Friday, June 27, 2014

Home and Reflections

Well I can't believe that I am already home after what seemed like only a moment in Peru. Those 5 weeks were simply the greatest experience I could have hoped for. I am very behind in writing so I guess I'm not a very good blogger, but I wanted to contribute a final post about Peru.

A few of the kids at the school
A big project that I got to work on was teaching first aid classes. The best way to organize a community event in these small rural communities is to go through the schools, so teachers at 2 different schools asked us to come and teach classes and the teachers got a hold of all the mothers whose children were at the schools and invited them to come. One volunteer taught the children English classes, another taught food safety to the moms, and I taught first aid. Again, I got to practice my Spanish skills while teaching. I loved teaching first aid since I have taken first aid classes for school as well as for training as a First Responder.

All of the moms
My favorite thing when I'm teaching is when someone asks me a question. That way, I know they're paying attention (or rather, know they can understand my Spanish) and are interested enough that they want to learn more. I had mothers ask about concussions, tell me their own experiences with burns, and ask about infant CPR. I'm so glad I have been trained in first aid, and hopefully can help prevent injuries for these mothers and their children in the future. This was probably one of my favorite projects.

Cleaning in the heat!

We started a new project painting a school in a community called Santa Sara. The first day we spent cleaning up the outside of the school and leveling out the sand so that we can build a garden there later. We were there in the afternoon when the kids were out of school and it was so hot!! It still wasn't completely done before I left, but it will look so great when it is all painted!

I did a lot of work in schools the past few weeks. I also got to go with another volunteer to a school in a community called La Mariposa. The school has 2 classrooms so there are 3 grades per classroom and the teachers have to be the best multitaskers I've ever seen. We worked in one of the classrooms and helped with 2 boys who have special needs. They require a lot of one-on-one time which the teacher can't give. Sometimes we just had to go play outside with them because they couldn't sit still any longer. But they were really sweet. As soon as we got there, one boy just came up and hugged our legs. They also loved my camera, and insisted on taking pictures themselves. The pictures didn't really turn out, but at least they had fun!

Finishing up the mural
I also helped teach the boys at the orphanage English again and helped some of the other volunteers paint a mural on the orphanage wall. It took a lot of work to get the mural done. Some volunteers were there for days on end, 10 hours a day. I'm no artist, and I had other projects going on as well, so mostly, I got to spend time with the boys. Some of the them are just so eager to learn. They always ask us questions about words in English, they try to speak to us in English, or want us to sing songs in English.

Really I learned that people are so similar no matter where you are in the world. There are cute boys everywhere who just want to play and just want to be loved. My last night at the orphanage was very emotional. Another volunteer and I were both flying out the next day and had come to really love these boys. They didn't want us to leave and we didn't want to go either.
Me getting beat at arm-wrestling

If I learned anything in Peru, it's that there is always  more that can be done. Classes can be taught, kids can be loved, schools can be painted. Sometimes it was frustrating when I couldn't express myself fully because I couldn't speak the language. But we discovered that smiles and hugs are universal. Sometimes I would get down and feel useless because my contribution was so small. But even then, I would get a hug and a thank you and that made it all worthwhile. Everyone knew we were there to help and they were really accepting and appreciative.

Me and Victor (8)
But if anything, this has only increased my drive to improve and develop skills that will contribute more to these communities. My internship and volunteer experience is finished now, but I am looking at Master's programs in global health as well as nursing programs. Specific skill sets like giving vaccinations are things that are always needed in places like the rural deserts of Peru. And I definitely want to keep improving my Spanish and teach more health classes. More can be done for these communities, and many of the communities like these around the world, and if I develop my skills, I can give more to the people who were so willing to love me.

Goodbye Peru, until next time!
Part of the mural

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Busy week and lots of Spanish practice!

Hello everyone! I'm a little late posting this week, but we have been non-stop busy here in Peru! The weeks are just flying by now and I can't believe that this one is almost over now too.

Last week we had our workshop in Monsefu and it was awesome! It was basically a huge celebration of water. The mayor of the town spoke and people danced the Marinera, a traditional Peruvian dance. The people were so grateful that we were there. I have never been hugged and kissed by so many people before. And I successfully taught handwashing in Spanish. We taught them a song they can sing while washing their hands and everyone sang along. It was just so fun. I love the people in Peru!

We also worked in the medical posts again and helped the medical students plan for their upcoming health
The boys at the river showing me their fish
fair. Funny story from our time with the medical students: After they got done with class they told us we needed to come with them because we were going swimming. So we followed the med students down the dusty road, trying to figure out where where in the world we'd find water in this desert, and then walked through a small village and low and behold, found a river on the other side. One of the med students jumped in. We just dipped our feet. They keep telling us we need to go back and bring our swimsuits but me and the other volunteer are a little wary, haha!

Teaching in Chulucanas

This week I taught at a school in a town called Chulucanas. The students are between the ages of 16-19 and they are training to educate families about health in small communities in the mountains. They have lessons in disease prevention and treatment, nutrition, etc. I gave 2 lessons this week on the prevention of acute respiratory and diarrhoeal diseases. Good news is, I'm much more comfortable teaching in Spanish now. And the students help me with my pronunciation when I struggle with a word. They're really sweet. We're hoping to go with them sometime to the communities to teach the families, so we we'll have to see when that will work out. But it's 5-6 hours away so we have to plan it on a weekend. I'm
running out of weekends here!

English class at the orphanage
I also have been teaching English at an orphanage here in Piura. It's an all boys orphanage and there's about 15 boys total. I go on Wednesdays and help teach the younger boys They are so hyper!!
They want to learn English, but they also just love to play so we try to make up games. Last week we taught introductions and numbers and then played hide and seek, but everyone had to count in English. This week we taught fruits and vegetable and then played fruit basket. I think their favorite words are "coconut" and "good morning". These boys are just hilarious!

A woman in Ejidos carrying water on her donkey
I've found that it takes a lot of time to prep and plan for lessons and to prepare projects. I've been working on starting a new project here. We're going to build homemade mosquito traps and give them to families in Las Frias, where there have been several recent outbreaks of Dengue virus. It's been really cool for me to do because I'm getting real experience in finding a health need, planning an intervention, and pretty soon, carrying out that intervention. This is exactly what I wanted to do here and I am so excited that my project is coming together. This is truly an amazing experience and I am so happy to be here. I have awesome directors who help me translate and practice my lessons and encourage me to accomplish my goals, and I have made amazing friends among the other volunteers.
Peru is the best.

Monday, May 26, 2014

First Week- Medical Posts and Chiclayo

Hello everyone! It’s been a great first week here in Piura! Spanish is still hard but I feel pretty comfortable getting around the city and out to projects. Our projects are just getting started so as the weeks go on we will be able to do more and more. I am so excited to see the progression of our work and our impact on the communities here. 

This week we went to a medical post in a rural area called Ejidos. Ejidos is a collection of small communities in the sandy desert outside of the city. There’s no running water so people get water from the well and carry it back to their tiny homes on burros. I’ll see if I can snap a picture of the well and all the burros next week. Most of the communities have medical posts but there is only 1 doctor for all of them, so she drives to different places every day in order to see everyone. This doctor is one of the coolest people I’ve ever met. My fellow volunteer Brie and I were able to go with her to the different posts in Ejidos and observe some of the baby checkups and vaccinations as well as the intervention strategies with the families. 

We have been working with some medical students to try to create interventions and will be doing a health fair in Ejidos in the next few weeks. We will have different workshops for the mothers of children, focusing on nutrition, vaccinations, handwashing, etc.

This past weekend we went to a city called Chiclayo, 3 hours to the south of Piura. On Friday we will be doing a project in a town just outside of Chiclayo, so it was a good chance to get to know the city before we have to travel there again. The project is in a small town called Monsefu. A well was just built in Monsefu so this is the first time that people will have access to water in their town. We’re going down to give workshops on how to use the water correctly and hygienically. We’re teaching about brushing teeth, boiling water, washing fruits and vegetable, and washing hands. We have been preparing lessons and skits for the workshops and this week we will be making posters and practicing teaching in Spanish (scary!). I’m going to need a lot of practice.
Wish me luck everyone!
A woman weaving in Monsefu

We're in the paper!

4 people in a mototaxi is always a party

Saturday, May 17, 2014

We have arrived!


We are now in Piura! I'll try to update here as much as possible but our internet only works in the staircase outside of our apartment. But I will have to do my best!

Our house is in the heart of the city so we hear the cars and mototaxis (so much fun) all day and all night.
View from my window (Mototaxi!)
 It is hot and humid here but cools off at night. When I flew in I was actually surprised by how much this area looks like Utah. It's a desert! But it's a really fun city and the locals are always really surprised to see a bunch of gringos walking around. People ask us if they can take pictures of us and little kids come and say "Hello!" and then run away. They're so cute! So far I can't really understand anyone, but I'm trying to memorize a few different words and phrases everyday. It's nice that Ben, one of our In-country Directors, is a Spanish teacher and Eliana, the other In-country Director, is Peruvian. I get a lot of Spanish lessons and practice and I'm starting to do better.

Taxi ride
Yesterday we met with two different organizations to talk about our upcoming projects. There is a lot of need in the Public Health area and a lot of positions that need to be filled. They are excited that we are here to help out. So first thing Monday morning I will be going to a health clinic and learning about some of the needs in the Piura region. One of my main goals for this trip is to find a health need in the area and develop a program that can meet that need. So I'm very excited to get started on Monday and see what I can do to help!

Saturdays and Sundays are our days off, so today we took a bus and a very cramped taxi ride to the beach to relax and play in the water. Basically, I just got really sunburnt. But we had a blast. I am so excited to work with this team for the next month!

All the Girls

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Beginning a Journey

I am so excited to say that I am going to Peru this summer with HELP-International!

Volunteering with a humanitarian group is probably the best internship experience I could ask for in order to really understand international health needs. As a public health major I hope to serve those in underdeveloped areas throughout my career and Peru seems like the perfect place to start. My goals are to participate in health education projects like Dengue Virus prevention, shadow doctors in a rural medical clinic, and work alongside large humanitarian organizations like the Red Cross.

I will leave May 14 and return June 20.
There is a lot to do before I leave, but I can't wait to get started!

More about HELP-International here: