San Pedro, Ometepe Island, Nicaragua
January 21st, 2013
We arrived last night and after dinner at the home of Anibel Sanchez, an unofficial, but influential leader of this community of about 1000 people, slept out in the courtyard of the local school, with stars and waxing gibbous moon overhead, and the sound of howler monkeys in the forest during the night, and thousands of tropical birds at dawn.
San Pedro is a village with special significance to this project, and to me. Dr Shelley Lenz, a mixed animal practitioner who has generously donated her time to HSVMA-RAVS projects in the last ten years, including many times in Nicaragua, has taken a giant step further, and is in the final stages of purchasing some property here in San Pedro, in order to build a small veterinary clinic to be staffed by some young Nicaraguan veterinarians whom we have been mentoring for the last several years.
This is a difficult process to navigate in a culture with almost no history of modern veterinary services, and no history at all of self-sustaining veterinary practice, let alone the ability of a Nicaraguan vet to actually earn a living. It will require a delicate touch and some luck properly to navigate these waters. The model to be followed,
is that the clinic building will be constructed using the proceeds of a yoga retreat to be held on the other (more tourist-oriente
d) end of the island, then stocked with a basic supply of equipment and medications, and staffed initially one week per month by NicaVets, (an association of students and graduates of Universidad Nacional Agraria (UNA), in Managua, led by UNA graduates Drs Faran Dometz and Jasson Figueroa.)
The hope, and expectation, is that the NicaVets clinic will eventually provide the opportunity for a Nicaraguan veterinarian (or several!) eventually to live and make a career on this island. This will necessarily require charging for services, but in an economy of, until recently, subsistence agriculture with minimal participation in the larger economy, some flexibility will be required, and we envision that clients unable to pay cash for services will contribute something in-kind, in materials or labor. This will initially be truly a community effort; no grants will be written, nor other outside funding sought. Not to be too pretentious about it, but we consider ourselves to be part of the community here in some sense.
The day itself went well, with a moderate and normal case load, no disasters, a substantial lunch provided by the community, and a rough drive around the far end of the island almost to that end of the pavement, and the night at an ecolodge in the tiny town of El Porvenir. Tomorrow we visit Esquipulas, the hometown of one of the Nicaraguan students with us, where we have been many times previously, and will likely
have our busiest day of this trip
David Turoff, DVM