Summer Trip 2010
- Leave for Summer Trip: July 16th
Still accepting applications for the
Summer Trip 2010.
- Return from Summer trip: July 29th
have been extended!
For more information about the
upcoming trip or on becoming a volunteer please visit us online anytime at http://www.prhdr.org/
If you would like to donate to PRHDR you can do so by filling out this form and mailing it with contributions to:|
Partners for Rural Health in the Dominican Republic
P.O. Box 1742
Portland, Maine 04104
Your contribution buys the medical supplies, equipment, and transportation to provide care to the people we have been servicing since 1995 in the rural villages in the mountains of the Dominican Republic.
We are a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization and donations are fully tax deductible in accordance with the law.
New PRHDR Board Member
|We welcome Elizabeth Baldacci who has recently
joined the Board of Directors of PRHDR and is currently the head of the
Fundraising Committee. We also welcome Daniel Strauss who is the new Student
Our current newsletter coincides with a growing appreciation of the long and
arduous path forward for Haitians surviving
the horrendous earthquake which devastated their country. It is unthinkable to
imagine what the future holds for the people of Haiti as they begin rehabilitation
where there are no adequate resources for such an effort. Learning to walk
again or learning how to use canes, wheelchairs and mobility assistive devices,
dealing with prostheses and intensive physical therapy, learning how to cope
with providing for themselves and others are all difficult to comprehend when
the devastation is so evident and pervasive. Hearts and minds are still in the primal
mode of providing housing, sanitation, food and water for the people who have
survived and are living with the chaos wrought by the earthquake and its impact
on everyday Haitian life.
The day of the earthquake, many of the PRHDR team had
returned from the clinics and home visits---having made those efforts that
sustain our volunteers, educate our future health care providers and provide
villagers who live in our rural area with ongoing education, health promotion
and treatment for acute and chronic illnesses. Team members were scattered in the gazebo and porches of our home base,
Fusimana in Lajas, quietly processing the events of the day and planning for
the next day's clinic or home visit. The
sudden shaking of the building and land was totally unexpected but easily
recognized as an earthquake. Concerns were immediately raised about the safety
of the team members still traveling back to Fusimana. With relief, the teams
embraced and welcomed all back safely. Then came the not knowing: where, how
many were hurt and on what scale the earthquake had impacted people. The
imagined loss on so many levels was the topic of discussion and discourse
through the last few days of the trip, but it wasn't until return to the USA and
exposure to TV and radio that the full impact of what had happened was finally
understood and put into perspective.
For the past few years, PRHDR teams have been seeing a
gradual increase in the number of Haitians crossing the border to work and live
in the Dominican Republic. They have become part of the villages we serve. We
have fully welcomed new members to our communities and include them in all
health initiatives. Our commitment to Haitians living and working in the
Dominican Republic is inclusive and important to the work we do. How appalling
that in just a few seconds, so many lives were lost, people were hurt and damaged
beyond belief and immediate relief efforts were so slow to reach the people who
needed them the most.
At Partners we often talk about you being "on time" to
support and reach out to those in need in important ways. Our vision and commitment
for this project has been focused on care and collaboration for the people who
live in the rural mountains of the Dominican Republic----that includes Haitians
who are now integrated into the villages as well as those who may join the
villages in the near future. Consider donating to charities which continue to
try to provide help to all Haitians. This is an essential component of healing
and being "in time" to make that important difference.
As you read this newsletter, be uplifted and moved by the
stories we tell about what can be done in a humane, caring fashion. Collaboration
with others who have the same goals is the single thread that makes our program
effective. The team members' lives are enriched and impacted in marvelous ways
even in the face of adversity. Consider joining us in our efforts to provide
compassion, caring and continuity in the lives of the people we serve. We are in need of health care providers and
interpreters for this summer trip July 16-29. Contact us and come be a part of what we see as a life-changing and life
affirming experience. We welcome your help and support for this important work.
President of PRHDR Board of Directors
Lisa's Ray of Sunshine
Fitzgerald learned she would be going on a home visit to see a man who is an
above the knee amputee, she said, "Honestly, it was a little overwhelming. It
was my first day here. We all piled into a car. I don't speak their language
and I was afraid I might not get something right or miss something that I
When we sat down to discuss her experience she recalled
approaching the bend in the road where she saw a huge gully with a tiny little
house perched on the edge of a very steep cliff which dropped off into a deep ravine.
Her eyes were immediately drawn to a little wooden window where the "cutest man
with the sunniest face was hanging out and waving to everybody who was driving
by." Lisa didn't know it, but the moment she crossed the threshold into his tiny casita, it was her life that was about to change. "The moment I met Juan Perez", she said
through misty eyes, "forever changed my life and how I will look at the rest of
the world. I just remember looking at him and thinking, wow, there's a ray of
sunshine coming out of that house."
Juan lost his limb, and the other leg has shriveled over
time, as a result of diabetes. He uses his hands to move around on his bed. He
is completely dependent on people in his community to take care of him which includes
dropping off a meal or providing clean clothing.
Lisa paused as she stepped into Juan's world and then
realized that he has just one small mattress. "His bed is pushed up against a window, the opening where he leans out,
and that's where he lives his whole life." That's Juan Perez's window to
the world. When Lisa talks about the interior of his little house, she says," All
you see is him, his face and his smile. You don't see the rest." After interviewing
Lisa, I can only imagine that all Juan Perez saw when Lisa Fitzgerald walked
into his world was a ray of sunshine beaming right back at him.
Lisa, a vibrant and caring person, wears a smile just as big
as Juan's. A student in the BSN program at USM, she is very interested in
pursuing a career in home health care. She says, "This trip has just reinforced
that that's the path for me. I've given
my heart to this trip. You know, I think that's the best thing I have to give. I'm
amazed and I have grown as a human being from this experience. I feel very
Lisa took a moment to reflect on what she has learned from
this mission and how she has changed. "I've learned that maybe it isn't OK to
just stay home and be involved in only your life and your own little neighborhood.
Maybe it's a good idea to look across borders and see other people in the world
and think about them. Even if that's all you do, just keep them in your
thoughts and in your prayers. That would be a good thing to do. It's important to think about your neighbors
throughout the world not just your neighbor down the street. I guess the thing
that will change the most about me is I will never again think that my life
stops at my hometown. There is a lot to learn and a lot to do. One person can make a difference. You can make
a difference. One small moment in time can ripple out and make changes that go
on forever. Juan Perez did that for me."
Margaret: Volunteer Superstar
|Over a late afternoon cup of tea, a ritual for her, Margaret
Ellis told me what had drawn her to participate in her fifth mission with
Partners. "I've always been interested in different cultures and different
places in the world, and this program fit my interests because it was a nursing
student program and I like teaching. Plus, I could give direct care, and it was
in a whole different type of environment to what we are used to." As she reached
for a shortbread biscuit she added, "Well, my friend, Cindy Robertson, a
physician up in Skowhegan, and I would talk about it every year but, I wasn't
able to go until I retired."
Margaret grew up in the Channel Islands of Great Britain and
since she was twenty-six has lived in America,
most of the time, in Maine.
Since her retirement she and her husband Tim, a former volunteer for Partners,
have been splitting their time between Maine
When she's not with us in the Dominican
Republic, Margaret works occasionally with
Indian Health Services. "I've been to the Navajo Nation three times and this past
summer I was working with the Haida people in Hydaburg, a remote village in
southeast Alaska on the southwest coast of Prince of Wales Island."
Margaret fulfills a number of roles with Partners. "I really function as a mentor and as an
educator for the nursing students. I am a nurse practitioner for nurse practitioner
students. I have very high standards of what I expect students to be able to do
to give good care. I try to instill with students a sense of pride in their
work and accomplishments and that the bottom line is patient care."
it's how to properly hold an otoscope or how to calm a colicky baby, Margaret
enjoys sharing her knowledge on the clinic floor. "I think that my strength is
that I'm a little uncompromising" she chuckled, "and I feel that the students who
really have success in the program often are the ones who have a sense of their
own increased standards of care. Across
the board in this program, Cindy and I have tried to increase the quality of
care to the patients."
has experienced a lot of special moments on her missions with us."One day in Pajones", she shared,
"this really elegant, lovely woman told me about how much this program meant to
her but, more so, how much the people in this area just rely on us and it helps
them feel better." Her other special moment involved a student who needed a
little direction at the beginning of the mission. After spending some
one-on-one time with her, Margaret said, "The next day I just kind of watched
her blossom. It was very rewarding. I've been doing these trips for five years
now. There's always a moment when there's the "aha" moment for a student, if
they are really focused."
Although some days were long and the work felt overwhelming,
Margaret always remained upbeat. "I feel good about this program. We went back
to working with a team of students and for me that's the most fulfilling thing.
I enjoyed watching the students progress
each day and gain more and more confidence. Establishing that mentor
relationship with them so I knew their strength and weaknesses was very
important to me. I could really focus on helping them gain confidence and
strength in their clinical skills. This was a great student body."
When I looked across at Margaret to do this interview, I
knew it would be difficult to capture her spirit, her inner light, and her
graciousness. She brings more than years of technical skill and teaching to this
program. She has enriched the experience for so many co -workers and students. She's
like the afternoon cup of tea I often shared with her. She gives a "lift" to
all of us when she returns to the "ranch" after a hard days work. She's a
special treat. Margaret has steeped the mission in her wisdom and insight. She
is the perfect infusion of humor and wittiness. When we are at Fusimana, we
can't brew a pot of tea as we might at home, but I always feel I've had a
proper cup of tea when Margaret is around the table. She is her own special brew,
her own unique blend. Tea, like Margaret, can be described in many different
ways: distinctive, sprightly, delicate, fragrant, strong, bright, unique, sophisticated,
fine quality, and elegant. Pick one. Now go brew yourself a cup of nostalgia.
Nothing could have prepared Gretchen Appleby for her first
clinic. She was still excited when we
sat down to chat about her experience. "It was an incredibly overwhelming and
emotional experience for me to find something
like that on my very first day with my very first patient", said Gretchen. "They
hadn't found it. Since they had referred her to me for her shoulder pain, she
ended up telling me about this, so I was the first person to find that enlarged
Gretchen, a student in the Athletic Training Program at USM,
plans to go to graduate school after she receives her degree in May. Part of
her education requires familiarity with general medical conditions, but she had
no idea she was about to put that knowledge into use in the first clinic. "That first day was a big day", she stated.
Still emotional from the experience, she described what happened: "In this
case, this woman just happened to tell me about it. I was just doing a history
on her shoulder and she ended up telling me about the lump. She called it the `little
ball' that she had on her shoulder." What Gretchen found was a lymph node that had been
enlarged for over a year. It was an important discovery, one that may have
saved the life of the first person Gretchen helped in the Dominican Republic.
Her discovery highlights the importance of the addition of
the Sports Medicine (muscular skeletal) component to our clinics. This year we
had six Athletic Training students, joined by volunteers, Mary Berg, PT and
Mary Connolly, ATC. They worked their magic under the direction of Ben Towne,
Program Director of Athletic Training Education
in the Dept. of Exercise, Health & Sport Sciences at
USM. Ben is also the Safety Director for PRHDR and is responsible for founding
the Sports Medicine Group for our medical missions. They were able to evaluate,
instruct, and advise patients with muscular or skeletal problems. Before, we
were only able to offer a mild pain reliever for muscular skeletal aches and
pains. Gretchen observed, "You know the problem is deeper than any medication
When asked what attracted her to this program, Gretchen
answered, "I've caught the travel bug." She traveled to Australia and New Zealand several summers ago.
"After that I've just always wanted to travel around the world, see the world,
and be a global citizen. Being able to
do this combines two of my greatest loves: my love for travel and then my love
for what my career will be. Also, I want to just help the people who need
Gretchen was selected to be part of a team that hiked
several hours in deep mud and rain, hauling equipment and supplies into Los
Hobos, a remote village. Exhausted, she drew upon her inner strength and reserves
to see patients for the next three hours and then, hike back out. To this she
says, "I knew that I had to just dive into it and just do anything that I
could. I came to the Dominican
Republic with a positive attitude and just
ready to work. I think a lot of people come on this trip with that attitude. We
put in a lot of long days. We're all
really tired, but then once the clinic starts, it's on, and you go."
"This has just been
the best elective I've ever taken. I've noticed a change in the way I
communicate with the patient and my confidence in what I'm doing. It's hard to
believe that I've made these improvements in only 8 clinics. At the end of
every clinic, I know I've learned something that I will be able to apply to and
further enhance my clinical skills."
Before heading back to the gazebo she added," the Dominican people
are fantastic. They just look you in the eye and smile. You hold their hand. You just make that human
connection. We didn't need to talk. Their culture helped me to be able to just
sit back, relax, and let things happen. I know now that I'll be able to make a
human connection with anyone on the planet."
Cole, Culture and Changes
"After my very first clinic I thought I had made a great
decision coming here because even though I just had one patient, it was wonderful
and very thorough. She was very lovely and kind. I knew, right then and there, that
I had made the best decision coming on this trip. Cole Carrieiro is a senior in
the Bachelor of Science and Nursing Program at USM. His positive attitude and
entertaining evening vignettes that he often shared after dinner provided some
very light and often funny moments as the group reflected on their daily experiences
in the clinics. We will all remember the night he exclaimed, "I saved a
Cole recalled a special home visit with a woman who was
wheel chair bound. "This very beautiful woman, who has been through hard times
in her life, welcomed us wholeheartedly into her home." Surrounded by her whole
family, he continued, "She greeted us with an open heart, open arms, and then,
a kiss good bye. It was just beautiful to really get a whole sense of this. It's
not only what you read in a text book. It's true, and I was really glad to have
When I asked Cole what had drawn him to participate in this
trip, he smiled, "Many, many things. I've always wanted to take a trip to a
Spanish speaking country because I fell in love with the language after taking
it in high school. I wanted to go on this trip to provide medical care to the
people in the villages, to enjoy the atmosphere, and just to experience the
beautiful culture that they have here." Then he chuckled and added, "Also, to
take a break from the snow!"
Cole reflected on what he learned about Dominican culture as
a result of three home visits. "I got a
really great understanding of how these people work in harmony together, how
they work with each other and for each other. It was just beautiful and I love
this culture here. It's changed me. It's also made me be very aware and I'm
very thankful for what I have. I've
learned so much. It's changed me in one thousand ways."
Like many of the participants in the trip, Cole gained more
than clinical skills. He also experienced personal growth. Although the word
"shy" is not an adjective that comes to mind when you observe Cole in the
clinics and at Campus Fusimana, he shared, "One thing for me personally is I've
always been a very shy person. I've always been very business like and tried to
avoid getting too comfortable with people and getting to know them just because
I'm always on the move and on the go." However, the moment Cole arrived, he
decided to try something a little different. "I tried being a little bit more
personable. I've always been friendly, but I tried to be more open and inviting.
I tried to get to know people and become good friends with them, and that
definitely helped me."
Cole found that he learned something about patience as he
settled into "Dominican time." "I gave a sense of patience to a lot of my
colleagues and kept their spirits going because this is a culture shock for a
lot of us, especially for me. I'm not the most patient person at home when the
power runs out and resources run dry." Although there were frustrating times without
power or hot running water, Cole found comfort in the warmth of the Dominican
people and the beautiful views that surrounded him. "I thought it would be very important to remind each other this isn't
the time for complaining. We are very lucky to be greeted by these people .It's
a beautiful moment and I think people got it. We just got it."
Cole has a message for anyone who is thinking about going on
the trip and might be feeling a little anxious about it. He, too, confessed, "I
was a little apprehensive. I lived at home throughout college and I haven't
moved away from the nest egg. This is my first trip away. You know at first, I
got cold feet." Now that he's heading back to Maine, Cole grinned and said, "It's very sad.
I don't want to go. I'm not quite ready.
The trip has been nothing but positive and great. I think everyone owes it to themselves to come out here and take a
break from the cell phone and the internet. Come here to spend time getting to
know your peers well and to experience something very, very different. It's a
luxury spending time with patients and people and learning new things without
the pressure of the time clock."
"I felt fear and trepidation. I felt prepared.
I was excited, and I felt very novice. I had a lot of varying emotions, but more
excitement than fear. And I felt supported when I had any fear." That's how Beverly Burton described her
emotions after her very first clinic in the Dominican Republic. She added,
"Being able to be thrown right into it, in such a dynamic way, was just
"Bev" is a student in the BSN Program at USM and will be
graduating in December of 2010. She feels that many of her clinical skills were
reinforced during this mission. "This was the first opportunity to have a
consistent hands-on going from theory to practice. The consistency for me has
been critical and I gained that by having to accelerate though the day in terms
of pace. It's more than I expected. It's what I wanted and it's more than I
expected in terms of completing this."
Bev's blue eyes lit up when she talked about many
experiences she has shared with the Dominican people. She observed, "It's far more than a cliché, that it's a
gift that these people allow us to be this intimately close to them as a
stranger. It's so lovely of them. And there were many special moments. My heart
Bev admitted that she felt challenged at times. "There have
been many highs and lows which make it absolutely more valuable in the long
run. I feel there is no way to read about this type of experience Having been immersed, completely immersed, in
this different culture, in the rigors of the schedule and the language barriers
and being a novice, all of these elements made for a very dynamic challenge."
She quickly added, "It's been that meaningful. But as well
I've had a lot of fun. I've enjoyed being the clown that's inside of me as well
and I've trusted that that's OK and have fun. We've had a lot of fun."
Ultimately, Bev feels her life has changed by the experiences
she had in this mission. "I feel as
though I'll be different because I've now had the chance. It's going to allow
me to simplify. It's going to allow me to remember the value of listening in
the moment. It's going to reinforce and help me to remember. It's given me
a solid grounding for accepting myself so much more. I've gained more
confidence, professionally, academically, and emotionally as well."
As our interview came to a close, Bev used a beautiful
metaphor especially appropriate to our location as she reflected on what this
opportunity has meant to her. She said, "The
learning curve is different for each student and it is infused with perhaps
fear and lack of confidence which I visualize as a mountain. I'm in the
foothills of a large mountain that I'm starting later in life. Having had more
fear in the moment, but being supported in that fear, I am attempting to start the
hike up that mountain. While I was here, I passed over that hump. I feel my
Thanks to all of the Peace Corp volunteers who interpreted for us and served as
our cultural brokers. We couldn't have done it without you!
Thanks to Rebecca Marvil for providing Beverly's and Cole's pictures (also pictured, Margaret), to Mary Berg
for providing Lisa's picture, to the person who
provided Gretchen's picture (also pictured, front row (left to right): Robyn DiFrancesco and Jasmine
Quarles; back row (left to right): Gretchen Appleby, Ben Towne, Rolinda
Mitchell, Amber Shorty, Mary Connolly, and Chelsie Eugley)and to Anne Grimes for providing the Peace Corp volunteers' and Margaret's pictures.
you to Katherine Peña, Editor, for creating this issue of the PRHDR newsletter and for updating the website.
Finally, thank you to all the volunteers and students for sharing their stories!