Volunteering with the Cruz Roja in Oaxaca

Growth: 10
Support: 10
Fun: 10
Housing: 10
Safety: 10

I had an AMAZING experience volunteering through Adelante with the Cruz Roja in Oaxaca, Mexico. Flying into Oaxaca had me both nervous and excited. I'm a 4th year nursing major from Boston, MA and this was my first international experience. My Spanish wasn't great, but I had been practicing before I left in May. During the first 2weeks of the program I took Spanish classes at Solexico. This was more than just Spanish classes, they had organized events after class every day and we did excursions on the weekends. At this Spanish school, I met students, young and old, from all over the world and even when I stopped my classes at Solexico, we continued to hang out. Tuesdays there were cooking classes of traditional Mexican food. Wednesday we had a coffee social at night and would meet up at different bars, clubs, and restaurants around town to talk, socialize, and dance. Thursdays they hosted Salsa dance classes at the school. And on Fridays they had a showing a movie in Spanish, or in English with Spanish subtitles. Some of the weekend excursions I took included trips to Tulle Arbol ( a GIANT tree), Hierve el Agua (natural pools up high in the mountains you can swim in), Zip-Lining, Barro Negro (traditional black clay molding), wood carvings, ancient churches and haciendas, weaving, and so much more!

I went into the experience looking to volunteer in healthcare, but to also gain a better understanding of the Mexican culture and Spanish language. This experience is what you make of it. So many opportunities are put in front of you, and you need to take advantage of them all. For example, the local park has dance classes every week night. Jorge is the instructor and he teaches Salsa, Merengue, Bachata, and Cumbia... and on Thursdays and Fridays we go out to a Salsa club after class to go show off our skills. One of the students from Germany told me about this class and I decided to stop by and ABSOLUTELY LOVED IT. When my 2months were up and I had to return home to the States, they had a party for me and that dance class is probably one of the things I miss most about Oaxaca. Most of the people at the class were natives, so it was an opportunity to practice my Spanish and make new friends.

Now to the healthcare part. I volunteered for 4hrs every weekday at the Cruz Roja from 10am-2pm. They were super flexible so I was able to choose that as my hours. There was one Dr and one Nurse that I worked with for the most part and every now and then Medical Students would rotate through. I hung out a lot with the Medical Students during my time there and used it as a learning opportunity when they were given lessons. I made friends with some of them and we went out to a Karaoke Bar one night. I placed IVs, checked BPs, did basic physical assessments, and helped the nurse with medication administration. If you have the skills, show them, and then they let you do it. I learned wound care and stitching. But the healthcare in Oaxaca is very different from what I'm used to. For example, they still use typewriters for all their documentation. The Dr. and Nurse had minimal to no English skills, so you need to be comfortable with Spanish or at least be willing to work hard and learn fast. The doctor had a great sense of humor and we quizzed each other with flashcards, he wanted to improve his English and I wanted to improve my Spanish.

I was extremely grateful for the flexibility with my job because I was able to take a "vacation day" and I didn't go to work one Friday. Instead, I took a 3day weekend trip to Huatulco... which is the beach! We stayed in a gorgeous hotel with cabanas on a private beach and a very fun night life. We took one of the small suburban vans that take about 8hrs to get there.... and we downed some Dramamine because it's a bumpy curvy road up and down a mountain. We were able to sleep all the way there and no one got car sick. This was a huge highlight from my trip.

Some other things I want to mention: My housing was AWESOME! I lived with Mrs. Irma and I had my own bedroom. There were 2 bathrooms one for boys one for girls, but when the guy moved out, we used both bathrooms for the girls. I lived with another student from Adelante who was an OT major. It was nice to have someone to learn the city with. Mrs. Irma took us to a bunch of fiestas with her and I on my second day there, I was doing a traditional dance with a pineapple and drinking Corona like it was water. 2 other Adelante students passed through that house during the 2months I was there. Mrs. Irma took us to the grocery store and her son Octavio brought us flowers every day. Also, the zocalo (the town center), is such a fun place to visit. At night they have street performers and clowns. We made friends with one of the clowns and he gave us tickets to Corona Fest to meet up with him. They also sell corn that is smothered in mayonnaise, dipped in cheese, sprinkled with chili powder, and then topped off with some lemon juice.... it was one thing I was so afraid to try, but it ended up being DELICIOUS! Try it! the Cotton Candy does not taste like it does here in the states, but the quesidillas and toquitos in the zocalo at night are soooo goood!

I don't know what else to mention. But my days were fun filled and educational. I ended up taking a week long trip to Mexico City at the end of my volunteer assignment and I'm so happy I was able to see another part of Mexico.... very similar to New York.

I'm already contemplating where I want to go next summer! I highly recommend this program! And remember to keep an open mind!

Would you recommend this program?
Yes, I would
Year Completed