Volunteer Spotlight: Breanne Lesnar
Posted: June 12, 2017
Breanne Lesnar is currently pursuing her Masters degree in Public Health at the UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health. She is spending the first part of her summer volunteering in Guatemala at our Casa Maternas. After her internship with Curamericas Global, Breanne will head to Honduras to co-lead a summer trip for an organization called Honduran Health Alliance. We caught up with Breanne to learn more about her experience in Guatemala.
What inspired you to volunteer with Curamericas Global?
I really wanted to spend the summer gaining first-hand experience with conducting rural public health. I began searching for organizations that do work in Central or South America, as I am particularly interested in working with the Hispanic population. When I came across Curamericas and read about the outstanding impact that the organization has achieved through its community-centered methodology, I felt that it would be a fantastic learning experience.
My volunteer work has included a little bit of everything. My primary role has been to gather data to 1) update a maternal and neonatal complications registry and 2) report the implementation strategies and results of a nutrition intervention that was carried out in the Casa Materna partner communities in 2013. Additionally, I helped to translate for a volunteer group of nurses and nursing students while they did consultations and attended self-care groups and pregnancy school classes. Lastly, I have been supporting the Casa Materna staff in any way possible—inputting data, going along for home visits, translating documents— all of which has only furthered my learning experience here in Guatemala.
What do you do when you are not volunteering? Do you go explore? Interact with the locals?
When I am not volunteering, I spend time with the Casa Maternas staff doing all sorts of things. We go to play basketball and soccer, share stories and photos, make bracelets with yarn I brought from home, and watch movies. I have grown so fond of the girls here and will miss them dearly when I leave.
Tell me about some of the people you’ve met while volunteering with Curamericas in Guatemala.
Goodness, I could write a novel about all of the wonderful people that I have met in here in Guatemala. First, the Casa Materna staff has welcomed me in like one of their own. They are full of joy, laughter, and passion, and they work tirelessly for their communities. Secondly, I had the pleasure of working with a group of nurses and nursing students that came from various parts of the U.S. to volunteer in Calhuitz. These women also welcomed me in like a member of their group and were full of energy and ambition to serve and learn. Lastly, I have loved getting to meet the beautiful women, men, and children who come to the Casa Maternas, participate in self-care groups, or whom we visit in their homes. The community members here are humble and kind, and live fully-connected to their Mayan roots.
What has been most surprising about your experience volunteering in Guatemala?
I think the most surprising thing during my experience thus far has been how tirelessly the Curamericas staff works. Whether they are educators, nurses, administrative staff, or other personnel, the staff work from early morning until late at night, day after day; the concept of a “work day” doesn’t seem to exist. And all the while, they put true heart and passion behind their work. They know and care for their community members as if they were all one big family, and the quality of healthcare and health education that they deliver is remarkable, especially given the challenges of their rural setting and limited resources.
What has been your favorite memory from your trip so far?
It seems nearly impossible to choose just one favorite memory from my experience, but if I absolutely must, I would say that my most memorable experience was seeing my first live birth, here in the Casa Materna in Calhuitz. I had never before seen a birth, but the entire process was miraculous. It was also incredible how seamlessly the Casa Materna staff worked in a team to deliver the baby girl, and I was very grateful for the opportunity to witness this first-hand.
What will you be doing when you return from your trip to Guatemala?
When I leave Guatemala at the end of the month, I will be going straight to Honduras to co-lead a summer trip for a UNC school of medicine organization called Honduran Health Alliance (HHA). HHA provides a free reproductive health clinic that focuses on screening for cervical cancer, along with holding health chats, or charlas, in six rural communities. This year, our group is comprised of 15 medical students, 2 medical student leaders, and 2 public health student leaders. We will return to the states in mid-July.
Article written by Emmy Burroughs, Curamericas Global’s Outreach and Development Intern
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