Sabana Grande, Nicaragua
I have always been interested in practicing rural veterinary medicine, servicing our “modern day homesteaders” who are attempting to live more sustainable, self-sufficient life styles. In addition to that, my previous travels to Central America have sparked a strong interest to alleviate animal suffering in other cultures who have less than in our privileged Western world.
When my classmates started putting together a project to establish a One Health culture in Nicaragua, I felt it fit perfectly with my interests.
Our initial trip was to assess the status of animal health in Sabana Grande, a very small town with minimal resources and almost no monetary income. Since there was already a team of UC Davis medical students who were going there, we thought it would be the perfect environment for a One Health project.
While we were there, we surveyed a number of local families, and interviewed what few veterinarians and “veterinary promoters” that were there. It was extremely informative regarding where their importance’s lie (i.e. cows and chickens seem to be the #1 ranked animals, whereas horses, dogs and cats were much lower on the totem pole). We got to make some house calls with a local animal health worker and see some types of diseases their cows were experiencing, and participated in their local methods of treatment.
The most important aspect of the trip for me was the fact that we each stayed with a local family for our time in Sabana Grande. Despite me knowing what to expect of a “3rd world” environment, it was a different story to actually live the life for a time (granted I was still treated as a guest and therefore not fully immersed in the reality of that life). It was rather eye-opening to experience life without running water or appliances of any sort. Some of the things we consider are necessities to life (such as toilet paper) are luxuries to them. And it was even more eye-opening to witness how our own culture has filtered through and influenced theirs for the worse, despite the good intentions of those who travel there to volunteer their time.
It was such an amazing experience that has given me a much more comprehensive reality on the world, especially the differences between their culture and the bubble in which we, as US citizens, live. It is an experience that I feel should be incorporated into the education of every child across every 1st world country; the lessons learned are invaluable.
Thank you to UC Davis’s International Programs Grant for making this possible for me!