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Providing First Aid in Rural Argentina as Part of an IFSA Internship with the Red Cross

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Sarah Hoffer interned with the International Committee of the Red Cross in Argentina as part of her IFSA program in Buenos Aires.

This past weekend I went to the pilgrimage of Lujan and set up an aid station along the route with the Red Cross. This was definitely one of the coolest experiences I’ve ever had, and I really enjoyed such a hands-on learning opportunity with my internship. It was a very intense 48 hours, and taught me a lot about the culture of first-aid response in Argentina, and about this pilgrimage. Some of the culture shock I experienced had to do with the medical treatment approaches and protocol.

Much of the protocols were very similar to things I had learned as an EMT in the United States, but in a remote rural area on the side of the road with limited medical supplies, everyone on the team was thinking on their feet and improvising. Towards the end, we were running low on gauze pads and started cutting up 8cm bandages into smaller pieces so that they could be used as gauze. We had only limited nitrite gloves and relied mostly on latex, and used the saline solution and medical tape sparingly. In hospital settings or even pre hospital settings in the United States, we are used to having a surplus of medical supplies available, so it takes a shift in mentality to use supplies sparingly, knowing there is limited access. Additionally, we showed up with no electricity and water and knocked on a farmer’s door at 5 a.m. to fill up our big jugs of water for the aid station. An electrical team eventually came along and hot-wired a power cord to a lamp post to get our generator and floodlights running.

These are things I’ve never experienced in the United States, and I feel so grateful to have had the chance to participate in this event. The team worked extremely well together and was very well-organized. They clearly knew what they were doing and set up everything efficiently and seamlessly.

Sarah Hoffer attends Colorado College and studied abroad on the IFSA Argentine Universities Program in Buenos Aires in Fall 2023.