Today is the fourth day of my study abroad experience and my third day in the Dominican Republic. Our first day in the country, we spent our time at a YWAM camp in Santo Domingo. However, we traveled to San Juan, where we are staying and working for the rest of the trip, on Monday morning. Our whole group, which includes a medical team, a mission team, and a group of translators from Venezuela, is staying at Hotel Libano in San Juan. The hotel serves us breakfast and dinner everyday. Our meals are authentic Dominican cuisine including a whole lot of plantains, rice and beans, and different types of meat, including chicken, beef., and sausage. It is a very nice hotel, but it is quite different from anything in the United States.
Obviously, the water here is not purified because the Dominican is a less developed country. Therefore, one of the hardest things to adjust to initially was not drinking tap water or using the water from the sink to brush my teeth. Also, avoiding foods that might have been washed in the water is something that takes extra consideration during mealtimes. In general, there are not very many clean places here. It is all very open to the elements, whether it is bugs, unsanitary water, or animals. Even the areas where the cooking takes place here are questionable at times. Thus, I have realized how aware of germs and potential sources of disease I have become because of nursing school. I probably acquired higher standards for cleanliness at some point in between the beginning of college, a semester of microbiology, and my fifth semester of nursing.
The main purpose of our trip has been to spread the Gospel. So, this is not only a study abroad experience for me, but it is more so a mission trip. Monday through Thursday we run medical clinics during the day and also have a group going into the community talking to the local people. We set up our clinic in a church within each community. Each of the four days we are working in a different community within the city of San Juan. Our first two clinic days have been my favorite parts of these past four. I have been able to experience my nursing practice and my faith intertwine while serving the people of the Dominican Republic, and it has truly been a blessing. The clinic had areas for triage, medical exams, dental procedures, vision checks, pharmacy, and spiritual counseling. The first day of clinic was slightly chaotic, but by the second day we had a system in place and things ran smoothly. Through my time in the clinic I came to realize that the medical care we provide here is only a temporary fix for the patients we see. However, the care we provide for their spiritual well-being is something that will last long after we return to the United States. Knowing that I get two more opportunities to love on these people and just listen to their stories makes me excited for what the next two days of clinic hold!
This is the local church in Juan de Herrera that we used for our second day’s medical clinic site.