Field Based Training in Huancavelica

This past week I traveled to Huancavelica for field based training, with the 24 other health volunteers. It was a great week as we were able to apply the training from the past month to hands-on situations; from a alcohol presentation to high-school students to facilitating a group session with mothers in a small mountain town, Quisarmpampa, and more.

The pueblo of Huaytara - we worked in all week
The pueblo of Huaytara – we worked in all week

Huancavelica is another department in Peru, and also one of the poorest, located about 6 ½ hours southeast of the Lima province. We worked in a small provincial capital called Huaytara, where 2 other volunteers are currently serving, nestled up in the mountains. It was eye-opening to see an actual site and the beauty yet difficulties behind it as well.

Our group at the end of the day
Group 3 at the end of the day debrief
Official in our scrubs!
Official in our scrubs!
Scrubbing in the sunset
Scrubbing in the sunset

The health program has two goals within its framework. The first is to work with 30 mothers with children under 3 years old, through capacity building on how to adopt practices that better the development and growth of their child. In many small rural towns, children suffer from malnutrition or anemia which stunts their growth, so educating the mothers on how to prevent and reduce the risk of illnesses associated is a main part of our work. This week we facilitated a solo house visit with a mother over anemia along with a group session with moms about balanced nutrition. My partner and I ended up doing it 3 separate times to three different groups of moms, and each time was a different adventure on how to get our message across with not fluent spanish. The whole week was great practice for our service ahead.

Group 3 up in Quisarmpampa
Group 3 up in Quisarmpampa
First Alpaca siting
First Alpaca siting
Group session with moms!
Group session with moms!
The struggle of finding moms for house visits
The struggle of finding moms for house visits

The second goal is to work with 50 jovenes (youth/teenagers) of ages 12 to 17 on promoting healthy habits for their future from soft skills to drug and alcohol session to sexual education as well. This week my partner, Katy, and I facilitated a presentation on how to prevent the risks of alcohol. This was the highlight of my week as we were able to get all the jovenes to actively participate and learned the do’s and don’t of a Peruvian classroom. I am really looking forward to working with jovenes throughout the next year. Both goals are challenging yet rewarding in many ways.

Overall, the whole experience was eye-opening, and made me excited for my service to come. Even though I do not have a health background, the power of building relationships and confianza (trust) in the communities is the key to making a change and allowing people to share information and listen to you. Within the coming weeks not only building my knowledge of technical health information but also continuously improving my Spanish is essential to my success as a volunteer.

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I returned on Friday to my host family and yesterday had a great day with them. I played soccer for a couple hours with my host brothers followed with an entertaining session of me teaching them yoga. Today, I am cooking for them for the first time so wish me luck as I embark on the eggplant parmesan mission for the day.

Gabriel & Gustavo and I playing Futbol
Gabriel & Gustavo and I playing Futbol
Gabriel nailing the tree pose!
Gabriel nailing the tree pose!

I am half-way through training, which seems a bit crazy, and will be finding out my permanent site this Wednesday! Keep sending all the life updates from the states – I love them all (email and Facebook is best).

Also, as I am finishing this Stolen Dance by Milky Chance just came on in the Internet cafe – Ashley and friends (you know who you are) put it on and dance 🙂

Poco a poco,

Jamie

 

The Week of Firsts

This week was filled with many Peruvian firsts – my first neighborhood hike, my first visit to Lima, my first Peruvian birthday party, my first time making juice, my first Peruvian election day and many more. The first of many first’s to come within the next two years.

I  started the week with a hike with my older brother, Gustavo, up a near by cerro (small mountain) to a shrine. It was breathtaking seeing the contrasts between the pueblos from Chaclacayo to Huascaran to the wealthy side. It was a fun adventure, and always nice having Gustavo help me with my horrible Spanish. The only challenge was coming down the cerro, which I basically crouched the whole way down in fear of tumbling down the whole thing.

Gustavo (mi hermano peruano) & I at the top of our hike
Gustavo (mi hermano peruano) & I at the top of our hike
Bird's eye view of pueblo during training, Chaclacayo
Bird’s eye view of pueblo during training, Chaclacayo

The training schedule continued on with the 8am to 5pm protocol of language, cultural and technical training. This week was highly enjoyable as the directors did a fantastic job in making sure we have practical application during our training. From doing house visits with mothers and community practicums for the health program; to traveling into other communities like Chosica to practice Spanish with strangers in the streets – it is hard to get bored here. There is also the goofy stuff to keep us entertained such as Iron Chef competitions (my team won!) and entertaining general elections for our PC counsel. Another week down, and 8 more to go in training!

The Jesus Cristo statue in Chosica during language community visits
The Jesus Cristo statue in Chosica during language community visits

On Saturday, as a volunteer group, we all traveled to Lima for the first time to tour the Palacio de Gobierno and get our tourist fix in. It was a beautiful and lavish building, with guards with stone faces and chandeleirs weighing more than two tons. Afterwards, my language small group went to the Iglesia de San Francisco (Saint Francis), a famous church in the middle of the city. Beneath the beautiful yellow structure, lies catacombs 26,000 people’s bones lie. It was crazy walking through the heaps of bones/skulls that go down 10 meters throughout the massive building.

We then spent the rest of the day walking around all the plazas, mercados and Lima’s ‘Barrio China’ – also known as China town. I do have to admit that I got all the cliché American fixes in – with Starbucks, pinkberry and a Chili’s cheeseburger…and damn did it taste good. Overall it was a great visit, and I am excited to explore more in the future. There is so much more to see and do, especially with some of the visitors I am expecting :).

Iglesia de San Francisco with my language group
Iglesia de San Francisco with my language group
Ferris Buehlers day off at the Palacio de Gobierno
Ferris Buehlers day off at the Palacio de Gobierno
Welcome to our amazing living room
Welcome to our amazing living room
Outside Palacio de Gobierno
Outside Palacio de Gobierno

When I arrived home last night from Lima, my little brother, Gabriel, greeted me by whisking me away to his primos (cousin’s) 12 year old birthday party. The Peruvians sure know how to throw a birthday party. I walked into find a DJ, a clown, and three dancers ready to entertain 20+ youngens, their family members and friend for the night – also filled with endless amounts of food and candy for all. They put on a quite the show with fire juggling, to a fog machine, and many kids breaking it down on the dance floor. It was a really fun night and enjoyable meeting my host family’s relatives.

The crazy clown at the birthday party
The crazy clown at the birthday party

Today, I woke up and went to the mercado with my host mother, Teresa, to buy fresh tamales and bread for desayuno. After a relaxing morning with Teresa, I hand-washed my clothes which I find pretty soothing as well. It gives me time to think about what has all already happened, and how much yet is to come. Later on, I helped her make lunch, and she taught me how to make homemade juice out of a local fruit called, mawacuy.         The meaning behind freshness of food in Peru reigns true, as I just returned from my 2nd Mercado visit of the day with Teresa. We went to gather the ingredients for dinner, and returned with 2 huge 15 pound bags of verduras y frutas for the week. Along with the fresh chicken in which they cut of all parts right in front of you, and give you all the insides as well. She said she rarely goes to the Mercado just once during the day, as she prefers to serve the food as fresh as possible.

Chicken in the mercardo
Chicken in the mercardo

I am lucky to have her as my mama peruano and teacher of everything Peruvian. I am so thankful for her and my host family’s extreme patience in teaching me the simplest things as I adapt. It makes me realize how lucky I am to have them as my support system here in my first months in Peru; but also how blessed I am to have such a wonderful support system back home – thanks to my family and friends back in the states, who have been there throughout my whole life. From my wonderful and inspiring parents, to my supportive siblings, and my friends who are my backbone back in the states, I am so thankful for all of you. Everyday I think of you all and it helps me through the day – and gives me hope and will power to build a similar support network like that here as well.

Everyday here is truly a learning experience – from learning a new word, a new cultural context, a new health fact or even something new about my personal self. The quote has never felt truer in knowing I truly will never be done learning.

Hasta Luego,

Jamie