Ida is a student at the University of Michigan who was assigned a scholarship from LIVFund to volunteer at a medical clinic in Antigua, Guatemala during her spring break. Continue reading to find out more about what she will be doing while abroad.



January 22, 2012

It’s hard to imagine that in about a month I will be back in Antigua, Guatemala to volunteer at the Centro de Salud medical clinic in Alotenango, where I spent 5 weeks last summer as a medical volunteer.  I will soon be taking blood pressure, weighing patients, helping administer vaccines, listening in on patient consultations, and attempting not to butcher patients’ names as I call them into the “pre-consulta” room. I will soon have that much-anticipated adrenaline rush of witnessing patients with emergency medical issues; ruptured appendices, enlarged livers, and hemorrhages. The medical world that I will soon get a second glimpse of won’t be glamorous or in the realm of the expected—but it will be fascinating and the best kind of hands-on clinical work I could have the privilege to experience.

During my time in Antigua, I will be in a homestay, arranged through the Maximo Nivel organization. I’m not going to lie, I’m a little too excited for tasty home-cooked Guatemalan food (especially the chocobananas), and to meet my homestay family. My homestay is close to the bus stop from which a bus will take me to the clinic in Alotenango, about 20 minutes away, for 3 quetzals.  The clinic is where I will be spending most of my days, from roughly 9 am to 4 pm.  I’m so excited to finally be reunited with the amazing clinic staff; especially Dr. Gonzalez de Leon, who took me under his wing and helped me with my Spanish, allowed me to sit in on his patient consultations, and by the end of last summer, became a true friend. I will be bringing medical supplies with me including gloves, blood pressure cuffs, hand sanitizer, thermometers, and office supplies. Last summer when I was volunteering at the clinic, my fellow volunteers and I were in utter shock that the staff used mercury-based thermometers that, when accidentally broken and shattered, the nurses would clean up with their bare hands. I hope that the staff will use the digital thermometers that I will be bringing with me, and discard the precarious mercury thermometers.

Also at the clinic, I hope to do patient interviews on the views of at-home childbirth versus hospital births. I am very interested in the issues surrounding childbirth and women’s thoughts concerning the validity of hospital births in comparison to at-home birth where the support of family and friends is available. Dr. Elisha Renne, a researcher and professor at the University of Michigan, will be mentoring me on procuring a research agenda that will hopefully go towards my honors thesis through the Department of Anthropology.

There is so much more that I am excited to experience in Guatemala. From playing fútbol with the school children outside the clinic to drinking sangría at my favorite café, my spring break in Guatemala will undoubtedly be enriching medically, as well as culturally. I will also be taking Spanish lessons through Maximo Nivel in order to brush-up on my Spanish and continue the essential skill of speaking another language.

I am beyond excited to go back to Guatemala and be once again immersed in the culture, and to bring about change at the clinic. Although I am only one volunteer, I know that I can do my part to actively help the patients and staff of the clinic. I will undeniably be out of my comfort zone —but isn’t that half the fun?