The first time I accompanied Doña Nelis on one of her home care visits, it was immediately clear that she was a leader. People shouted out greetings (¡Adios Doña Nelis!”) as she walked by, and often stopped her with inquiries or updates about the new baby in the family, a grandmother’s arthritis, or a father’s high blood pressure. Everyone knew Doña Nelis. Every Tuesday, as part of her duties as a nurse at the local Health Center, Doña Nelis takes to the streets of her town in El Rosario, Nicaragua, to bring healthcare to patients who cannot get to a health facility, or who need extra attention. I have observed her take the blood pressure of an aging bed-ridden patient, their body too frail to make a visit to the Health Center. I have seen her measure many a child’s height and weight with a tape measure and portable scale, ensuring that they are on track in their growth and development. I have watched as she explains to women how to take a vaginal swatch that will later be tested for HPV (Human Papilloma Virus). She clasps hands with her patients, listens to their symptoms, offers pragmatic advice, and encourages all to visit their closest health facility for more care.
That first day, after more than 5 hours out in the sun and still walking to more house visits, I commented on how impressive I found her diligence and dedication.
She shrugged and said, “Yo quiero a mi pueblo,” (I love my town). Doña Nelis is the best kind of leader: beloved, humble, and unfailing. She works tirelessly to make certain that everyone in her community is healthy and well because she cares about each of them.
Peace Corps Nicaragua Health 67
GAD Committee Member