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Day 8 - May 23, 2016

Community Health Worker Training with Akshay and Lathan

Before we started today’s content, we had a discussion about how to raise awareness in the communities that these newly trained health educators exist. We decided to combine each barrio’s monthly meeting with a health fair where the health workers could talk about what they have learned and possibly do some practical demonstrations (like building the water filters!).

We started talking about today’s topic: maternal health. Through several discussions, we learned that there are many good maternal health practices within the communities. For example, it is recommended that pregnant women go in for at least 4 prenatal checkups, but the women told us that almost everyone goes to the doctor every month while pregnant, and sometimes even every week during the last month.

Luckily, checkups for pregnant women are free at public clinics and hospitals. However, due to the massive demand, the women often have to start lining up at around 4am just to be able to see a professional.

We also discussed whether women most commonly give birth at home or in a clinic. Out of the 28 births of the 10 women present at the training, 22 were at a health facility and 6 were at home. They mentioned that nowadays in their communities, almost everyone goes to a health clinic to give birth. But in the past, and even still in some rural communities, many women didn’t not have the time or money to go to clinics or hospitals because of transportation difficulties. In some rural farm areas of Bolivia, it can take up to a whole day to reach a health clinic. For those who give birth at home, a midwife (partera) or sometimes even their mothers or husbands assist the birth.

Bathrooms w Claudia Harsh and some random French guy

The day started with Claudia waking me up at 8:06 a.m. after I promised her I’d be ready to leave by 8. Then I met this French guy Akshay met on a plane. Neither Claudia nor I ever learned his name. He seemed nice enough but he just had a weird vibe going for him. Any who, we get a taxi and ask the driver to take us to buy a small bucket. Surprisingly, finding a small bucket has proven frustratingly difficult. It seems that the simplest of supplies can only be found in random street-side shops. We fortunately found a bucket and then proceeded on our way to the bathroom site.

The 30-minute drive proved more interesting than usual because of the French guy. Despite Akshay’s saying that his English wasn’t very good (it's really questionable how good he thinks our English is), he spoke well enough and told us that he was in Bolivia because he had $500 in his bank account and decided to go on vacation in the farthest place possible with that much money. Evidently, that place was Bolivia. (Low-key that decision is emblematic of everything I want in life.)

After arriving at the site, I checked in with Angel and was pleased with the overall progress on the bathroom. The communities and NGO partners we work with here in Cochabamba were generally not pleased with our work in Bolivia thus far, which is understandable considering we finished maybe 30% of what we promised we would in January. So there has been a lot of pressure during my time here for the bathrooms to be built properly and on time. Today we fixed the drain pipe, filled in the sinkhole, made the frame for the bucket mold, and finished assembling the axel and waste pan.

So far I’m happy with the progress we have made but I’m still apprehensive that something will go wrong. Tomorrow we will check to make sure everything lines up and hopefully finish the bathroom. My only concern at this point is whether the axel and waste pan will fit inside the waste chamber we’ve made. Angel also expanded the bathroom by adding another 10 sq. ft. of cement flooring. This made both him and Sandra happy, which made me happy.

For lunch Sandra made us rice with potatoes, beets, and some fried eggs. Claudia was particularly happy about that because she loves eggs. The French guy gave the day a pretty strange ambiance, and it was honestly really hard to escape the strangeness of his being at the bathrooms with us in the first place. He was like someone out of a story book, and I’m still questioning Akshay’s ambivalence towards letting total strangers contribute to our organization.

We finished the work day at around 5 because Rodrigo wanted to take me to see the sunset at one of his favorite spots. We awkwardly dropped the French guy off at the trufi stop and then Rodrigo handed both me and Claudia Coronas and warm bread. He then started blasting his Spanish trap music and whipped us out of the parking lot as the French guy looked back at us cramped in the back of his van.

The lake was actually really beautiful. While walking to the shore we ran into a couple sheep herds and Rodrigo asked if he could hold one of the baby lambs. It was really interesting and sad that we could see how far in the lake had shrunk from the recent water crisis. Rodrigo made a joke about how in a few years his face would look like the cracked floor of the previously submerged land, and then we took a bunch of pictures.

​On the way home Claudia translated my airport crisis story from January to Rodrigo who was very sympathetic and guaranteed me that it wouldn’t happen again. We stopped to get some Greek yogurt and then Rodrigo drove us home. Claudia and I showered and changed quickly before taking a taxi to meet Akshay, Lathan, Maria Eugenia, and Emiliana at Terra, one of Rodrigo’s favorite restaurants. I got some ribs. Akshay’s dish was particularly disappointing, and the waiter told us they didn’t have any of the three desserts we asked for.​

​After dinner we all came home and we had a group meeting about the future of Refresh Bolivia and the logistics of how things will run in the future. It was a pretty exciting meeting since everyone was feeling really positive about how the last few days had gone. We all got to bed by around midnight.

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