DGH El Salvador Blog:
August 7, 2011
Greetings from El Salvador! This is Anita Lyons, 4th year med student and volunteer with DGH reporting from the community of Santa Marta in Cabanas. I’ll be living here for the next 7 months, and hope to maintain this field blog to keep all friends of DGH up-to-date on the many initiatives happening in Santa Marta. Please feel free to contact me with questions or comments: firstname.lastname@example.org
Just this Saturday the last group of Italian psychologists—Ester and Alfredo—left Santa Marta after a brief but very busy stay. While they were here the Comite de Salud Mental 16 de Enero, comprised of all the various community organizations here in SM, had a chance to meet and discuss the urgent mental health situation. There have been a number of suicides this year, mostly by young people. The committee discussed the need for various levels of support—urgent action to assure the safety of those most at risk, a survey of the community in general to identify mental health needs, and educational initiatives. One of the greatest challenges is the lack of mental health professionals here: in the state of Cabanas, the Department of Health has 1 psychologist for a population of 250,000. The closest psychiatrist is in San Salvador. Luckily there are a number of university students studying psychology, from SM and other communities, who will be helping the community in the months to come. Three psychology students, Mere, Claudia, and Moises, will be starting a project this month to identify the mental health effects of the civil war on three families, with the intention of designing interventions to help these families cope effectively.
The youth group here is blossoming, thanks to the dedication of its leader, Obdulio, as well as the support of the Psicologi per i popoli in starting an artersan wood-working cooperative “Suenos de Madera”. Fabio brought the machines and materials to make wooden puzzles this June, led multiple workshops on woodworking, and the group has since exploded with action. The goal of the cooperative is two-fold: first to provide service to the community by donating much-needed puzzles and wooden alphabets to the school in Santa Marta, and second to finance and sustain this mission by selling their works. I hope to upload pictures of some completed puzzles soon as they are absolutely beautiful and professional. The youth group is also hoping to expand—they are currently in a small space in the old gymnasium that cannot hold much more than the 35 youth that frequent it. We are looking into funding sources-- if anyone knows of any groups that might be able to support this initiative please let me know! There have been numerous workshops as well during the past month—“Conflict” with Marcos, “First Aid” with me, “Relaxation” with Ana and Lola from the Center for Rehabilitation.
In the Health Center (Unidad de Salud) the staff is still adjusting to the new health system that was installed a year ago. The new system is heavily community-focused, with health promoters visiting homes daily and the doctor going out to the community 3/5 days. There are still kinks to be worked out, namely that the doctor is not available for consult every day, meaning that the nurse and assistant nurse have to see all the patients. The new system is also focused on epidemiology and data collection, with daily notation of number of patients seen, types of illnesses, number of pregnant women, etc. The staff works very hard. I’m helping to complete the switch to a new, family-based archive system. I also hope to help the health promoters with education and home visits in the coming months. Natalia, a physiotherapist from Spain, arrived last week and has been doing a lot of training with Ana and Lola from the Center for Rehabilitation, as well as working with specific families with disabled children.
Thanks for reading all of this if you made it this far! I am thoroughly enjoying the community here. There are many needs but also many many strengths. I’ll keep you updated as the various projects progress. Again feel free to contact me! I’d be happy to receive any comments or suggestions.