By Sharon Vandewyngaerde

March 2016

This week was the start of my community work. We stay in a sustainable community in Toboso where community health workers (CHWs) guide us. After four hours of traveling, we finally arrived and were oriented about what to do there.

Community health work involves more than just nursing tasks. We must also ensure that our people generally stay healthy. In the community, there is a small herbal garden that we have to maintain by watering.

They also have a clinic which was also designated as our sleeping place. I was a bit disappointed as I thought we were going to stay in a family so we would really be part of a family. My biggest concern was that we will be lonely in evenings. But it turns out that the people of the community walk in and out of the clinic to relax or work so in the evenings we would always sit together with a lot of people.

On Thursdays, people with health problems come for some treatment and I was very curious what illnesses they have and what treatments they apply … but I find it strange that there is only one bed in which the patient could lie on. It looked nothing like a clinic.

During our first week we have actually done a lot and I have learned a lot. Every day we went to the cooperative farm to pick vegetables, we watered the herbal plants, we removed the weeds.

On Tuesdays, dental problems are treated in the clinic. Here when they have tooth problem, they just pull the tooth out because this is the cheapest and simplest way. I observed a few times then later on Lore has administered the anesthetic and I pulled the tooth out. I had to pull very hard and I felt sorry for the patient. But in the end, I was very proud that I had done it!! I have also learned a lot about acupuncture. It helps with many problems.

Unfortunately, I was a patient myself for the rest of the week. I vomited for two days. The CHWs panicked a lot they wanted to bring me to the hospital. But I knew after I spat out everything I was going to be better. They did so much with me while I was vomiting. There were four people to massage places that would affect my organs, they gave me herbal medicines. After two hours they asked me to eat again. I found it very interesting how they care for the ill. I learned that they panic quickly panic but I think it’s because they are responsible for me and give everything they have when all I needed was to rest.

The community has 152 people who live very scattered in huts. It has an incredible nature and the people are so friendly!!

Just a pity that they want to give us food every moment of the day and the adult people cannot speak English. The youth may be quite good in English and I constantly ask them to translate, but when we were supposed to give a health education on general hygiene, hand hygiene and hypertension, there was no translator, which was unfortunate.

I really enjoy my internship here. I have not had difficult moments and I enjoy my time here. I am always proud that I can do little things. Next week I go back to Manila for my hospital internship. It is with mixed feelings because I’m curious how it goes in a hospital, but I am sad to leave the community.

Sharon Vandewyngaerde, a nurse student, is in Negros, Philippines for her internship.