Global Health Volunteer: Alajuelita, Costa Rica

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Foundation for International Medical Relief of Children

  • A group opportunity. Invite your friends.
  • 24 people are interested

About the Community

Five kilometers outside of San Jose, the capital city of Costa Rica, approximately twelve thousand five hundred Nicaraguan refugees and impoverished Costa Rican citizens settled outside of central Alajuelita ("Little Alajuela"). The majority of this population, comprised largely of women and their children, is medically uninsured. Admirably, Costa Rica promises universal healthcare to its native 4.2 million citizens; unfortunately, the poorest sector of the population slips through bureaucratic cracks and Nicaraguan political refugees still receive no insurance. Though the World Health Organization estimates a remarkable eighty-nine percent of Costa Rica's population have primary medical insurance, many people including Nicaraguan refugees still struggle to find much needed healthcare.

The most significant medical issues plaguing this population are readily treatable with preventative measures, education initiatives and continuous healthcare monitoring: diarrhea, head lice, malnutrition, persistent bronchial infections, gastrointestinal microbe infections, unplanned pregnancies, alcoholism, drug addiction, and HIV. Coupled with these medical issues are equally persistent and pervasive social problems--the absence of clean water and sanitation facilities in rural areas, absent or overcrowded schools, underemployment, and increasing dropout rates in school.

The FIMRC clinic in San Felipe, Alajuelita was established in January of 2005 and is just a short walk to the underserved communities, Jasmn ("Jasmine") and Los Pinos ("The Pines"). The centrally located space serves as a FIMRC base within the community for well-child and acute care visits, as well as psychological services.

Volunteer Opportunities

The nature of a volunteer mission to Alajuelita will vary depending on the number of volunteers in each group, the length of the volunteer trip, respective proficiencies in Spanish, medical expertise, and the current needs of the community and the clinic upon arrival. What FIMRC can guarantee, however, is that every volunteer mission will be culturally and socially enlightening to its volunteers. Each volunteer will have opportunities to examine Costa Rica’s systems of medical provision in numerous ways and learn about health care disparities as outlined below.

Outside FIMRC’s clinic, volunteers will develop health educational initiatives in Tejarcillos, a soup kitchen located in the underserved areas of Alajuelita where children play in safety and receive hot meals daily. In addition, volunteers may spend time conducting house visits to provide preventative health education to local families on topics such as hygiene and water contamination.

Progress in the clinic accelerates daily, and volunteers maintain important roles in the clinic’s future. Activities include establishing medical record systems, building health education curricula on the topics of HIV, parasites, or dental health, charting patients’ vital signs, and observing clinical interactions with medical staff. There are many opportunities for shaping an itinerary to skills or interests, as FIMRC’s goal is to provide every volunteer a memorable, worthwhile experience that will leave lasting impressions about healthcare in developing communities.

Project Alajuelita currently welcomes volunteers traveling individually or in groups. Volunteer activities run year-round, so please contact us with the dates you would like to travel!

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AlajuelitaAlajuelita, Costa Rica



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