On my visit to our volunteer project in Vuelta Grande, I had the great opportunity to travel with Jennifer Wilson, Manager of International Initiatives, from our long-standing partner university, Humber College.
The first planned visit was for us to meet the village’s doctor and dentist at the local clinic. Except for the examination table, a desk, a few chairs, and a cabinet that held all of the medical supplies, the walls and windows of the clinic’s two small rooms were bare and unadorned. The doctor, Dr. Mena, carefully made hand-written notes on each patient that came to visit him. A graying man in hospital scrubs, he had clearly been practicing medicine for a while. On the day we met he expressed his pleasure that recently more of the community had been coming in for parasite treatment. Meanwhile Dr. Luna, the dentist, was busy examining a family of three young boys and their mother.
Dr. Luna was also in scrubs and wore a face mask across her mouth, with blue rubber gloves, dental utensils in hand. After examining one of the boys she took off her gloves and mask reached for the next, setting him atop a stack on patio chairs for greater height. He had a nervous smile, but proud to be next up. Dr. Luna discussed her hope to bring greater awareness surrounding dental health by being in the village even though she lacks sophisticated supplies; she can see that she’s making small strides.
Next on our tour was a visit to the local school, a rundown building made cheerful by a collection of colorful, educational murals. The principal teacher gave us a tour of the school. Each room was haphazardly filled with supplies. The children were playing a game that involved running, laughing, and yelling. All signs pointed to fun. Our trip concluded with a hike to the washing station. We were guided by the mayor and assistant mayor of the village: Miguel and Julio.
The mayor wore a large cowboy hat and the assistant mayor had on all black, looking like security detail. The mayor made a point of walking out ahead to point out each and every slippery part of the dirty, narrow path. Once we finally reached the washing station, I was overcome with the smell of pure air and the sounds of water flowing, children playing, babies crying, and woman scrubbing. Like a scene out of Fern Gully – a luscious jungle cradled around a natural water reserve–it was truly breathtaking. At each of the twelve washing stations stood twelve women vigorously sweating from scrubbing their family’s clothing.
Beside each were several children who had accompanied them. While there, I came across Maria Rosa, a woman who’d invited me into her home the day before. She had been making tortillas and allowed me to join her. Maria Rosa wore traditional, bright Mayan wrap skirt and top. She has beautiful, large eyes and a boisterous laugh. Even though we did not share a common language, I wished that I would have been able to stay with her. Partially because there is just so much to do, but also because she was a joy to be around.