By Jeincy Paniagua, AmeriCorps member at Forks Community Hospital
I’ve been away from my home state of Virginia and living in Forks for over 5 months now, it’s hard to believe that time is just passing me by. I look back on this adventure and I think about how much I’ve learned, how challenged I’ve been, and how much I’ve gained by working with populations that I’ve never worked with before. In Forks there is a large Migrant Mexican and Guatemalan population. The neat thing about working with them is that the majority are indigenous; they come from a culture that is different from your typical Mexican or Guatemalan. Many of the indigenous are bilingual in their own indigenous language and Spanish.
One of our biggest focuses here in Forks is trying to raise oral hygiene/health care awareness for children. To help tackle this we created a Healthy Baby Group. It is a six week program that will cover oral hygiene, visiting the doctor, literacy, and nutrition. This is a program that we designed and planned specifically for them. We took into account the needs that we saw repeatedly unmet. For example, many of these children before the age of three go to oral surgery. We want to try to change this pattern!
The different topics will all tie in to one another; oral hygiene of the individuals will improve by learning about nutrition and how to take care of our teeth. Learning what things contribute to the decay of teeth by visiting the doctor will increase health literacy and help to break unhealthy customs. We believe that by teaching these families we will be able to foster leaders and they will be able to teach others what they learned from our class.
So far we have had only one meeting with seven families in attendance. The parents were very enthusiastic and the children were curiously looking on to the program’s activities. It was a learning experience for everyone in the room, including myself. I am very proud of the families who attended class because after all they are part of the learning experience and once this program is completed we hope to make improvements and reach out to many others. Working with new cultures and populations always brings added challenges, but with them many opportunities. We are hoping for success!!
We also just want to thank the wonderful people that are contributing donations and their time to this program; we all feel that it will help to make a difference in Forks.
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