So, I have chatted a lot about impressions, culture, food and the scenic view, but I do have another purpose here besides pretending to be the next Andrew Zimmerman and Samantha Brown and that is to participate in an International NGO called ProPeru (part of ProWorld) that is committed to improving health and promoting development. So, over the last 2 ½ weeks I have traveled to numerous communities, such as Yanahuara, Tamboccocha, Che’Querecc, Puma Huanca, Chicon and Ollantaytambo and each community has had similar problems being in rural Peru, but have had different approaches to how they received us as an NGO coming into their community. Some of the communities stood side by side with us on helping to build their clean burning stoves to limit respiratory infections, which was stated in the Ollantaytambo strategic planning meeting to be the number one cause of morbidity and mortality in the region followed by diarrheal related diseases and parasitic diseases being number three. These communities that were heavily involved would participate in ways such as the mom, who helped prepare mud by stomping with her bare feet for use in the construction of her new clean burning stove, while her kids gather rocks and straw for us. These days, the community participation aspect of the program felt to be in full swing and was inspiring for me as a hopeful future public health advocate.
We have also gone to communities in which we didn’t see a single person and they didn’t participate in the part they were supposed to contribute to be active in their own development and be able to sustain these health initiatives while we are gone. For a while this was really frustrating for me and numerous other volunteers, but then I started to really think about this from the communities perspective…It must be hard to have someone come in and tell you that your way a life, a way of life that you have been active in, your parents, your grandparents, etc. have been active in is, well, unhealthy and that there is a better way. I could imagine what my Quechua speaking host grandmother would say about my life if she stepped into my world…”Julia, why are you so lazy? I had to carry fruits and veggies up a mountain every day to eat and you spend your time staring at a computer or television screen. Don’t you know that is unhealthy for you?” or how about this one…”Julia, what are you eating? I don’t even recognize those items as actual foods, don’t you know that proper nutrition is fundamental for health”. I can just imagine the many conversations that could be reversed toward my own unhealthy behaviors, so I can’t be too frustrated that not everyone receives my good intentions here in rural Peru with open arms as I haven’t bought into all the health initiatives that are aimed toward my unwise lifestyle choices. I have learned that in order for the work we are doing to be accepted by certain communities it will take a lot of patience and a lot of work from the local staff members, whom the communities trust, to better receive the initiatives we are proposing to help improve health and quality of life. All I can say is I am feeling fortunate to be just a small part in the projects that are being implemented here and feel really fortunate to have this global health opportunity because every day is a new learning experience.
|Construction of a ProPeru clean burning stove|
|Watching to stove move the smoke out of the homes|