Cassidy and Manuela conducting an interview
I am so excited to hand our latest update over to Cassidy! We've been in conversation with her for over a year and we can't wait for you to hear about the work she's just begun in Bienvenido this month. So without further ado...
Hi! My name is Cassidy Gallagher and I am a junior at the University of Pennsylvania School of Nursing. As I am writing this, it has been 21 days since I arrived in the Dominican Republic to work with The Bienvenido Project. These past weeks have been nothing short of complete cultural shock in amazing, astonishing, and difficult ways. I have not only been warmly welcomed by the smiling faces of all who help run the project, but also by the sweet, innocent faces of the children who beam with excitement just to hold my hand and dance alongside me.
You are probably wondering how I found out about The Bienvenido Project and what I am doing here? I cannot wait to tell you! About a year ago, I was searching for global volunteer opportunities and I just so happened to stumble upon the Project’s website. I reached out to Laura, the U.S. Coordinator, and we set up an appointment to meet, along with Veronica, the founder and director, last June 2018. After learning more about the Project, and getting to know each other and our intentions better, I returned to my university to talk with my mentors at the School of Nursing about arranging a visit for Summer 2019. We decided to design a community health needs assessment to evaluate the main health problems of the community and the social determinants that affect the prevalence of those issues. Through various research grants, I was able to register and fund this project.
Now that I am in Bienvenido, myself and a group of three young women (who live in the community, have graduated from the Project, and are in university) have been conducting interviews throughout Bienvenido. We are asking residents about the most common health issues within the community, where they usually seek health care, and their opinions on the services and education that the people need to better their health. We have conducted over 100 interviews! Once I return to my university, I will analyze the information collected and propose potential interventions that can be implemented in the future. My hope is that I can work with my professors and mentors to design and implement a follow-up project focused on resolving a certain health issue within the community for next summer and beyond.
Looking back on my experience conducting interviews throughout the community, I am astonished at how warmly I was greeted and welcomed into the homes of the residents asked to participate in the interviews. Even though most people in Bienvenido live in houses being held together by metal scraps and rotting wood, they still showed incredible hospitality by always eagerly finding me a chair as I entered their house or porch. The care that the many mothers had for the health of their children and the insightful, sometimes heartbreaking, stories of their fight to provide for their family was so touching and life-changing to hear. Although I valued and appreciated every second of the interview process, I was also deeply saddened by the conditions of some of the houses and of, most notably, the children who live in the community. It is not uncommon to see toddlers walking around in only dirty underwear or no clothes at all. Looking at the skin infections that sometimes painted the entire frame of a child brought me to tears just imagining their pain. However, you would never know of these conditions based on the sound of their laughter or the excitement in their footsteps playing with other children. This is what most amazed me. Even though people may be in the worst imaginable conditions (and believe me, you don’t know it until you actually see it, so let me be your eyes and ears for you as best I can), their will to live and to make the best of their situation is nothing short of inspiring.
What I have learned about myself from this experience is that no, I can’t save the world, but what I can do is give my time, my attention, and try to help to my best ability because honestly every little bit counts in the lives of those most in need. Sometimes I think that the people I met with mostly valued the time I gave towards listening to their problems, stories, and ideas because, in all truth, all most people hope for in life is to be heard. I hope I can continue to listen to these people, the Project, and my colleagues to one day make a great impact on the community of Bienvenido. And I hope that you keep helping too, in any way that you can, because you are making an amazing impact on the lives of these children!
Thank you for your help and support towards The Bienvenido Project. Believe me, if you could meet the children at the Project, they would give you a huge thank you with a bright, beaming smile and probably a hug too!
*If you are interested in partnering with us financially for this specific work, please reach out to us at firstname.lastname@example.org
Walking through Bienvenido
The interview team