STEP Reflection

Megan Fehrenbach


Service-Learning and Community Service

1. For my STEP project I traveled to Nicaragua for 9 days with Global Brigades. We provided basic medical attention to people in the village of El Naranjo, and built sanitary stations for their homes.

2. After completing this experience I have a new view on how privileged we are to have what we do in America. I expected to go into a place of poverty, and also expected to be exposed to a culture I was not used to. I did not realize just how drastic that difference would be. This trip opened my eyes to how lives in third world countries can be so basic. I realized how trivial some of the things that are central to our lives are when people with so little could be so happy.

I also realized how much medical attention we receive in America and what we take for granted. These people live without access to things like cough medicine, allergy medicine, and ibuprofen for headaches. Those are just the basic things that everyone needs, but also there are a lot of people that had an intense need for medical care that we could not provide and they could not afford or have access to.

3. The people I met and situations they were in were astounding. I had never put much thought into how people live that have much less than me. When we arrived on site for the first day of the clinic, I saw houses made of sticks, rocks, and mud with no floors, showers, toilets, or sinks. When we spent three days building a sanitary station with a shower, sink, and toilet for a family I even struggled with where I was supposed to use the bathroom without having any toilets or woods around.

I saw wild dogs and horses everywhere that were starving and dying. One of the days on the site we saw a mother dog with her 6 puppies. The mother was too skinny to nurse and looked like it could die at any minute. The newborn puppies were starving, and the people in the area could not feed them because they had to feed themselves first. It is a big problem in this area because they do not spay or neuter their pets—they have no means to do so—, which lead to a huge overpopulation of animals that cannot survive. By the end of our trip only two puppies were still alive and as much as it broke my heart and I wanted to take one home, I realized that this problems was not just isolated to the animals. Actual humans were starving just like those puppies and dying just like them.

When I was shadowing one of our doctors of the United States during this trip, we did a lot of examinations that were not standard in the US. For example, we had to check that babies were crying tears to make sure they were not dehydrated. We were looking at people’s stomachs and eyes to see if they had a parasite (and almost 80% of them did). The parasite problem had a huge prevalence in this area because it could not be stopped with dirt floors, kids playing around in the dirt, a lack of hygiene, and animals running everywhere.

4. This experience opened my eyes to the world by exposing me to things I was not used to. I realized how fortunate I am to have what I do. I learned a lot by shadowing doctors, which gives me a great leg up in my pursuit of a medical career. I also made connections with some doctors in the US that I am on close terms with. Overall, I became more well-rounded through my experiences medically and working across cultural and language barriers.