Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Ethics, Empathy, and Privilege

By Nancy Figuereo


During the first week of October, which is about the middle of the semester, our class went on a Nicaragua trip. Here we did a multitude of activities, but the one I will touch upon is the call to action and prevention program in La Quinta neighborhood. La Quinta is an urban neighborhood in Managua, which is the capital of Nicaragua, where we helped youth groups named “brigadistas” take action in their communities to prevent the infection and spread of Zika, Chikungunya, and Dengue. When we arrived, it was a neighborhood that was full of exuberant people that made the area seem alive, and even with this glow it was a puzzling sight because the neighborhood presented much poverty. Houses had metal roofs and unfinished separations, but even with the lack of certain infrastructure in their homes the people of the community united to try to make a change. Getting off the bus and receiving such a warm and loving welcome from the brigadistas was how we started our day. After getting acquainted, we played a version of human knot to get comfortable with each other and to start thinking about teamwork, then we got right to business. They handed us bags filled with debris and water to show us their main concern: mosquito larvae. Female mosquitoes use any deposit of water available to plant their eggs, so that they can flourish into fully functioning vectors for the three epidemic diseases. Because of this the brigadistas found that the best action that can impact and educate the community the best was visiting each home individually and checking these deposits of water for mosquito larvae. The main deposit of water that was of concern in this community were barrels. Therefore, the brigadistas also gave community members covers for each uncovered barrel after the inspection. I went into the field with an 18-year-old girl that was from a neighboring community. She showed me the skills of how to use the simple but effective net and bowl to catch their targets. This prevention program, led by young leaders, was astounding. I had never seen such commitment, leadership, and compassion from any group of individuals before. Seeing the drive they had to make their neighborhood better was not only moving but frightening. Frightening, in the sense that the culture in the US tries to implement this call to action but it is too individualistic to truly follow through; but La Quinta, with such little resources, is making a change to better their communities. This concern makes me become critical of my lifestyle choices and how to try to live ethically and empathetically. My family comes from backgrounds like the community of La Quinta in Dominican Republic, and this drives me to work with people in impoverished communities. In hopes to try to implement and spread this in my future career of medicine with the communities I will work alongside with, I will try to understand my own privilege and try to practice critical analysis of it in order to be the best version of myself for them.