by Griet Vandamme
I contacted Silvia whilst volunteering in another project in Guatemala. Within a month everything was arranged and I stepped out of the bus in La Ceiba, my first stop.
I am very grateful to Silvia for making it possible to do a lot of different things for Dar A Luz. I worked in a public city hospital as a doula in La Ceiba, I worked in the small mountain village Yarucca training local midwives. I also spent some time in a maternal-infant clinic and healthcare centre close to Copan Ruinás giving information to pregnant girls and women. In between I was able to explore the beautiful Honduras a little more.
But for me the most impressive experience was working and staying for two weeks in La Moskitia, Honduras’ tropical rainforest that also covers a part of Nicaragua. The Miskitos own this beautiful part of Honduras and with their own language Miskito and their cultural habits they try to make the best of their lives. There is no access to basic needs like electricity and running water. This part of Honduras can only be reached by taking a boatride after a long and adventurous ride in a jeep.
The village of Ibans has a centro de salud which became my home for 2 weeks. The centro de salud was located in the centre of the village and perfect for me as a starting point to be able to visit local midwives, pregnant women and new mothers with their babies. I remember the first days I was walking in the village and everybody looked and stared at me, probably asking their family and neighbours what I was doing there, since almost no tourists go to Ibans. After only one week I felt like I was a part of their community and felt really comfortable walking around the village and talking to the people. I loved the atmosphere and beautiful and simple village life, although it was not always easy: no electricity, no showers, mice in my bed, nothing to do after 6pm because it was dark outside, getting up around 5am when rays of light start peaking in and the animals start waking up, eating rice, tortillas, beans and potatoes with almost every meal, etc..
I was the first volunteer for Dar a Luz to come all that way, apart from Silvia who went there in 2011. Ibans is one of the many villages that covers the small strip of stunning green dunes between the lake and the ocean. It takes only a 5 minutes’ walk to go from the lake to the beach and there is sand everywhere. A Miskito family lives with the whole family on one piece of land with different small and simple wooden houses on poles spread over this land. They spend most of their day being outside. Most women cook, clean and take care of children while the men go fishing or work in their pulpería. Some Miskitos got the chance to study in Tocoa, La Ceiba or even Tegucigalpa, and some of them were brave enough to go back to their roots and work there as a teacher, nurse or even doctor. That’s what one of the doctors did. She works in de local centro de salud and is one of the 3 doctors that covers a large part of Moskitia.
In Ibans I gave several trainings to local nurses and midwives. To get them there I had to go invite them at their houses, so it took me a lot of time to go and search for the midwives in villages nearby. Everybody was very welcoming and enthusiastic about the training sessions. We decided to give the first Dar a Luz training about life saving skills for newborns in two groups: one with only midwives and one with only nurses. We asked the midwives to bring each a younger person who wanted to learn more about midwifery. Unfortunately there is no education program in Honduras to become a midwife. Midwives are mostly local old women who live far away and their only knowhow is their experience. They didn’t have a professional training, so some small trainings could really help them. And the good thing is that they know it too!
The second Dar a Luz training was about prenatal consultations and the Leopold maneuvers to find the position of the baby. I had a lot of fun giving these trainings and everybody was so interested, kept asking questions and wanted to practice with the baby doll. We also asked some pregnant women to be there during the training so the nurses and midwives could practice on their pregnant bellies.
Apart from these trainings I also went with some midwives and nurses to visit pregnant women and mothers who just had their baby. Together with the midwife and nurse we did a prenatal or postnatal check. There was even one mother who gave her baby my name, pronounced as ‘Krietsj’.
Apart from all of this I appreciated the village life, going the beach on sunday, being on the motorcycle cruising alongside the coastline, witnessing local traditions, even participating in two local funerals, playing with children and just being part of a Miskito family.
As a recently graduated midwife I took the opportunity to do volunteering work before I start working in my country. I wanted to contribute and at the same time be part of a local community for a short time. I realize now that being a midwife is not only about delivering babies, it is also about teaching rural midwives and nurses about techniques, especially in developing countries such as Honduras and Guatemala.
I would like to thank you, Silvia, for everything you did for me, I had a really good experience in Honduras, it is a beautiful project and you are doing great work there!