I FINNNNALLY got my site!!! I've literally been waiting for this information since submitting my Peace Corps application Feb 15, 2010. The volunteer site is where the Peace Corps volunteer will spend 2 years carrying out the activities of their Peace Corps service. It was a great feeling to know the country I was moving to was Nicaragua…its like being in heaven, on pay day, with a winning lottery ticket in my hands to know my volunteer site! OK, maybe i'm exaggerating a bit, but It's kind of a big deal.
There are 6 trainees from Nica 55 (my training group) working in sites in the department of Chinandega -2 to the north (Somotillo & Villanueva), 2 to the capital (Chinandega), and 2 a little further south (Corinto & Chichigalpa). I'll be heading to Chinandega, Chinandega, which is the departmental capital. It was my first choice for a bunch of reasons and i'm SUPPPPPER excited that it was assigned to me! (Thanks MCH APCD!)
Chinandega is HUGE city. The 3rd largest in Nicaragua with about 300, 000 people living in the city and its barrios.
My site is about130km from the capital, which means I'm about 2.5 hours NW of Managua by bus; its a little less by taxi. The city is about 70 meters above sea level and the climate is hot, actually its VERY HOT during most of the year. Think high 90s in Fahrenheit or high 30s/40s in Celsius. BUT, it gets better i'm about 17km from the Pacific Coast- aka 10 miles from the beach!
The largest volcano in Nicaragua, San Cristobal, is located in this department. There is a trail of other volcanoes that cut through the middle of the department as well. In short, I now live in the ring of fire, in the land of lakes and volcanoes (Nica's Nickname).
Since my site is a big city I have some creature comforts: electricity, running water, restaurants, corner stores, markets, banks, Post Office, Internet, and cell phone service. I have some mixed feelings on this. Yes, its great to have all these amenities, but its a different type of Peace Corps Service than I imagined I would have.
HOST FAMILY/ SITEMATES
The Duena (boss) of the house has a daughter and nephew that live in her house. Also, my host sister is planning to marry her boyfriend this summer so there will be a Wedding!
I have 3 sitemates who live in Chinandega and a bunch of volunteers who live in the department. There are 2 extension volunteers (health and Agriculture) and 2 coming from my group, myself included. An extension volunteer is a person who, after serving their 2 years in a country, decides to stay for more time working in a different capacity or continuing the work they were doing. I'm not really sure what the extension volunteers in Chinandega will be doing but its nice to have someone to turn too with all my questions. The other volunteer from my group will be working in a different health sector that focuses more on HIV/AIDS issues and sexually transmitted diseases.
PRIMARY HEALTH CONCERNS
Maternal/ Infant/ Perinatal Mortality
Acute Respiratory Infections
Acute Diarrheal Illnesses
Chinandega has 13 health centers or Centro de Salud, but i'll be working with one in particular as my counterpart agency. In addition, I have ample opportunity to work with the many NGOs that are located in Chinandega proper. Some of the activities I could pick up would be: continuing an adolescent club, support of counselors of breastfeeding mothers, monitoring of pregnant women's groups, assisting at the Casa Materna, walking door to door with community health workers, monthly charlas at a children's center, coordinating with NGOS on issues related to sexual and reproductive health, or teaching healthy habits and sexual/reproductive health in secondary schools.
One of the biggest concerns is the high incidence of HIV/AIDS in this department. It's a border area so people (migrants, truckers, travelers, etc, etc) are constantly passing through on their way to and from Honduras, which means A LOT of sex happens, often unprotected. Because of this there is plenty of work to be done in terms of sexual and reproductive health. Also, people are "having relations" and then 9 months later "having babies", which means that there is opportunity to prevent the deaths and improve the health of many mothers, kids, and infants.
A few of the reasons I wanted this site because it has so much to offer in terms of learning experiences. I hope to gain a better understanding of the issues related to working with maternal and child health, urban health, sexual/reproductive health, HIV/AIDS, women's health, as well as some chronic diseases, and also be able to learn about the relationship between migration and health, . I think that given the population and the scope of the work there is to do in Chinandega, I should be able to work with all or most of these areas, in some capacity, at some point in my service. Also, its doesn't hurt that its hot and so close to the beach =)