My step experience was a Buck-I-Serv trip sponsored by the Pure Water Access Program and AMOS Hope & Health in Managua, Nicaragua. AMOS is a Christian non-profit that works to improve the health of impoverished communities by working alongside them in health, education, and development. I participated in a global health practicum and assisted in the design and implementation of community-based field interventions such as Zika outreach, clean water filters, and a clinic for women and children.
Going into the trip, I thought that Nicaraguan health needs would be drastically different from those in the United States. I was exposed to rural and urban global health issues and I learned about the importance of empowering communities in improving their health. Not only is community empowerment implemented in Nicaragua, but it is also being utilized in the U.S. My experience with AMOS Hope & Health has broadened my perspective on addressing public health problems.
I learned a great deal from participating in the global health practicum. This practicum helped set the stage for the outreach work we would be performing on the trip. I was given a crash course in global public health and learned about the theory and practice of community-based primary health care. The practicum reoriented my mindset of looking at health issues from the Nicaraguan perspective through reading literature, evaluating case studies, and self-reflection. I believe that many health problems around the world are not properly being addressed because those providing care do not understand their patients and the unique social determinants of health affecting their wellbeing.
An interaction that contributed to my transformation was working with the community health workers in rural Matagalpa. I was able to observe how they acted as liaisons between the community, volunteers, and AMOS. They play an important role in reinforcing the health initiatives AMOS implements by continuing their work when AMOS is helping other communities. The community health workers are also of value because they are trusted and respected because they can help connect people to the health services they need and come from the community being served. I see great potential for community health workers in the U.S. and helping to reach out to vulnerable communities.
An event that contributed to my transformation was hearing the story of why one member of the community decided to become a community health worker. She told me that she could not read or write and used to feel useless because of her limited occupational options. By becoming a community health worker, she now has a purpose and strives to empower others in the community by serving as a role model that doesn’t let their situation control their life. This is an example of how building on individual and community strengths can develop resiliency and contribute to improving health.
This experience has solidified my interest in combating health disparities and alleviating poverty. I gained experience working with low-income and diverse populations and learned how I can utilize relationships and community leaders to better reach people in need. These insights have further inspired me to pursue a career in healthcare administration where I can work to eliminate barriers that prevent people from accessing healthcare. In the future, I hope to reflect on this experience to lead outreach initiatives that educate and empower communities to improve their health and to develop, implement, and evaluate programs that address health disparities.