Thank you so much for taking time to look at our blog! We are a group of edical students who are passionate about training and in underserved areas. This January and February, we are in Peru, the Dominican Republic and Costa Rica internationally as well as locally in Flint and Lansing completing volunteer service, rotating in hospitals and clinics, and learning about international medicine and local underserved health care. We appreciate any time you take to read our reflections and any donations you might offer.

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Sunday, February 8

A day with the psychologist

**All names have been changed.

Ana was born in Mexico, and at the age of 13 was "sold" by her parents to be married to a 42 year old man. A year later she was a new mother, and her husband, bored and uninterested in children, abandoned her. She moved back to live on her parents' farm. After a few years, a drought came, and nearly devastated their crops. A child in a family of 14, many of her older brothers came home to help save the family farm. Her eldest brother lived several miles away, and Ana would often spend days or weeks at a time at his house to help with the crops. One day, while at his house, Ana's brother attacked her. He locked her in his house, and he abused and raped her at his will. Because his house was far from her mothers', it was not unusual for her to not come home for long periods of time, so no one came to look for her. Her captivity lasted for weeks, until one day she was able to escape. When she arrived home, she discovered that her mother had suffered a heart attack and was in the hospital. She told no one about what had happened to her.

Ana visited her mother in the hospital everyday. There she met Pablo, a patient recovering from weeks of captivity and torture by a Mexican gang. Ana and Pablo became friends and stayed in touch. When Ana moved out her mother's house into her own, she offered Pablo a room for rent. They soon became lovers.

By this time, Ana's daughter was 10, and she had a son, 8. One day, Pablo overheard the children fighting and blaming each other. Ana and Pablo approached the children about the conversation, and were horrified at what they heard. While they were at work everyday, Ana's mother, the children's grandmother, took the children to Ana's brothers' house each day, where Ana's daughter was being raped daily. Pablo insisted they go to the police. They brought Ana's daughter to the hospital, and tried to file a police report. However, Ana's brothers were all part of the The Zetas, a large and powerful Mexican gang that has corrupted many police forces throughout the country, including theirs. The police informed her brothers of the "lies" and "defamation" that Ana and Pablo were supposedly trying to spread about them, and threatened to kill them all. Ana and Pablo decided to flee, but the gang followed them to each city that they fled to. Ultimately, they decided that the only way to survive was to disappear. And so they left the country in the middle of the night, telling no one where they were going.

They made it through Mexico and Guatemala, finding bits of work along the way, but in El Salvador encountered more trouble. They were robbed of all their money. A group of men attempted to abduct their daughter. They were ultimately able to find refuge in a church organization, who gave them enough money to get to Costa Rica.

Ana, Pablo, and their children, now 12 and 14, are living in Alajuelita, where our clinic is, trying to find jobs and start over. After years of stints of broken education, their children are finally enrolled in school. But while safe, they are far from recovered. As the psychologist as the clinic put it, they are still in survival mode. They have spent so much time living in fear and constant motion that they don't even know what "normal" is anymore. It is tough to even scrape the surface of the emotions they may have, because there are so many experiences and feelings buried deep down, untouched.

This family is just one of the many impoverished or immigrant families that we see everyday in the FIMRC clinic. They come from unimaginable backgrounds, and have faced tremendous hardships along the way. Families that have been ripped apart and suffered terribly. For many, this is the only place they have been able to seek work, education, medical care, mental health services, and a chance at a better future for their children. It is both challenging and rewarding to have this opportunity to work with them.

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