MIRANDA, Venezuela.— This is neither a socially, geographically, or visually docile place - with busy streets full of people making their way through apparently poor neighborhoods, a scene which although might seem natural to locals appears intense, astonishing, and even awe-inspiring to visitors.
As we make our way up to one of the highest points in the municipality of Cristóbal Rojas, we reach Las Brisas de Charallave Comprehensive Diagnostic Center (CDI). There Cubans and Venezuelans work side by side, treating common ailments such as asthma, diabetes, or problems often associated with traffic accidents.
The Cuban brigade is composed of 40 members. When we arrive at the CDI, we are welcomed by a large group, almost all of whom are young. Spending the morning talking with the doctors you get an idea of what their daily routine is like. We speak to doctors, administration staff, promoters of the Sports Mission (a project combining health and sports with the aim of improving residents’ physical and mental wellbeing).
They may not know it, but the intensity of their daily work and rigorous schedule, which usually extends well past closing time, shows on their faces - revealing both fatigue and conviction. They just want everything to go well. No one speaks of fears, but all understand with serenity and commitment, the historic significance of serving in the land of Bolívar at this time.
Before we depart, three young-faced doctors look at me, and I can’t help but wonder, how old they are. A quick inspection tells me that none of them can be over 30 years of age.
At this point in their careers, this unique experience serving in Venezuela has certainly marked all of their young lives.
Twenty-six-year-old Family Medicine professional, Juan Carlos Sierra Barrera, also a trained ultra-sound and radiography technician, has been in the sister nation for over a year. “Given what’s currently going on in Venezuela,” he notes, “we young doctors feel that we are fulfilling a great mission, because today we are not only part of the country’s history, but Cuba’s as well. Our Comandante en Jefe always told us to remain firm and that he had total confidence in us.”
Juan Carlos is certain that all their hard work will leave an indelible mark on the people and country. “Being here,” he states “we are contributing to strengthening fraternal ties between Cuba and Venezuela. We will try do give the very best of our selves in order to maintain these human achievements which are the social missions.”
Meanwhile, 27-year-old Yasmani Cantillo Boloy, Comprehensive Family Medicine (MGI) specialist, tells of his most moving experience in the almost six months he has been serving on the mission. He recalls that while observing a surgical procedure, a supposedly simple maneuver went wrong, causing the patient to bleed internally.
As Yasmani tells it, all members of the mission involved, as well as their Venezuelan counterparts, banded together to resolve the problem. The patient was fine, but required a second procedure and was admitted to the CDI for recovery. “It was a nice struggle,” according to the young doctor, always alert to any threat of danger.
In her third year on the mission, 29-year-old Rayda Rosales Velez, also an MGI specialist, has lots of experience to share.
Rosales Velez describes feeling “very useful” during the time she has spent serving in Venezuela. Responsible for teacher training support for Venezuelan Medical students, she proudly notes, “They will occupy our positions in the near future. We have done a lot of work in regards to the issue of quality of services.”
Rayda comments on a recurring concept during this reporter’s trip: the idea that Venezuela is a school. The young Cuban and recent medical graduate completed her two years of social service in a military hospital on the island. “Not even that can compare with what I’m experiencing right now, and how all of these experiences have contributed to preparing me as a person and a professional.”
And she’s right when she says that the Las brisas de Charallave CDI, where she has been developing her skills alongside dozens of other colleagues, is a place that receives every kind of case and person you can imagine, or perhaps not, as you make your way through the streets and pass by corners teeming with seas of humble people.