By Olivia Acosta
Alexander Arauz is a 22 year old interior designer. He is also studying Business Administration in Rivas, a city in the South Pacific of Nicaragua, very close to the Costa Rican border. He began his volunteering with the Nicaraguan Red Cross as a lifeguard in the Rivas branch 7 years ago, also he participated in the emergency of Tropical Storm Nate, as well as in Zika prevention projects, and now he is part of the network of communicators in the organization.
Since the beginning of the pandemic, Alexander wanted to help in the design and implementation of activities to support the population in the fight against the pandemic, such as the dissemination of prevention measures against the virus and the psychosocial support service, to help manage the stress of people with COVID, or those who have lost their loved ones due to the pandemic.
According to Alexander, “The people we talk to are having a hard time, we even practice self-relaxation exercises with them to try to reduce their stress. There are other people who want to know how they should protect themselves and receive accurate information about COVID-19. We have also set up a Facebook account to spread how to use the masks, what are the mechanisms of transmission of the virus, and how they should protect themselves to avoid infection”.
Alexander has many things to tell, but one of the experiences most impressed him is about the support offered to the hundreds of truck drivers who were blocked in the border with Costa Rica for several weeks, due to movement restrictions imposed by the pandemic. “They were truck drivers from several countries in the region (Panama, Guatemala, Mexico, Honduras and Costa Rica), who could not access with their trucks across the border to Costa Rica or Panama, to deliver their goods. The situation they found themselves was deplorable, they had to live outdoors with their clothes on and sleep under their trucks, exposed to unhealthy conditions, and even to robberies…”.
The Guatemalan Red Cross has been supporting them in this difficult situation and has delivered more than 1,000 food kits to the truck drivers and also reviewed their health status. According to Alexander, “many of them were afraid of getting the virus and we had to take temperatures to check for fever or other symptoms of COVID-19. I remember that, among all of them, there was only one woman. She was very worried about beeing in touch with her children and thanks to the neighbors in the area, she was able to recharge her cell phone several times to be able to talk to them”. All Nicaraguan Red Cross volunteers wear protective equipment with masks, caps and goggles to do their work. According to Alexander, “At first we were all worried about getting the virus and infect our families, especially when we transported by ambulence people who might have coronavirus. But if you follow the established protective measures, you feel safe and realize that the most important thing is the value of the work we do for others. I feel very good and satisfied, we are working to support the population in these hard times, we feel like heroes without a cape helping people we do not know, treating them as if they were our relatives.
According to Alexander, as it is also happening in other countries of the region, the prevention measures against the virus are quite relaxed now and some people do not even wear a mask. “Although in Nicaragua there was never a mandatory confinement, at the beginning people did not go out very much from home, respected physical distances, and almost all wore masks. There were even people who looked like astronauts walking down the street. Now we see a lot of people without protection, in crowds, and even many families are sightseeing and going all together to the beach… we have a hard job ahead of us to continue raising awareness, because the pandemic is not over,” he concludes.
Nicaraguan Red Cross. Since the beginning of the pandemic, the actions of the Nicaraguan Red Cross have focused on contributing to the epidemic control of the virus at the national level through the promotion of hygiene, the use of masks and the distribution of hygiene kits to the most vulnerable populations. Likewise, since last March the Nicaraguan Red Cross has been implementing the development of a massive communication campaign focused on the prevention of COVID-19, reaching more than 1.5 million people.