Saturday, June 12, 2004

soon i'll be home. right at the moment its sounding really good. but i'm still working! and of course i'm still taking pictures. my last posting was of work in ollanta and the remarkable washi and carlos. i hope you've had a chance to take a peak. if not, scroll on down. all the work here is amazing, actually the people are whats amazing. sometimes its frustrating to not be able to do as much as you want, or to do what you think needs to be done, or for that matter fast enough to see visible changes. it is just so different. there are times i am overwhelmed by the poverty and don't have anyone to talk to about it. but, in saying that, i remember what my friend rita wrote me about a boy throwing all the jelly fish back into the sea and when someone asked him what in the world he was doing, he replied he may save just one. and everyday i know what i'm doing makes a difference even if just for a second to someone. thank god! considering how much i have given up to be here, i'm thankful when i make a tiny difference here. so i wanted to post some more about sipascancha and a little on the centro de salud in colquepata. finally after that i have a few shots of the emergency room at antonio lorena.

these photos of sipascancha are from about a week ago and heres abit of background:
they are building a new school of adobe. when they mix the adobe, they take a horse and lead him around and around in circles, mashing and mixing it all together. men of the community all volunteered there time. they have a mold they use and in this they put the wet mixture. they smooth it all around, remove the mold and do it all over again. they still have over 5 times more bricks to make.

When i get to sipascancha or if i step into the primary school, these kids run to meet me, everyone wants to take your hand, or latch on to each leg. they call me 'laurita'. most speak quechua and are learning spanish. in spite of the poverty they live in, they are always happy. some always have there pants falling off and you can see their little butt cracks. they have few clothes and i can't imagine why they aren't obviously freezing to death. i am all bundled up once the sun drops behind the mountains. but while they have hats, they wear their ahokas or traditional sandals, never have socks, or coats and the little girls often wear skirts. they don't have underwear.

pretty girl!
we've been teaching hygiene, both personal, in the home and on the property. the houses are of adobe and have dirt floors. there is very little light. the cocina is often separate from the sleeping quarters. and many times the cuy live in the cocina, ie., guinea pigs. they don't have running water or the water they do have plumbed from a lake is not potable. some families have even less. they may sleep all together. there is so much dust there. they have no refrigeration and may have lights, but not all families. so it adds up to this: they have few clothes, so often they are dirty. it is so cold in the mornings and evenings, they rarely strip down for a full bath. many times they don't even possess soap or shampoo or toothbrushes. in the homes the dust gets everywhere. it contaminates the food they they don't keep covered. there is very little light and lots of bugs. on the property, they often have livestock and while encouraged to keep them separated, many times they graze and shit where the kids play. they are ignorant about trash. and there is so much plastic here. so the result is sickness many times. the little kids have worms and swollen bellies. whole families come into the clinic with 'razca razca', or itching, often from bugs in the bedding. warts are very common. so back to the teaching. we've taught both the adults and the kids. 3 times! i have been given toothbrushes, shampoo, toothpaste by friends--(thank you best western in toppenish and diane and paul and karla!) as well i purchased alot with the money donated at christmas time. during the classes we use a puppet, (rita la enfermerita) we demonstrate the techniques. we try to come up with solutions to real problems, like bathing in the cold, (ie., leave the water in a tub outside during the heat of the day and bath after school...) adella in the primary class has little towels for each child and a comb, toothbrush and soap. when they arrive, if not clean, clean themselves and before they eat and after they use the bathroom, they wash their hands. pavela has drawings of a home thats filthy, and one thats clean and the adults discuss the differences. we talk about setting an example for their kids and having respect for their bodies. so with all this, i can see a bit of a difference. especially since we started visiting the homes. (we told them we would be making surprize visits!)

the evidence!!

adella and the kids visitng the houses.

not spotless, but definitely cleaner!

one night a group got together to show me the some of the traditional medicinal herbs they gather and ways to use them and prepare them. this is hard for me sometimes. i certainly believe in the use of the herbs. they can be effective and it represents their culture. and i think its important to keep their traditional practices intact and to pass them onto to the younger ones. but in saying that, the facts are also the climate is extreme, there is malnutrition, dirty water, they get sick and sometimes really sick. so, i use the medicines also....

this is retama or scotch broom! they use it for arthritis and make a salve from it.

this is muna. its used for itching. and also by inhaling the scent, its said to help with altitude symptoms.

it doesn't look like camomile, but it is. its for stomach problems, gastritis, etc.

this one is santa maria and i forgot what its for! and i can't find my notes for the life of me!

eucalipto..not native to peru but from australia. nonetheless its used for salve for the chest with ajo, or garlic. and for mates to treat colds, bronchitis, etc.

these all have names in quechua....and i can't find my notes!

so i went to the centro de salud in colquepata. when they asked me to start going there the weeks i was up in the mountains, i said, sure, but i also asked how i would get there. i was assured i would either be able to go in a combi or by 'moto', but i ended up having to ride the worlds worse bike on the worlds bumpiest road...for about 2 1/2 hours! (and the next day when i came back to open the clinic on market day, again i was assured,'oh, yes, there would be a combi at 6AM'; well i rode the bike AGAIN on very sore ischial tuberosities, but thankfully hitched a ride with a truck heading to the market after i had ridden half way. it was pretty, but jesus, bumpy! what little flab i have left in my arms jiggled all the way...a few times i thought to myself, 'now, look at this, you are riding thru the andes, forget the fact you are at some incredible altitude, on a bike that won't switch gears, sitting on the worlds worse seat and inhaling more dust than in a dust storm, for god's sake!' i couldn't believe it. what a trip! colquepata is very pretty and so quiet. no tourists go there either. the clinic was very nice. they have a beautiful rose garden. there are 2 women doctors there and two nurse technicians. they want me to help with weighing and measuring the kids, and to teach classes with the local health promoters. i really liked it...and now i ride a taxi for the outrageous sum of 60 soles...

on the road to colquepata.

the nurse tecnicians.

the little lab...

this sad little place is where the women have their babies...

the dental room...maybe once a month the dentist comes.

exam room

this is where they keep the people who are sick needing attention. beds for kids and adults.

the garden!

here they are in process of building rooms for the pregnant women to stay as they near delivery. because they come from so far, they need a place to stay until they give birth.

riding in the truck back to the village after hitching a ride

josiah, this is the woman whos weaving the bag for you!

so the last entry for today...i worked in the emergency room yesterday at antonio lorena. you can see, it lacks luster! the patients seem to stay in here awhile. when they need medicines, the family first has to buy them from the pharmacy, inc the syringe, if necessary and then the nurses give the medicines. while i was there students from the local med school were making rounds on the pts. many were some form of trauma. they told me they have no emergency room doctors regularly working but have doctors they call when they receive a patient. recently they were donated 2 defibrillators. they wanted me to show them how they worked. they were locked up on the top shelf, for fear they would be stolen. such a shame. i tried to explain to them they needed to have them ready to go! well, i discovered when setting one up to show the operation and maintenance, they didn't have a transformer for it. luckily i found one, but, it can't stay in the emergency room. (apparently 3 defibs were donated with one tranformer...) they had no electrodes, and no extra paper and no manual...i showed them anyway and when i was done, they put it back in the locked cupboard...

the emergency room.

heres the room for trauma pts. all the equipment is terribly outdtaed. this was where i was trying to get them to put one of the newer defibrillatora.

some of the nurses.

so friends for now thats all. i'm tired! i was able to locate quite a few addresses that had been previously lost at the point i was still using the public computers, so i will make sure you all know there's an entry. of course, pass it on if you think others will be interested. plans still stand to return home in august for 3 months to work and do some speaking and hopefully raise money to continue to buy medicines and supplies sorely needed. then if it all goes to plan i will be back here in november for another year. again if anyone has a idea about who might be interested in hearing more about this, email me. i really, really can't wait to see you all.

Wednesday, June 09, 2004

i received an email today from my friend carlos in ollantaytambo. so, i wanted to take the time to make an entry about the work he and his brother washi are doing there. i've made entries about their work in the past. but this time i'll be sending news of this post to others around the world who are aware of their work, so i want to give a bit more history. so for those of you who have been keeping up on my work/life here in cusco will need to read again about washi, carlos and ollantatytambo!

first, i became aware of their project in ollantaytambo from a woman named sharon forrest. (her web page: over the years she has been contributing to their projects and to them. so, its sharon i can truly thank for introducing them to me. sharon gave me not only washi's name, but also information about a project in sipascancha. some of you who have come to peru with sharon may also know of sipascancha. after writing to washi, padre rene, and sister nelly, i made the decision to work with them when i arrived here in cusco. and at this time when i asked washi what he needed me to collect while in preparing to come, he said, "the children need pencils." that was it, pencils! i will forget almost being brought to tears by that simple request. so i named my web page, "pencils for peru."

so in the year that i have been here, i have been working in a small clinic in sipaschancha and helping washi and carlos when i can. (i also work in the local hospital for the poor here in cusco, antonio lorena and in a centro de salud in a community called colquepata. i should also acknowledge the NGO that supports my work here also is the catholic medical mission board of NYC!)

so, washi and carlos have a restaurant for the kids living in the mountains called path of the heart. many of these children walk over 2 hours to come to school, often without enough food to eat. they are in school in ollantaytambo until approximately 1PM. then they come to the restaurant to eat before making the trek home to work. when i first came they fed the children (now about 130) out of a small room that had 2 tables and a small stove big enough for 2 large pots. i couldn't believe it when i saw it! washi and carlos supplied the ingredients and the mothers took turns preparing the almuerzo. it was important to them to call it a restaurant and not a foodline. because there were not enough bowls or places to sit, the kids took turns to eat, each washing out their bowl from the spiquet outside the restaurant. now they have 3 rooms, many more tables and even better food. there is a bathroom also. and they provide other activities for the kids and for the parents. recently carlos built a greenhouse, with money donated from a friend of sharon, grant. they have hopes of building a greenhouse in each community. and to be honest these young men have many projects brewing! there are plans for an orphanage, plans for vehicles to drive these kids to and from school and classes not only at the school but in each community. (i said to carlos a few days ago,how incredible he and washi are! i asked him if he realized what a model they presented to these children! here they are peruvians who want to work in their own community and change things for the better for these children! everyday these children get to watch one of their own make changes that they experience in their everyday lives. its like opening a window to a different way of life. i know for a fact if these young men wanted to they could be in the US or anywhere in the world. but no, they want to be right here in their community! when i went on about how he never ran out of energy or ideas, he was embarrassed. i don't think he knows what a huge impact he is making. there is no self interest here in what they do, it is truly for others.)

so this past weekend i went to help teach a class on family planning in ollantaytambo. i came prepared with a dvd on basic sex education, posters on different methods, my model of an erect penis, condoms, and enough beads to make "collares", or necklaces to help practice the rhythm method of birth control. the night before we all made 20 collares and watched the movie 'life is beautiful.' (i have a laptop that plays movies!) the next morning, we opened the doors to the restaurant and over 40 women and i don't know how many kids came for the class. (there was one man!) many of these women had over 5 children already and were only in their 20's. we began with the movie. washi explained to me, there were terms they didn't understand. so with his encouragement, we paused the movie at intervals to explain more. after the movie we talked about why one would want less children. he explained it to them this way: he drew a picture of a plot of land. he said when a couple had children, and the children grew up, the plot of land for the family needed to be split up between the children. and each time it was split up, there was less land available to plant the food each smaller family would need. he talked about that with more children it was less likely to be able to provide for the children as the family wanted, ie., food, education, and love and caring. i was so struck by this. again, to hear this from one of your own has such an impact, especially when i wouldn't automatically think of it this way. so the class went on. washi encouraged the women to participate, to ask questions and to share their views. the fun part was the three of us illustrating how to use a condom! and me indicating it was OK and how to check for your vaginal mucous! so out came the very white model of an erect penis and ere i am showing them how to apply a condom with the help of washi and carlos!!! it was hilarious! (pictures will follow of this!) we then showed how to use the collar. (This method helps women who cannot read or do not have calendars keep track of their fertile days. a red bead indicates the first day of their period and day 1, 5 green beads follow, indicating days unlikely to become pregnant, then 12 white beads follow idicating the days they should avoid sex or use a condom, finally green beads follow again, indicating days they won't be likely to become pregnant, until their period begins again, where they start over with the red bead again.) so the necklaces went like hotcakes! they were shy about taking the condoms, but i insisted!

we then went by truck to the site of the greenhouse. there were 2 open trucks full of women and children and 2 pots holding our lunch for everyone. carlos proudly brought everyone into the greenhouse. he explained the need to learn how to grow food organically. they couldn't believe the difference in the temperature! and he spoke of wanting one in every community. (i should explain here, that at the higher altitudes, having green vegetables is nearly impossible without the greenhouses. and with the malnutrition here what it is, the children need more sources of vitamins and minerals than are provided by potatoes and corn.)

after carlos' intro of the greenhouse and a great lunch we went back to town and to the restaurant. we were able to hand out sopa, shampoo, toothbrushes and toothpaste and clothes washi and carlos had. (the soap and shampoo was donated by best western of toppenish, washington and the toothbrushes and toothpaste by karla marshall of cour de'lene, idaho and all hand carried here by my friends, diana and paul jameson of cour de'lene!) so what a day! it was great! and to be part of what carlos and washi and sharon are doing is an honor. i want to thank them all.

photos will follow, not only of our class and the greenhouse, but of other times in ollantaytambo.

and please read on about sipascancha. this is also an incredible project, multifold, managed by a nun, sister nelly, the project being cristo de los andes. (also one of sharons projects!) here they are building the local market both artisana and agricultural, have constructed 2 large greenhouses, are building a new school, latrines and beginning a preventative health program...daily they feed 300 children and use the vegetables from the greenhouse! (you can scroll by the personal entries, or click on previous months in the archives to view photos and entries about this.

finally, when i'm in the states (August-October) i'm interested in speaking to groups about the incredible work i'm priviledged to be part of here. if you have any ideas about who might be interested in hearing more about this, please email me!


entrance to the restaurant

Laurie and Washi

our women

more of our women

you know what this is!

beautiful babe

the women, washi and carlos made it fun!

everyone was interested

Carlos has a better picture of the model!


'el collar'

on our way to the greenhouse


the greenhouse!

carlos introducing the greenhouse


another beautiful baby

a sweetie

out front of the restaurant

the donations