It takes me a little while to process what happened over our week in clinic with the students. There are so many events and emotions to take in and digest and then choose the topic to write about and share with you. I hope you have enjoyed reading the previous blogs from the medical team and the students. We have experienced a lot this week. This is my seventh year as a member of the medical team. Side note: thank you very much Lauri Pramuk for inviting for a cup of coffee to sit and discuss this wonderful program those years ago – I’m glad I said yes to going and thank you for your friendship and the friendships that have been built along the way!! As the pharmacist on the team, I am responsible for filling prescriptions and counseling our patients with their medications. I do this in my daily work as a community pharmacist. This year was different. I had the added responsibility to oversee the Prayer component of our daily clinic schedule. Once the prescriptions were filled and patient counseling was completed, the two students working in the pharmacy with me invited our patients to take a moment with us for quiet reflection or prayer before leaving clinic for the day.
We had our prayers written out in our clinic handbooks and had practiced reciting them during our weekly preparation meetings. I am not a native Spanish speaker as many of the students are not. So correct pronunciation and accent placement on certain words was a bit trying at times. Our students and I did our best and our patients were more than kind accepting our foibles with speaking Spanish. I found the students felt more comfortable reciting the same prayer each time they led our prayer circle with a different patient. It was always a treat for me to hear one of our native Spanish speaking students recite the prayers – using the correct pronunciation and accent placement. One of our prayers (the Catholic Prayer) repeats the word ojalà several times in this prayer. As I was listening to our student, Wendy, recite this prayer and the word ojalà was repeated, I was drawn to how beautiful that word sounded with the correct pronunciation and the accent in the correct place. After the ‘Amen’ and we thanked and hugged our patient good-bye, I shared with our prayer group how beautiful that word sounded. Wendy shared with us ojalà means hopeful or having hope. Webster’s dictionary defines it as meaning “hopefully” or “let’s hope so”. This word comes from the Arabic phrase “inshallah” which means “God-willing” and is also used to reflect the hope that something will happen.
So, this is where my thoughts are with my blog. Where is my “ojalà”? What is my “ojalà”? I am ever hopeful for the beautiful people of Guatemala. The work that is being done by our beautiful friends and colleagues at La Ciudad de la Esperanza is truly remarkable and I am hopeful it continues. I am hopeful that our week in clinic was beneficialto the people of Coban. I am hopeful that this experience played an important role for our students on their journey to their medical careers. I am hopeful the students will look back on this experience often and rekindle the fire that I saw in them this week. I am hopeful our service project will continue to grow and build sustainability for Coban and its surrounding communities. I am hopeful for our medical team that we continue to be good stewards of knowledge, kindness, generosity, peace, and above all, love. Ojalà is a beautiful word – and I am hopeful you can experience its beauty.
Dr. Eric Bertelsen