Today I was blessed by a Tsachilan shaman. This was the indigenous people's way of thanking Shoulder to Shoulder for coming and providing health care for the people. We were told that we took care of the people physically and the people of Tsachila were going to take care of us spiritually. Since I was at the clinic yesterday, it was my group's turn to go to Tsachila. It was an interesting day to say the least.
Javier is our bus driver and he is one of the best drivers I have ever seen. He has been able to make hairpin turns and compete with the aggressive Ecuadorian traffic. Today, I thought I met Javier's match: mud. As we progressed through the forest our bus came upon a muddy patch in the road. Slowly, the bus began to slide until the tire dug itself into the ground. We were stuck in the middle of the forest. Javier worked quickly to dig and place traction behind the tires. Eventually, with the group pushing and Javier's work, the bus came loose and we were again on our journey to Tsachila. The clinic went as normal but it was the festivities after that were the highlight of the day.
After completing our clinical duties we traveled to the home of the president of the Tsachila community. The Shaman blessed us and we were taught how the people paint their hair with the seeds of a certain fruit. In Tsachila myth, the seeds helped protect them from evil. We were also painted with the juice of a fruit that goes on clear but eventually turns to a dark blue color. This is like a henna tattoo and should wear off in about two weeks. After the painting, music was played for us and the group danced within the hut.
Our evening ended as usual by hanging out in the convent and looking forward to what tomorrow will bring. I am excited about tomorrow because we will be working on a community service project. Some of us will be performing clinical work and staffing a center for nutrition while others will be helping to better the clinic.
Jim Buscher, who will start at UK Medical School in August, is a two-time graduate of the College of Arts & Sciences with degrees in psychology (2009) and biology (2010). But before he enrolls in gross anatomy or makes his rotations in the hospital, Buscher has embarked on a journey to Ecuador as a volunteer with Shoulder to Shoulder Kentucky, an international organization dedicated to improving the quality of life in resource-limited communities.
Jim will spend time working in health clinics performing screenings and tackling the issues that confront the community’s wellbeing, but he also plans on doing more than dealing with health initiatives. Following the lead of Jacob Sither, a friend and student in UK’s College of Public Health, Jim will take part in distributing donated equipment to help develop a soccer program in the community, hoping to build a self-sustaining recreational program to supplement their efforts to improve general public health. The whole point of these enterprises, Jim says, is to improve the lives and families in the community by addressing health, education and economic issues.