Accessible

Hacienda Mérida is an accessible hotel.

How?

We have made the commitment and investment to allow everyone to enjoy the beauties of Ometepe and to participate in our mission for sustainable and responsible living. The restaurant/sitting area has ramped access as do the rooms on the second floor (even if you are not staying up here, the view of the lake is beautiful and it's a great place to read). For the day visitor or dorm user, there is a communal bathroom, shower, and sink designed for easy wheelchair use.

Medical Missions

Twice a year, a group of students from Carthage College in Kenosha, Wisconsin comes to Ometepe to work with the local clinics. The students and faculty work with local Nicaraguan doctors to staff the clinics for 10 days and provide much needed medical care and prescriptions. Each person brings about 50 lbs of medication as part of their luggage which is then distributed by local doctors in the five rural clinics in Ometepe. Our future goal is to have at least four groups doing medical missions throughout the year, every trimester. It will be a very long time before Nicaragua alone can provide its citizens with sufficient medical care in rural areas like Ometepe. The Carthage College team arrives in January and June every year, so we are looking to recruit groups in three to four month intervals for the rest of the year.

Once dates and duration of each trip are confirmed, pre-organization steps include a census of the population in the Madera’s Volcano area (population ~10,000) and individual appointments with dates and times are assigned and reminder notices sent. Children under 5, the elderly and pregnant women are given priority. This is done about 45 days before the group arrives to start working in each clinic. We cover an area of about 38 kilometers on very rural roads and use three rural clinics (Tichana, Mérida, San Pedro, La Palma and Balgue). Each of these clinics were chosen because of their geographic location on the volcanic island so most people can walk to the clinics for the appointment. In the case of Carthage College, we hire five local Nicaraguan doctors so we can staff each clinic adequately for 10 days.

The experience of working in the rural clinics on Ometepe is invaluable. Students have the opportunity for hands-on experiential learning with local doctors and nurses. Many students use their experiences in the future for applying to medical schools or other international pursuits.

Itinerary

Day 1: Travel from U.S. to Managua, Nicaragua. Travel to colonial city of Granada for dinner.

Day 2: Travel to Island of Ometepe for lunch. Settle in at the Ometepe Biological Station. Divide up donated medical supplies into three. Split into two groups.

Day 3: Group 1: Visit San Ramon Waterfalls. The San Ramón water fall is located about 3km from The Ometepe Biological Field station at 500 meters of elevation with a tropical dry forest habitat. We will return to the station for lunch and relax for the rest of the day.

Day 4: Mountain bike to the city of Altagracia. This trip will include the opportunity to take a dip at the fresh water beaches of Santo Domingo and end up in the city of Altagracia for lunch. After lunch we will visit the ‘Si a La Vida’ project which is a rehabilitation center for teenage glue sniffers. The staff there will give you an informal talk about the project and the mental health problems that the teenagers have. The kids make colourful cotton hand made bracelets for fundraising. After ‘Si a La Vida’, we will return to the biological station. For students and staff members that are not able to make the trip by mountain bike, we will provide a vehicle.

Day 5: Kayak to Monkey Island. The leisurely trip by ocean kayak to Monkey Island will be followed by a bike ride to Hacienda Mérida for lunch. Everyone should be able to participate in this trip, which is less demanding than the others. There is also an opportunity for an afternoon sailing trip to the Charco Verde Reserve, with a return to Hacienda Mérida after sunset.

Day 6: Climb into a volcanic crater lake. Take a vehicle to Mérida and start climbing the volcano all the way to the top and then descend into a crater lake. You will be able to experience some of the most beautiful dry forest preserve in the tropics. At mid elevation the forest completely changes to a wet cloud forest and at the very top the volcano will change again to an elfin forest (due to high wind disturbance).

Day 7: Stone art expedition. This trip will include visits to some ancient petroglyphs that were carved by native Americans hundreds of years ago. The Museum director of Altagracia will be our guide and will interpret the stones for us.

Day 8-12: Work in rural clinics at base of Maderas volcano. The subsequent five days will be spent working in rural medical clinics on the island. Group two will begin the cultural experiences described above after having spent the first five days working in the clinics. Typically approximately 1,000 patients will be seen in the three clinics staffed by the two groups over the ten days. One student typically works as a pharmacist issuing the medication that the doctors and other two students in each team prescribe to each patient. The philosophy of the project is to let students from developed countries experience the way medicine is practiced in the third world without the hi-tech equipment that they have to work with. Students that speak Spanish help as translators.

Day 13: Depart Ometepe Island for Granada. After lunch in Granada, there will be time to visit monuments of Granada: the Casa de los Leones, San Francisco Convent and its museum, the colourful market, the charming cobblestone streets, and numerous architecturally significant churches and monuments.

Day 14: Visit Masaya National Park and its marketplaces. Visit Masaya Volcano National Park, with its stunning and active Santiago crater. We will also visit the ecological museum, with various themes such as: geology, history, vulcanology and ecology. Next, we will visit Nicaragua's most popular open-air handicraft market located in Masaya, where you can purchase Nicaraguan handicrafts at exceptionally low prices. Then, we will drive to Catarina, one of the famous traditional towns where ornamental plants and flowers are grown. Here we will enjoy one of our country's most impressive panoramic views, looking over the Apoyo Lagoon. Before returning to your departure point we’ll pass by San Juan de Oriente and observe artisans making pottery.

Day 15:
Travel to León.

Day 16: Energy Day. Visit a sugar distillery/rum factory/electricity generating power plant that generates power using sugar cane biomass leftover from the initial stages of the distillery process. Students will learn about the distillery process and rum and alcohol production used for human consumption and motor power. A variety of questions will be answered by the company engineers including the following:

How are the sugar cane fields maintained? Are all parts of the plant being utilized economically?
What determines the amount of sugar cane that goes into refined sugar, ethanol, or other products?
What determines how much of a product is exported?
What percentage of the ethanol is being used for fuel? How is the refining process different?
How is fermentation controlled? Is the yeast genetically altered for higher ethanol production?
Is the energy production from eucalyptus more or less than from cane remnants? Can other energy sources be used to drive the generators?
Is there any effort to use cellulose biomass for fermentation?

Additionally, students will visit a geothermal power plant. Geothermal is a clean renewable source of energy with a huge potential to meet the world's energy requirements. Geothermal power is the harnessing of heat (generated and trapped far below the earth's surface) as a means of generating electricity. In Nicaragua, Phase I drilling is now successfully completed, with production tests on new wells SJ9-1 and SJ6-2 showing steam capacities sufficient to provide 16 MW (megawatts) and 22.8 MW respectively. The SJ6-2 well temperature of 303ºC is the highest recorded to date at the plant. As of 2008, 80% of the energy used in Nicaragua is generated by burning oil. Therefore, this renewable clean energy is vitally important to Nicaragua’s environment.

Day 17: Depart for the U.S.

Program Costs

Fees: The cost of the trip is $1750.00 (per person) and includes the following:

Not included in the fees are the following:

Students and doctors live in a central location (the Ometepe Biological Field Station located on the San Ramón waterfall trail) and every day they will commute on pick-up trucks to each individual clinic and eat lunch at the clinic location. Work hours are from 9:00 AM to 5:00 PM. and a cleaning crew is hired to clean up the clinic during the work day. The Government presence in this rural area is very limited so the funding for this project is done strictly by payments of the University students and staff members that participate in the project.

To further the benefits from these missions, we request that each patient bring used batteries as a form of payment for each free appointment and medication we ask. There are no recycling facilities for this toxic waste in Nicaragua which are otherwise thrown into the environment. We store them properly at Hacienda Mérida for proper disposal. For people that can not come up with batteries we take in plastic garbage as a form of payment.

Minimum requirements: For 10 paying persons paying the above fee, a shorter trip can be organized at a lower total cost.

References

Dr. Patrick Pfaffle
Chair, Department of Biology
Carthage College
2001 Alford Park Drive
Kenosha, WI 53140-1994
Email patrick@carthage.edu

Dr. Julio Rivera
Department of Geography
Carthage College
2001 Alford Park Drive
Kenosha, WI 53140-1994
Email: julio@carthage.edu

Results

General theoretical report from Kenosha Wisconsin's Carthage College medical team, 2007 mission.

From January 11th, through the 22nd, 2007, Kenosha Wisconsin's Carthage College medical squad once again offered medicine and free medical treatments to the communities of Maderas.

The squad was separated into five different communities: Mérida, Balgue, Santo Domingo, La Palma and Tichana.

The results were very gratifying. We fulfilled our goal of attending to more people this year than ever before. Of the 1,654 people who received medical treatment, 1,074 of them were females and 580 were male.

Attached to this document is more information as to the average age, common diseases, as well as more information about the medical centers.

We also worked to make people conscious about their impact on the environment, especially with regards to plastic and batteries. We consider this to have been successful in that we collected eight buckets of batteries and twelve bags of plastic garbage.

Our goal for next year will be to maintain our current number of patients and also increase the collection of plastic garbage and batteries. We will also bring medicine to treat the most common diseases in each locations. Attached is information about specific medications used with patients as well as those which were not used and ultimately sent to the main health center in Altagracia.

During this period we interviewed 990 people: 673 females and 317 males. Attached are: percentages of people that visit the dentist, their religion and their type of employment (generally, farming). We are pleased with our information gathering.

We would like to thank all the individuals that gave their support to this medical mission:

Dr. Luisa Amanda Navarrete

Dr. Pedro José Bejarano

Dr. Fátima Ortiz Pedroza

Dr. Reynaldo Barrios

Dr. Roberto Alvarado

We also received priceless support from The Proyecto Ometepe-Germany, and each and every one of the nurses in the health centers, as well as those involved in the maintenance of clinics.

Other Projects