This post is written by guest writer, Jean Hartley, 1st year MEPN
On Saturday September 17th, Hahn School of Nursing and Health Science teamed up with campus ministry to bring a mobile health education and screening fare to the community of La Morita, one of the poorest and fastest growing areas of Tijuana. A group of roughly twenty-two students and faculty members prepared for this day by organizing an array of educational and triage stations, from teaching adults about healthy exercise habits to checking blood pressures and blood glucose levels. Nicole Galicia and Daniel Roderick, our team leaders, organized a highly adaptable framework for the day as well as individual “passports” that attendees could take around to be stamped at the various stations we had prepared.
As a first year MEPN and a non-Spanish speaker, I quickly found myself feeling a bit daunted by the task before me. I felt nervous about relaying important information to individuals who understand a language that I do not proficiently know how to speak. However, I quickly learned that we don’t always need to know someone’s language to deliver a message of care, guidance, and advocacy. I looked around at my classmates and was so encouraged by the passion they exhibited in their work – from emphatically teaching children how to brush their teeth to showing great care and compassion to nervous patients who had never before been seen by a healthcare professional. I came upon the realization that although I could not communicate to this group of people using their native language, my unique contribution could be communicating in a language that is native to all: dance. I grabbed the speakers and some of my classmates as we invited our new friends to join us in a celebration of movement. We laughed, jumped, and twirled to “Uptown Funk,” incorporating principles of cardiovascular fitness, resistance exercises, and a whole bunch of fun! I realized that perhaps this was the most effective way to communicate the importance of physical activity and a healthy lifestyle. Promoting creativity and fellowship is more suited to this community’s approach to exercise than any poster or speech we could have prepared. This was such a tangible example of how flexibility in nursing matters. Adapting an educational lesson about wellness to fit a community’s needs makes a big difference.
The rest of the afternoon was just as insightful. We ate lunch at the San Eugenio Mission, where a residing priest taught us about the mission’s dedication to living amongst the community of La Morita and providing programming, Mass and health services. Later, we were afforded the opportunity to spend time with the residents of Casa de las Memorias, an HIV/AIDS residential facility. I was particularly struck as our gracious hosts explained the nature of the facility: “When someone makes Casa de las Memorias their home, they are welcomed into a community of helpers. If you are the most recent resident, you have the honor of shepherding the next new resident and the cycle continues.” As we were given a tour of their home, our host pointed to a woman lying on a bed in the corner of the room. “She is blind,” we were informed. “All of the women here help her to get around, and they take care of her. We are all in this together.” That much was strikingly clear to those of us who were able to visit the people here – that they understand what it means to be deeply invested in the life of another. Our hearts were blessed by the people we met and by the way they heartily approach life, even with such difficult diagnoses.
If you, like me, often feel ill-equipped and intimidated at the thought of stepping into realities like poverty, sickness, and unjust disparities, take comfort in the truth that knowledge and “readiness” tremble before courage and compassion. We all have something to offer and something to receive. We learned that in such a poignant way during our time in La Morita. Understanding the beauty of someone’s heart, the depth of their pain, and the power of pervading hope transcends all borders, all languages, and all the different places of life in which we find ourselves.
As we began the day, we opened with a special prayer offered by late Archbishop Oscar Romero entitled A Future Not Our Own. As we ended the day, the prayer rang especially true.
“We cannot do everything, and there is a sense of liberation in realizing this.
This enables us to do something, and to do it very well.
It may be incomplete, but it is a beginning, a step along the way,
an opportunity for the Lord’s grace to enter and do the rest.
We may never see the end results,
but that is the difference between the master builder and the worker.”