Today was our first day in El Espino. The living conditions of the local residents were interesting to observe. Let’s just say that I feel exceptionally grateful to be living in the United States. Even though I grew up fairly poor, I still think we hit the jackpot just by being born in the US. The Salvadoran people are warm and inviting. The kids at the school were happy to see us, although that may be due to the fact they only had a half day of school since we needed to prep for the campaign. Jennifer and I stepped into a classroom of 10th graders who were enthusiastic to see us, but some were a little reluctant to practice their English with us. Smiles were everywhere. There was a team of young FCE scholarship students eager to help us get set up. At one point, we were hauling bricks from the side of the school to raise the height of the tables (brought in from the community for us to use) to a height that would be acceptable for our doctors. It seems that the average Salvadoran is much smaller in stature than the typical US or Mexican doctor. I know Savannah and I feel like giants among the women.
The community provided lunch for our group, which is no simple feat, due to all of our dietary needs. The lunch was very tasty and we were all thankful for their effort. The food here has been amazing. We all feel very well fed.
Training for the spays and neuters began after lunch. The students and volunteers were all asked to stick around to observe the whole process. We had a local dog that had been scavenging in the school yard and became our first patient. He is a handsome old fella who was a wonderful patient. The doctors took us all through each step of the process, cautioning us that our safety is the number one priority, then that of the family member, and lastly the animal. We are taking great care to make sure each animal will be cared for with love and proper sanitary care. The students and volunteers were attentive to each detail, with many asking a question if clarification was needed. The doctors kept the mood light by occasionally cracking jokes. I had thought that when the actual neuter was taking place many of the students would get uneasy or queasy, but they stayed steadfast and attentive. As our patient recovered, many students stayed to make sure he would be okay. When the dog started waking up, all the onlookers cheered. One student volunteered to take the dog to his family just down the road.
Once again, everyone pitched in to get all the supplies into a secure classroom so all we have to do tomorrow is roll the tables out and put them in their place. Everyone is ready and eager with anticipation. We all left with the salutation of, “hasta la mañana.” I sure hope they all show up, and bring more animals with them now that they know the process. This must be an ongoing campaign to spay and neuter the many animals in this community, but also must be coupled with the education of the community to change the mindset of the people. Many of these animals are malnourished and have many other health issues, which are compounded by the fact that there are so many of them. So many mouths to feed does not allow for proper care.
I am hopeful the community will see our efforts as only a beginning and that they must also play a larger part in the entire community’s well being. Change is hard and often slower than we would like it to be, but it is necessary to grow.
Tomorrow will be a big day. Wish us luck!