Two Oregon Health and Sciences 3rd year nursing students volunteered for a one-month say in Tanhoc. The students had contacted Francisco Cuz, a Guatemalan representative of Pueblo Partisans and a teacher in Tanhoc, about their interests. Together with Francisco, they set up their experience based on the needs of the Tanhoc Project. Thus, they were able to accomplish some of the tasks that would otherwise have been unable to be carried out without them.
Below (and attached as a PDF file; 2.6 MB) is a record of their experience, written in the form of a newsletter as a tribute to Pueblo Partisans, by Jennifer Buchanan, one of the volunteers.
From Oregon to Tanhoc
by Jennifer Buchanan
In June of 2011, two Oregon Health and Sciences 3rd year nursing
students, Malena and Jennifer, participated in a one-month stay in Cooperativa
Tanhoc. In June of 2011, two Oregon Health and Sciences
3rd year nursing students, Malena and Jennifer, participated in a one-month
stay in Cooperativa Tanhoc. They started their journey with a vision of humble
learning and with tools from population and community health courses to assess
areas for improvement.
Associated with an Oregon, USA chapter of Nursing Students without Borders, Jennifer and Malena were very eager to reduce health disparities and to fulfill the goal of leaving the people of Tanhoc with sustainable health education.
Nursing students Jennifer and Malena with children of Tanhoc
Initially landing in Guatemala City through thunder and lightning of the rainy season, they were picked up by an altruistic, devoted member of Pueblo Partisans, Sister Sarah. Sr. Sarah has worked with Pueblo Partisans and has personally known several of the now active members of Cooperativa Tanhoc since they were children. She also invited the nursing students to spend one week volunteering in a health clinic that provided low cost services such as vaccinations, prenatal care, and diabetes education. Francisco Cuz, the Guatemalan representative of Pueblo Partisans and teacher in Tanhoc, drove from Tanhoc to Guatemala City to pick the nursing students up and bring them back to Poptun, where the local office of Pueblo Partisans resides.
During their four-week stay in Poptun and Tanhoc, Malena and Jennifer worked closely with 16 women leaders of Cooperativa Tanhoc. These women were mothers, daughters, sisters, and representatives of the needs of Tanhoc. Amongst the 50 families of Tanhoc, these 16 women received education from Malena and Jennifer, with the translation help of teacher Eva Pop Caal, on subjects ranging from female reproductive health, family planning, nutrition and farming techniques and raising poultry. These women also recruited the services of the nursing students to help provide holistic health advice and to conduct cardiovascular and diabetes assessments.
In conducting these assessments, findings were shocking. Several cases of high blood sugar, indicating possible type II Diabetes Mellitus, were found. However, despite lack of access to a regular health clinic, connections were made with a monthly visiting doctor to provide medication and information to those found with high blood sugar readings. The effort for collaboration was successful.
During the one-month period, relationships were built between the two Oregonian nursing students and the members of Tanhoc. Jennifer and Malena witnessed the huge sense of community. Within three days, a new well water system was built. Within two weeks, a new community chicken coop for housing 50–70 chickens for meat and egg production was built. Also, several women were educated on fundamental health concepts, with an emphasis on leadership. Jennifer and Malena witnessed what it was like to live, eat, sleep and work with the people of Tanhoc. They saw the few resources, such as the Pueblo Partisans’ truck that had been provided by donations to the NGO. They appreciated the unique aspects of this community. The people of Tanhoc work very hard, have a strong sense of family, and want progress. For the two nursing students, their experience in Tanhoc was more than an international outreach experience. It was an opportunity and an honor to learn from daily life in Tanhoc and a way to humbly improve their future practice as international nurses.
“The experience revealed the roots of public health like a classroom experience never would have. Despite all our technology, so much human health is based in the most elemental things: hand washing, nutrition, family planning and listening. We really learned to listen. Often times, there was nothing else we could do.”
– Malena Fitting, Student Nurse