What is CSHI? Who participates in the program?
We are multidisciplinary and the group includes students from the School of Public Health, School of Medicine, and School of Nursing.The program was started by med students in 2008 and adding public health and nursing students the following summer. The goal of the project is to create a sustainable health surveillance system in the Tasba Pri region of RAAN, in northeastern Nicaragua. This a very poor, rural area of the country with a culture distinct from the west coast, and a history of political and social alienation. Tasba Pri (the region around Sahsa, our site) was hit hard by Hurricane Felix in 2007, further destroying an already impoverished area with major problems in its health care delivery. We hope to send 10-12 students this year.
Can I still apply if I don't speak Spanish?
Spanish is not required, but preference is given to applicants with more advanced Spanish (the survey interviews in Nicaragua are conducted in Spanish). However, do not be discouraged from applying if you don't speak Spanish! There are opportunities to take classes in Nicaragua before going to our research site, and we want a group with diverse research interests and skills. An advanced level of Spanish is required for the group leader.
What does the group leader do?
The group leader will oversee the development of next year's survey, liaise with our partner university, and manage logistics. S/he will also work closely with UNC's employee based in Leon. While the leader is responsible for overseeing tasks, we ask that all team members share in the management of planning (ie a lead for grants, a treasurer, etc.).
When is the trip?
The tentative dates for the trip will be mid June through late July/early August. The exact dates will depend on the schedule of our Nicaraguan partner school. You will spend a week in Leon (the second biggest city, on the west coast) for orientation and then travel to the research site. Most students spend 5-6 weeks in country, though Nicaragua is a great place to travel and we'd recommend exploring if you have the opportunity.
Will this fulfill my practicum requirement?
In the past, MCH and EPID students have participated and this has fulfilled their practicum agreement (8 weeks). Because the project begins before the summer (survey revision, piloting, grant writing,
etc.) and data analysis continues after, this should fulfill any department's practicum even if you are not in country for the full duration. If you are concerned, we can also work out an arrangement where you could stay in country longer and work at UNAN in Leon (our partner university).
What is the time commitment before the trip?
Most SPH participants are actively involved in revising the survey before the trip begins. The main time commitment is fundraising through grant writing. Each participant is expected to help contribute in this way.
How much does the trip cost?
In the past, flights, hotels, in-country transportation and room and board for Sahsa have been covered by the group, making this a very cheap summer. However, the group fundraises through grants, so the out-of-pocket expenses will depend on how successful the group is with grants. In the past, each participant has pooled grant money to cover for everyone.
What is Sahsa like?
Sahsa is a very rural area (see photos), but it is the largest town in the region and the location of the main Ministry of Health clinic. The house where we have stayed does have showers and a flush toilet, as well as about 8 hours of electricity per day. It feels a lot like summer camp. In 2009, there was no phone or internet service, but it's expected that there will be internet in Sahsa by next summer. It's hot, but a little cooler than the west coast. The trip is during the beginning of rainy season, so it typically will rain for a few hours every day - or sometimes you'll get surprised by some beautiful sunny days.
What is a typical day in Sahsa like?
Breakfast is usually served around 7:30 and we leave for interviewing around 8. The truck will take the team to one of the survey towns, and you will split into teams of 2 UNC students with a community member who will introduce you to the families you interview. Typically we'll have a leisurely lunch break, sometimes hosted by someone in the town, and then conduct a few more interviews before heading back to Sahsa.
We played with local kids in the school yard across from our house for an hour or two, then ate dinner and hung out with the group before bed. Some days a few team members might skip interviewing to work at the clinic, catch up on data entry, or present an educational workshop.
What will I eat?
Rice and beans. A lot of rice and beans. And then some Gallo Pinto (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gallo_pinto).
What happens after the trip?
In the past, students have written Masters Papers and manuscripts from the data collected over the summer. We also ask that you are involved with recruitment for the following summer's group.
Why is this such a great opportunity?
You'll get to make lots of new friends in the SPH, as well as across the street. Your Spanish will improve, you'll get to make a difference in this high need, low resource area, explore a really cool country, eat delicious popsicles, and develop a lot of great research skills.
Best summer of your life!