Author Joyce Elugbadebo is one of five Upstate medical students who traveled to Nicaragua over the summer to volunteer (another student went to Peru). The trips were coordinated by Upstate’s Center for Civic Engagement, which provides all of our students with volunteer opportunities in Syracuse and in countries where Upstate has an established clinical presence.
By Joyce Elugbadebo, Class of 2015
This past summer I traveled to El Sauce, Nicaragua through the Enlace Project with four other Upstate medical students. There we spent three weeks living with a host family, shadowing two local physicians and learning the Nicaraguan language and culture.
Our days started about 8 a.m., when we would travel by truck to various health posts in surrounding towns with a physician, nurse, and translator. We would arrive to lines of women and children, each having traveled several kilometers by foot, yet patiently waiting to be seen.
It was very interesting to observe the differences between their health care system and the United States’ — the most important difference being that health care in Nicaragua is free. I was humbled by the efficiency of their health care system and patient care despite their limited resources.
On the weekends, we had the opportunity to travel to various towns – both rural and urban. The town that struck me the most was a small town on top of a mountain called Ocotal. We immediately immersed ourselves in the culture to get the full experience. We rode horses up the mountain to the local “Ranchón” where we ate authentic cuisine, hiked up “Los Altos” mountains, learned how to make tortillas, observed women basket weaving, and visited an organic coffee farm.
All of these experiences and more intrigued me about Nicaragua, which I am very grateful for and will remember forever.