Nancy Ale is a midwife with over 30 years experience working in a public hospital in Buenos Aires, Argentina. Buenos Aires is not only the capital of Argentina, but also a province with 24 districts, the size of Italy. The living standards between the capital and the provinces are extremely different with high standards in the capital and very low standards in the communities. Nancy says that universities need to offer courses that are centered on communities, so that students develop an understanding for the needs and stop ignoring the conditions in these underserved villages. In Argentina there is a big shortage of midwives and they are often limited in their scope of practice.
In 2009 Nancy joined a group of health care professionals who knew about the dire conditions in far flung districts and volunteered their services. Conditions in some of these districts are harsh as infrastructure is lacking and so are health services. Nancy’s solidarity group decided to offer their help to the millions of inhabitants, where 300,000 births are registered yearly and 28% are adolescent pregnancies. Conditions are extremely poor and stand in crass contrary to the capital. Teenagers have reverted to a cruel but attention grabbing form of protest by committing suicide. They do not want to lead the life their parents have and take their life as a form of revenge against the wealthy. It is their way of protesting against inequality in society.
Nancy’s group usually drives 18 to 20 hours with several buses from the capital to reach these communities and stays there in tents for about 10 days to provide medical care. Nancy volunteers her services and has to take vacations from her regular work. The buses are equipped with surgery equipment as well as medications. Nancy attends births, provides family planning counseling and also conducts HIV tests and vaccinations. One day during her stay with the community she met a seven year old girl who was living with her grandmother because both parents had died of HIV. The girl called Daniela, was terrified that she would also soon die of HIV, like her parents did. Nancy and Daniela grew very fond of each other and Nancy even considered adopting the little girl. When she learned of Daniela’s worry, Nancy initiated to have the whole population of the village tested of HIV and was overjoyed when she found out that the little girl was negative. Nancy saw that Daniela lived an isolated live with almost no friends and no social support. She took it upon herself to connect the community members with each other and organized a so-called Murga. Murgas are mini carnivals where everyone dresses up, dances and enjoys themselves. These community events helped Daniela and other community members to meet and connect with each other. Now, each time the group of health workers travels to the community, they are being welcomed by a Murga full of happiness and community support. Nancy has not only influenced one child’s life, she has changed a whole community and significantly contributed to the well-being of it. Nancy hopes to serve as a role model for many midwives that then can bring hope, joy and health to communities.