to the doctor for an infected tooth that was causing serious infection in his gums and moving onto his inner lip. We gave her passage for the first visit but after that her husband forbade her to seek further help. He believes it is the spirit of a person or animal that the mother saw during her pregnancy that needs to leave the body before healing can begin. In some instances if they know the person or animal they will cut a lock of hair and burn it around the individual to inhale to release the spirit. Challenges exist.

Currently, we are in evacuation mode. We have been stuck in Belmopan due to a tropical storm that passed thru. We are all stuck in a the Peace Corps hotel that breeds mold faster than...It has been six days and we are all begging for may be today!!! This is the most rain we have seen all season...and the early rain did take out a bridge that keeps us from taking the bus to the North when we are in our southern living region. We wait for news as to the condition of the temporary bridge at this crossing.

It wasn't easy, but we made it through the month of September. Wish we collected as much money as Obama did that month but at least we didn't work very hard because every other day is a holiday. School is seldom in session. The 3 day weekends were welcome. The parades and festival gatherings broke up any monotonous ruts we have developed with regular working days.

Trips are planned to places we have not taken the time to go see. With the projects we have going on the next 10 months seem like they are going to fly by. We will have a house to go back to but we need to figure out how soon we want to get there. There are now a few places to stop and see people on the way home.

Since we are not at our usual computer we don't have pictures to enter. We will post another blog before the end of the year and add some pic's.

Love to All,

Michael & Karey