Sabana Grande, Nicaragua
I traveled to Nicaragua for 19 days with 4 other vet students as the initial leg of a One Health project centered in the small Northern community of Sabana Grande. Our primary goal in this endeavor is to set up a sustainable means of improving human, animal, and environmental health that can serve as a model for other communities.
We began working on this project in February, knowing that we had a tremendous amount of work to do in preparation for our time in-country. This included lots of meetings with UC Davis faculty and potential collaborators, as well as hashing out what we wanted to accomplish on our first visit and how we were going to do it. All in all, the best preparation was realizing that we would need to be flexible. It was not going to be the kind of trip with a rigid schedule that we would have to adhere to, and to make the most of it we would need to be able to go with the flow.
The trip was action packed from the start, as some of the group traveled from Managua to Leon to meet with UC Davis medical students and visit the veterinary school there. The heat was intense, which added an element of frenetic energy to our activities. We talked with Nicaraguan vet students and participated in rounds with the medical students, which allowed me to see some different perspectives in the medical field. We hope these groups will be frequent collaborators with us in the future, so it was important for us to make these initial contacts and explain a little more about our project and goals.
From Leon we returned to Managua to pick up the rest of our crew, including our faculty mentor, Dr. Cheryl Scott. With the entire team assembled, we put our heads together, honed our game plan, and prepared for the crux of the trip: our voyage to Sabana Grande.
When I think back on it, I'm amazed that I only spent 10 days in the community of Sabana Grande. It sits just south of Ocotal, the last major settlement before the Honduran border. Every minute of the day was packed with work on the project: surveying local residents, spending time with local health workers, meeting veterinarians and technicians in the area, and looking for potential future projects. In the evenings we would return to our homestay families to eat, relax, and practice conversational Spanish. The generosity of our homestays and the willingness of the people to share information and ideas with us made all the work easier and downright enjoyable.