It’s easy to get lost in choosing from the sea of global medical non-profit volunteer programs out there! But FIMRC has some fantastic qualities that distinguish this organization. I volunteered through the SIHF program in July of 2016 at FIMRC’s Project Limon in rural Nicaragua. I chose to volunteer with FIMRC because of its emphasis on sustainably improving health in some of the most underserved regions of the developing world through long-term, ground-up, and community-based efforts. I chose Nicaragua in particular for its community outreach and women's/pediatric healthcare-heavy focus. This month-long program (FIMRC also gives you a two-month option) seemed like the perfect amount of time to get immersed in the local culture, gain knowledge, and make some kind of impact in the community.
While traveling to a foreign country alone can be daunting, FIMRC makes sure to have your arrival and departure planned through and through (another reason why I was confident in choosing to volunteer with FIMRC). As a volunteer you get to stay with a local family. My host family was absolutely wonderful! They were kind and incredibly accommodating. Living with a host family is an invaluable experience that FIMRC offers its volunteers. Not only does it allow you to be immersed in the culture and customs, but it also helps minimize the distance between yourself and the community you’re volunteering in by building a direct relationship with a local family. I found that language was definitely a barrier for me more often than not, but if you put your mind to it with a willingness to try, basic communication can come easy.
The clinic was an inviting space for community members and their children. Because the clinic provides a continuity of care despite the transience of volunteers, it instills a sense of trust that is conducive to impactfully promoting health in the surrounding area. Each day of work at the clinic brought new learning opportunities and ways to apply my passion for health! This included shadowing the nurses on-site as well as the pediatrician, taking vitals, and trekking into the surrounding area to educate families and individuals one-on-one and monitor health under their various outreach programs.
Life definitely moves slowly in Nicaragua. That being said, make use of this extra time outside of working in the clinic! I found myself journaling and reading more than ever. Having this time also entices you to improve your Spanish speaking skills, hang with your fellow SIHFers, explore the surrounding area, and spend more time with your host family, from playing with the kids to helping around the home. Beach visits were frequent during my month there. Local surf beaches were conveniently located about a 15-20 minute bike ride away from the clinic. Speaking of which, we were all given our own bikes as means of transportation. I lived about a 10 minute ride down the road from the clinic. It was a great way to soak in local scenery and get to know the landscape. I never felt unsafe on the roads. Mototaxis were also a phone call away for a quick and reliable ride to where you needed to be.
If you found yourself having a difficult time, the FIMRC leaders were there to listen and support you. Don’t get me wrong, this is by no means an easy endeavor. We all experienced our own individual struggles and frustrations at many points. But it’s a humbling yet valuable part of the journey and you walk away with many lessons learned. This experience is truly what you make of it!