Today was our second day in Eleuthera, where we are volunteering in clinics and schools across the island. My group was sent south on this very long, skinny, beautiful stretch of land to Rock Sound primary clinic and Rock Sound primary school. While at the clinic, we did intake reports on a variety of patients and were able to see some of the common ailments that day: rashes, influenza, back pain, etc. All of the patients seemed incredibly welcoming, receptive, and trusting of us, despite the fact that some of our group are still in the undergraduate nursing program. We were given as much respect as the other healthcare staff (doctors and nurses) in the clinic. During the second day, we were able to spot the continuing theme of autonomy among the nurses of Eleuthera. We were surprised to realize that they function in a variety of rolls, ranging from general nurse, to a sort of nurse practitioner, to pharmacist, to social worker, to friend to all of the patients… (not to mention that the majority of them are also mothers, and sometimes grandmothers, with their very own families to care of as well). I have so much respect for these women and what they are able to accomplish every single day; they never seem to have a minute to spare, and they never waste a minute either. I plan to keep them in my memory when I’m feeling bogged down by finals, clinicals, and work. There are nurses here doing so much more than I could ever have imagined with the limited supplies that they have.
In addition to our wonderful clinic experiences, we also have gone to a couple of different schools from different parts of the island. In one school, we assisted with health screenings of different classes. At the Rock Sound primary school, we gave a presentation on healthy eating and healthy diets to follow. Eleuthera has recently had some issues with a high rate of obesity, as their main food staples are heavy in grains and meat. However, we found out very quickly that these young children (ranging from ages 6-12) are quite well-informed about healthy diets; the issue seems to lie more in access to more fruits and vegetables, and the costs of these items. Another theme we’ve noticed across the island is that of the warm, caring, respectful, good-hearted nature of all the children. While many of us have worked with children previously, and are fond of their sweet ways, we were shocked not only by how respectful and polite these children of Eleuthera were, but also how loving they were. We were given so many hugs and compliments by them, and they were very interested and engaged in all of the work or teaching we did. Almost everyone wanted to listen to their heart or their friend’s heartbeat. They were also interested in taking lots of pictures with us and their friends. Each day that we left, they asked us with huge smiles on their face, “are you coming back tomorrow to see us?” It made me a little sad to let them know that no, I personally wouldn’t be coming, but that some of my friends would for the rest of the week. Some of the older students even asked to be FaceBook friends with us, as opposed to pen pals. It must be a sign of the times and our generation, no matter where you are in the world!
Finally, at the end of the day, we got an hour or so for some relaxation time to take a walk on this beautiful Caribbean beach. As we walked up and down the sand, we were greeted with a friendly “hello, how are you?” or a polite “good evening” by almost everyone we passed. At first, it seemed a little ‘off’ to me…almost a little unnerving for someone to be that friendly without wanting something else from a passerby. Then, I thought that I was probably the one that was a little ‘off’ or out of touch with my people in my own home. I think it’s very easy to take for granted politeness and friendliness in a big city in America; it seems that honking horns, avoiding formalities, and sometimes even rude remarks are the norm there. Here, the people are just truly friendly, caring people. They’re honestly interested in how you’re doing, and they want to make sure you’re enjoying your stay on their small little island, that’s so full of culture and life. As we watched the sun set over this Bahamian island in the Caribbean Sea, I think all of us felt a little more connected with the earth, each other, and everyone on this island. Living in a place like this, I can see why so many people have smiles on their faces all day. I can’t wait to see what excitement, adventures, and interactions tomorrow will bring!