The home stretch: Doctors for Doctors & Nurses for Nurses Crowdfunding Campaign

DFDNFNIt is not an easy thing to do – to build something from nothing. To take an idea, a dream and make it real. To dive into something and hope that, despite all the obstacles, it will be a success. To reach out and ask others for help and to believe in you and what you’re doing. Nearly two months ago we launched our Doctors for Doctors/Nurses for Nurses crowd-funding campaign. Short on resources, but overflowing with plans, ideas and ways to grow, we decided to reach out to all of you. If potato salad can raise $55 k, we can surely raise $20k to send rural students in Nicaragua to medical and nursing school.

The team put together a great video explaining our work and telling our story. Here it is in Spanish too. We went live. The donations started coming in – from friends, and family members and people we didn’t know, but who believed in the work that we do. Incredible volunteers came forward. People started talking about us. Our Facebook likes and Twitter followers grew and grew. It was humbling and reminded me how grateful I am to have so many people in my life who support what I am doing. It is through community and working collectively that we can make change happen and have the greatest impact.

We are in the home stretch now. Our crowd-funding campaign closes in 4 days, on Dec. 14th. We’re at just over 50% of our goal, but believe that in the final days we will see the rest come in. Please consider making a donation. We’ll be using a portion of this money to sponsor our next student, an incredible young woman I interviewed on our trip to Nicaragua in July. You can read her story here. Now you can also give a donation as a holiday gift – if you choose the Gift of Giving perk on our IndieGoGo campaign you’ll receive a printable gift card to put under the tree. For more information about who we are and what we do please visit our website.

A big thank you from me and the whole DFD & NFN team for everyone’s generosity and for allowing us to move forward with this project. We really could not do it without you.

Nicaragua – I can’t escape you

I left Nicaragua six months ago knowing the experience had marked me, but not knowing when or if I would return. A few months later, while at a friend’s house party for a lil’ show my musician husband was playing at, word got out that I’d recently come back from the country of gallo pinto, poets, lakes and volcanoes and that two of the guys there were in the throws of a start-up international health development project in Nicaragua. Sitting in that crowded living room, serenaded by the music and over plastic cups of red wine, the founder of the project – a recent grad from Chiropractic College and all around brilliant guy – convinced me to join their adventure. It was a serendipitous night. I don’t believe in destiny, but I do believe that life has a way of taking us back to the people and places we feel called to.

The project is called Doctors for Doctors & Nurses for Nurses. We provide full scholarships for young, impoverished, rural people to fulfill their dream of being a doctor or nurse. We are working towards increasing access to and the quality of rural healthcare in Nicaragua. We are empowering young people to be the agents of change in their own communities. I’m working on grant applications now with the hope of opening a clinic in Esquipulas next year with El Colectivo de Mujeres el 8 de Marzo, focusing on women’s reproductive health and other female specific health issues. We are life-long, local and life-saving.

Myself and Andrew, DFD & NFN Founder, with sponsored medical student Bryan and his family.

Myself and Andrew, DFD & NFN Founder, with sponsored medical student Bryan and his family.

In July the team and I headed down to Nicaragua for 2 weeks to meet with our local partner organizations, check in with our sponsored medical student, develop new connections and produce some exciting documentaries and short promotional videos for our work. It was an intense and rewarding trip – 18 hour working days were not uncommon. Beach days got tossed aside in favour of visits to rural communities and hospitals. We met some truly incredible people. I interviewed a woman who told me she has given birth 11 times – alone, holding on to a rope suspended by the roof of her house, kneeling over a bucket to catch the babies. They all survived. When I asked how, she laughed and said “Luck!”. I interviewed a gynecologist who is leading the fight for the legalization of therapeutic abortion – the right to have an abortion when the woman’s life is at risk.  She told me about a 15 year old girl with leukemia who was pregnant. Doctors were forbidden from treating her because it could compromise the life of the fetus. Both the girl and the baby died. I interviewed a doctor in a small, sweltering room at a small healthcare centre. He apologised for being so exhausted, but he had seen 300 patients that day and it was only 4pm. All of these stories illustrate to me just how vital the work is we are doing. There is a deficit of resources in the country. A lack of adequate care for people living in rural communities. A battle being waged over women’s bodies. So much needs to be done, and I am proud to be involved with an initiative that is trying to be part of the solution.

Our website just went live. Please check it out at http://www.doctorsfordoctors.ca or http://www.nursesfornurses.ca. We’re looking for more talented people to join our team. We’re looking for people to help us with publishing cutting-edge research reports. We’re looking for sponsors for some of the incredible and inspiring candidates we have lined up for our scholarship fund. Join me – join us – in saving lives and making people’s dreams come true.

The last leg of my Nica journey

photo (1) The last month has flown by and it’s hard to believe I only have six weeks left here in Nicaragua. My husband has come and left; we spent three wonderful weeks travelling around the country. Highlights include exploring Ometepe Island by motorcycle, communicating with howler monkeys on a hike around Maderas Volcano, wandering through Somoto Canyon near the Honduras border, getting nearly lost in a cloud forest and perhaps Ryan’s favourite, being serenaded by three competing Mariachi bands in a lively bar in Managua. It was hard to see him leave and his visit reminded me how difficult long distance relationships can be. Skype calls and text messages don’t replace the warmth and intimacy of being together in person. However, I am grateful for a partner who respects my independence and who supports and is proud of my career, even if that means spending half a year half a world apart.

photo (2)

In the last of my time here I’ll be focusing my efforts on wrapping up the webpage I have created for the Colectivo and putting together a context report on Esquipulas. The latter will involve interviewing the local health centre, the mayor, the local judge, schools, police and other NGOs to compile information on birth and death rates, prevalent diseases, education rates, average age of pregnant women, reported incidence of violence against women and so on. The latest statistics the Colectivo have are years old and are not comprehensive. It’s important to have this information as it helps the Colectivo to better address key issues, to plan effective initiatives and to track progress or setbacks. I’m looking forward to having a project I can focus on and creating a much needed resource.

There continues to be no working internet at the Colectivo’s office and there have recently been problems with the phone line and my laptop, meaning we are completely disconnected now. This doesn’t surprise me, though it continues to make work difficult and reminds me how dependent we have become on technology. I’m in Managua now, getting ready to head back up to Esquipulas and enjoying my last few days being ‘connected’. Here is to wishing everyone a happy and fulfilling New Year. May we take risks, find joy in each day, learn from one another and give thanks for what we have.