After three weeks of classes I can’t believe we’ve finally made it to Moultrie and it’s already Wednesday! It seems like we’ve been going non-stop since we arrived, and I can tell we’re all going to be exhausted when we return home this weekend. In spite of the long days and hard work, it truly has been an incredibly rewarding experience so far.
We spent the morning at the elementary school setting up stations where the children could get their BMI and blood pressure checked, their vision and hearing assessed, their hemoglobin and blood glucose measured, and visit the nurse practitioner students as well as physical therapy students. We were all really excited to finally get started in Moultrie, and as we got to see the children walking through the halls with their teachers waving and saying hi to us it really sunk in that we were actually there. After lunch, which was generously provided by one of the local churches, we took a siesta break to rest up before heading out to the first night camp. Once we got everything set up near the barracks where this particular group of farmworkers was staying, we had to wait a little bit before they came out to see us because they wanted to shower and get cleaned up after a long day of working out in the fields. Although it was a long night and we had to deal with some unexpected challenges, I thought it was a great experience because I felt like I really got to connect with some of the men since I was working intake and I got to talk to them about where they came from and what health complaints they had.
Today we got an early start at the school, which was a bit of struggle at first after a late night at the camp, but once we saw the children the fatigue was completely forgotten. Overall it was a great morning spent measuring the children’s blood pressure, but I quickly learned that measuring blood pressure on young children can be rather challenging at times since some 4 and 5 year olds have a hard time sitting still and being quiet. I really enjoyed it because it forced us to be patient and take a creative approach to helping them sit still and quietly. After another delicious lunch from a different local church we returned to the hotel for a siesta and then caravanned out to another camp in the evening. This camp was smaller than the first, so we weren’t expecting quite as many men to come through. We set up our stations close to the barracks again, and we all watched and waved as the men rode into the camp on buses. After cleaning up and waiting for the sun to sink below the horizon they finally began to trickle in, albeit slowly at first. I worked intake again and enjoyed it just as much as the night before because I got to talk with the men as well as some of the volunteer interpreters who were very familiar with the migrant farm workers and were hosting the Mexican consulate for the week to help the workers get the necessary visas and passports.
We got started early again at the school this morning. I worked one of the vision screening stations, which was a lot of fun. We screened children of all ages for both visual acuity and color vision. I found it remarkable that some of the older children have gone through so many years of school with poor vision and no corrective lenses all because they move around and have missed out on regular vision screenings. Hopefully with the help of our referrals they’ll finally get the glasses they need. After another great lunch provided by another generous local church, we broke for our usual siesta and once again drove out to a different camp in the evening. Tonight’s camp was larger than previous ones, so we made quick work of setting up by the barracks and it wasn’t long before the men began to come in. I worked the foot care station this time, and it was by far the most rewarding job I’ve done since we’ve been here. Many of the men spend all day out in the fields where the ground is muddy and water-logged and ridden with pesticides, all of which soak through their shoes and socks causing a wide range of foot issues, but especially fungus from the moisture and contact dermatitis from pesticide exposure. Even the men who didn’t have specific foot complaints enjoyed coming because they got to sit back, relax, and get a little foot massage after a long day of work.
So far my time in Moultrie has been an incredible learning experience that I wouldn’t trade for anything. While working with the children in the school in the mornings and the adults in the camps at night I have already learned so much about the importance of problem-solving skills, thinking on your feet, creativity, and especially flexibility when providing care to an underserved community. I think the one thing that has surprised me the most is how patient the clients are in the night camps when, after working all day in the fields under the blistering sun and oppressive midsummer heat, they have to wait in line for their screenings and to see the nurse practitioner students and physical therapy students, and they do it all with bright smiles and gracious attitudes. It’s a humbling reminder of all that I have to be grateful for.