By Jeanie Park
We got a chance to shadow Inspector Franco and his team as they made rounds in a community in Pacora. It was a humbling and sobering experience as I got to see inside the homes of some really impoverished families.
As I walked through the neighborhood, I was surprised once again by the vast difference in wealth, even within a street. The first home I visited had uneven concrete flooring, bare concrete walls, nodoors, and no real furnishings. One of the rooms had a bare mattress with adirty yet loved stuffed animal. The other room had blankets on the concretefloor for a bed. Hanging on a rope that was secured against the wall were the children’s clothes and uniforms. The next two homes we visited were complete opposites of the first home. Not only were their walls painted and homes secured by gates and walls, they had ornaments decorating their walls and the furnishing of their home was incredible—LCD flat-screen TVs, ceiling fans, decorative bowl of fruit, mini statues, and the list goes on. It was interesting though not surprising that their answers regarding how they felt about thecommunity and its needs were drastically different from the first home.
Being “in the field,” I’m beginning to find out more about the kind of work I want to do in the future. The more time I spend talking with the people of Panama, the more I realize the type of impact I want to leave as a public health professional. I hate to saythat I gained something by witnessing the woes of others, but perhaps this is the kind of cross-cultural experience we all need to get us all moving.