After a good night’s rest, our team awoke early and traveled to Concepcion del Norte. It’s just under an hour journey from our hotel through spectacular hills and lush valleys with mountains in the distance. Cattle and farms line the roads. The town of Concepcion is much more remote than our last experience in Trinidad, and as a result more depressed. We found out today that a medical team has not visited in over seven years.
The level of poverty is striking to us. One member of our team who travels frequently in Central and South America commented that it is by far the poorest place he has ever been – and seeing it again after several years was a sharp reminder of this fact. We notice that both in and out of the towns, most people live in homes that are little more than shacks. Much of our journey to the village is over poorly kept dirt roads; people walking down the roads are eager to catch a ride on the back of a pick-up truck that we are using. It appears that many people survive by subsistence farming – we see small crops of corn and bananas all along the way, and small herds of scrawny cattle being driven by old men. Men and boys are riding small ponies for transportation. Obviously medical attention has not been readily available here.
We celebrated Mass at the tiny Episcopal Church with Padre Hector, who oversees fifteen such small churches. It was a wonderful service – their sincerity and gratitude is palpable.
After the service we began the task of transforming the church into a medical clinic. Pews were moved to form treating areas; desks were placed to make a pharmacy and triage area; a tarp was hang from the ceiling to make a private exam/procedure area. And medications and supplies – so much more than we had last time! – stocked benches and pews.
The church is lead on a more daily basis by Delma, who introduced herself as the pastoral leader. She had us over to her lovely home for a gracious meal and expressed how excited she was to work with us in the coming days. Her generosity was overwhelming.
We journeyed back in the rain and arrived at our hotel in time to make some final plans for tomorrow before having dinner and then an early night. Delma anticipates us seeing a lot of patients over the next several days – potentially many more than we treated the last time. It is scary and inspiring. We have an amazing team of medical professionals, and an unbelievable core of parishioners. We have abundant supplies. We have hosts that are eager to help, and glad to do so. And we have our faith – faith that has gotten this far, and that will continue to be our guide. Tomorrow we begin!