My team and I arrived in Costa Rica past midnight on a Saturday night and the airport was still bustling in the capital San Jose. As a group of 30 of us tried to stay together and collect all our baggage, including over 10 bins full of medical supplies, we eventually made it outside all together, then proceeded to wait. Our trip director was not worried about our bus driver being late as time is seen differently in Costa Rica. That was our first lesson about the culture in Costa Rica, do not expect to start on time. Throughout the next day, we became orientated with the interprofessional team we would be working with all week. I was part of one of the smaller teams. The rehabilitation team was composed of two second year PT students, myself, another 1st year OT student, and an OT clinician was supervising and treating with us all week.
Each day we had to set up our mobile clinics in different parts of San Jose, sometimes travelling an hour and a half to our final destination. On some days we had ample room at a school or church, while other days we were confined in close quarters with no air conditioning. During our orientation day, I told the entire team about my project that I was working on providing patient education about developmental delay and early intervention. Thus once our clinic started running, having started at 9 A.M. instead of 8 A.M. because we were on Costa Rica time, any families that had concerns about developmental delay were given an OT referral and sent my way. I had created a culturally relevant education packet and infographics for non-English speaking clients that they could physically keep. I did not have a time limit with my patients, which was nice, so I could really have a good amount of time to talk to them about their children and give them tangible ideas of what they could do to encourage development in their child. There was a learning curve for me because many of the parents did not come from an educational background, but I felt like I was able to build my own health literacy skills by finding a way for parents to understand what might be going on with their children. I was also able to leave the OneWorld Health team with binders full of resources that they can continue to share with families that they see.
One of my last patients that I saw that week really touched my heart. He was a little boy who lived with his grandmother, was four years old, and had significant delays in language and social emotional skills. I was one of the first people that the grandmother was able to talk to about her concerns and she was so grateful for the resources and advice that I could provide her.I felt humbled and grateful to be able to empower these families, because I strongly believe knowledge is power. Being able to provide education and resources will hopefully empower them to be advocates for their children. I learned about their culture, how they lived, and different aspects about each person or family that made them unique, but also relatable in that they valued similar things as I did in life.
I am very thankful for this grant because it relieved some of the financial pressure involved with traveling abroad and enabled me to be able to focus on my project and develop it to be high quality information that can be used for a long time in the sustainable OneWorld Health clinics!