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“Return to Guaymate”

“Returning to Guaymate”
Minesh Shah, Trip Leader

September 7, 2014
I have been anticipating this day for 6 months.  When I left Guaymate in March, there was a mix of emotions, thoughts and experiences I had to process through.  It was my first time meeting everyone involved in the process – the Peace Corps volunteers, the community leaders, the health providers, the people who cared for us by providing shelter and food.  There had been a whirlwind of activities – introducing the COPE quality improvement program to the hospital, visits to the bateyes, the community health fair.  There were the visuals that would not be forgotten – the hospital waiting room bustling with activity, the blind widower in the batey dependent on his neighbors for survival, the children playing pelota in the streets.
In processing through my first visit, I was still struggling with what our role in this community should be.  The Peace Care GCHP model is a partnership between a local community, the Peace Corps, and a university institution.  As the university, our role is to provide technical knowledge, research support, and leverage existing resources to support the partnership.  But what kind of technical support is helpful when the central problem is poverty?  How can we be of assistance when the local hospital has now gone almost 2 years without functioning full-time electricity?  How can we help a system serve patients who remain in legal limbo as to their rights because of what family they were born into?
These challenges may seem overwhelming at first, but the beauty of the COPE process is that it breaks these large problems down to digestible, feasible changes that can be done without an influx of large resources.  I’m excited to see how the hospital and community have changed since we left.  Even small steps of improvement can have tangible benefits to people, and can help give the hospital staff the confidence to aim for larger goals.
As we head in to Guaymate, I am struck by how familiar everything is – at least for those of us who are making our second trip.  The road from La Romana (the provincial capital) to Guaymate sits in acres of sugar cane as far as the eye can see, dotted by bateye communities along the way.  The trains that carry bushels of sugar cane sit empty on a Sunday; tomorrow they will be full with the result of hours of hard labor.
Today is a day of travel and a day of some rest – in preparation for the work that will begin this week, and in anticipation of seeing friends old and new!
Minesh

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