Today we worked with the community of San Luis to try to prevent future flooding of some of the most devastated houses. We were trying to help with the environmental hazards that are associated with standing water- such as providing a vector for disease and a breeding ground for pests. To help, we spent time using dirt to fill in the floors that were wet from the flooding rain. We also used rocks that were already around the houses, along with gravel we found, to create a barrier between the ground and the holes in the wall to prevent water from entering that way. Everyone had their own jobs, whether that be loading the wheelbarrow, ensuring everyone was hydrated, or carrying buckets of dirt for the community to place where they thought was best. The members of the community had expressed the day before how the flooding had severely hurt their self-esteem, but we hope that by helping them that they are empowered a bit more. In the afternoon, we attempted to teach our community partners the modules we had prepared, but it began to rain too hard to teach. However, we finished the community assessment we had started earlier, getting the chance to ask our community partners questions about things we had not gotten answered.
The question of how much to help is always a complicated one. Meeting physical needs like this was never really the intent of this trip but we knew that basic physiological needs have to be met first before anything else. With people’s houses being basically destroyed, there’s no way we could try and teach about oral health or composting and ignore those needs. So, we decided to help. Being a nursing student, I automatically default to wanting to help as much as I physically can. But, I’m continually learning that taking a step back and letting people do things on their own is sometimes just as powerful and impactful. Because of our short time there, we weren’t able to do as much as I’m sure a lot of us would have liked to. I do think we were able to meet some immediate needs and provide the community with the materials and hopefully the motivation to finish the job themselves. I’m proud of the work we were able to do today and am leaving feeling ever thankful for the opportunities we are afforded here at Emory and in the United States.