San Vicente de Paul Hospicio is a nursing home near the center of Santiago de los Caballeros, and is founded on the ideal of St. Vincent de Paul to take care of the elderly in the community. It was a challenging service site for me. Being around older people is very different from the atmosphere of a school or a youth group.
It was not always comfortable; there were a lot of people, and it while there were many people there that made it great, it is not a perfect institution. We heard stories of how people were left there by their families and never see them after. The lack of stimulation there seems to atrophy many people. The language barrier can also be more difficult than with children, as age and illness take course, and we cannot connect by running around playing pato pato gonzo.
Another challenge was seeing how the staff, although very friendly, was not always taking adequate care of the residents. Falls are frequent at the hospicio, and people have bed rashes and open wounds that are not attended. It was difficult to put these two realities together, and I know it is a difficult balance and lack of resources for hospicio, but it seems so simple to change. That alone has been frustrating and looks like negligence to me. Somethings are not just cultural differences.
We spent a lot of time talking to the residents, and while we learned a lot, and I hope made them feel important, loved, and wanted. I feel that is important, but there needs to be sustainable change. I did not do enough in my time at Hospicio. There are many people, not everyone wanted to talk, not everyone had the same interests or friends there, but I find it hard to make an impact that will outlast our presence. We need to leave, and with that, our relationships we made change.
Even though the Encuentro program does an excellent job of maintaining the presence of students there, the nature of relationships changes. Next semester may not talk to the same people that I did, it is hard to make that continuous service. To make something more, the relationships are important, but there needs to be a more ingenious way that works within the structures at hospicio to promote better quality of care and life for the residents. It took me a long time to realize just how significant some of the issues at hospicio were, spending 4 hours a week is a short time when the residents are always there. By making the relationships and talking, I felt that we made good connections and helped the residents maintain dignity in a place that often it is very hard to keep.
Learning about heroic leadership, I feel I learned to make better changes and take opportunities, and I look at Hospicio as a place where I succeeded at times, but more often failed. I see it as an opportunity to grow, because there were so many possibilities that I didn’t take to make positive change. Service was difficult, and while there were many rewarding moments, I look back at many other times where there was the chance to do more. Perhaps that is just magis talking, but at times it seemed inadequate, or at the very least unfinished. Places like Hospicio are demanding, even though at times it looks like a very simple commitment.
However, service is never a completed action, as Encuentro ends, it is time to return home, and continue to build upon Encuentro there. Conflict has been part of the struggle with service I experienced. Learning from the struggles and finding better opportunities and making them when they don’t present themselves has been a lesson I am taking away from my time here. Service needs to be integral to whatever we are doing.
Its a long road.
Sorry for the text block and ramblings. Just thoughts about the challenges of service I have.