Sabana Grande, Nicaragua
The International Externship Grant that I received allowed me to explore an area of research that I found particularly interesting, One Health. During the summer of 2012, I traveled to Nicaragua with four fellow students to assess the health needs of the animals of Sabana Grande, a small rural community in northern Nicaragua. Our goal was to identify ways in which we could improve human health and livelihood by addressing the health and husbandry status of the animals that live in close proximity to these people. During this initial trip we assessed the views and health concerns of people regarding their animals by administering surveys and closely interacting with families in this community. We were interested in determining the animal richness and diversity in Sabana Grande, the types of services or products provided by the animals, and the types of programs needed in the community that could improve the welfare of both the animals and the people.
From our initial assessment we learned that most families in Sabana Grande have animals, with many families having multiple species living on their property. Animals were very important to these people as they were used as a primary source of food, trade, sale, and protection. The community was very receptive to our presence and the people expressed their eagerness to accept veterinary programs because their animals were so valued. Although the people acknowledged that animal health is important to their livelihood, there are no veterinarians living within this community. With these findings, we are planning the next phase of this project, which includes integrating a larger educational component and beginning to form a clinical component to begin to treat animals.
My experience in Nicaragua was invaluable in that I was able to really experience a culture, learn about One Health, and acquire skills necessary for a veterinarian. When we first arrived in Nicaragua, we spent some time in Managua, the capitol city, and Leon, another major city in a different region of the country. Our goal in these large cities was to network with other veterinarians and health workers, including visiting the veterinary school in Leon. These contacts allowed us to get a good understanding of the health care system in Nicaragua. We also spent a few days with a non-profit organization where we went into the forests to learn about Nicaraguan fauna and ecology. By viewing Nicaragua from several different perspectives, we were able to form a rich picture of the country. Lastly, we spent time in Sabana Grande, a very rural community, where we lived with host families within the community. This was my first experience living with a host family and it taught me a lot about the people, the country, and the attitudes Nicaraguans. We immersed ourselves into the culture in Sabana Grande and worked everyday to understand the types of programs that could benefit these people in future years. These experiences taught me valuable lessons about cooperation and networking that will be valuable to me in my future career.