Undergrads lend helping hand in Nicaragua

by Zach Swiss | 1/4/06 6:00am

Members of the Dartmouth community traveled to one of the poorest regions in Nicaragua over Christmas break for a Cross-Cultural Education and Service Program (CCESP). The 32 participants separated into two groups: one group dealt with community development while the other focused on community health.

The community health group served two functions, said Student Director Kyle Engelman '08. One component provided clinical aide to the Nicaraguans, including medical examinations and free pharmaceutical products.

The clinicians dealt with cases which included gastrointestinal problems, respiratory problems and parasites, said Engelman. They even delivered two babies.

Engelman was especially impressed by the thoroughness of the Dartmouth clinicians.

"They didn't settle for saying, 'Oh, his stomach hurts, he has a parasite. Let's treat that.' They took their time with each patient," she asserted.

The other subgroup focused on public health. These undergraduates led seminars that covered topics such as pre- and post-natal care, sexual health, hygiene, maternal mortality, First Aid and proper nutrition. Engelman estimated that the community health group served approximately 550 patients.

Students in the community development group divided into four sub-groups. Three sub-groups helped Nicaraguan families with agricultural techniques in the town of Santa Rosa. These students helped teach the Nicaraguans different skills such as transplanting cabbage, cleaning corn and planting cacao, Engelman said.

The students worked in effort to help the natives diversify their crops since most Nicaraguans plant primarily rice and beans.

"If everyone is selling the same thing, your crop doesn't make as much money. It also isn't as healthy," Engleman said.

The fourth sub-group helped in the construction of a local chapel. The Dartmouth students worked alongside students from the University of the Autonomous Region of the Caribbean Coast of Nicaragua in this effort.

Engelman called the trip a tremendous success and said the villagers were enthusiastic about the help they were receiving.

"They were very excited," Engelman said. "All the health promoters were so grateful to have [the Dartmouth students] there teaching them more information. They couldn't say 'thank you' enough."

The trip included 24 Dartmouth undergraduates, three students from the medical school, and five Dartmouth faculty members.