Monday, May 31, 2010

My buddy, Elias

I had a great week with the Tallowood team and it was sad to see them go!

On Thursday, I helped with the prenatal class again. Jessie had to be at Joshua's school this morning, so I was in charge of setting everything up for Maria, the nurse. Unfortunately, only one new girl, Estafani, and her mother came. We think there must have been some miscommunication with the mothers because it was unlike them to not show up. But it was still great to have someone new come! Estafani is 16 and 6 months pregnant. I think she and her mother learned a lot. Maria's lesson was about family planning (aka contraception). I was surprised at how little Estefani and her mother new about this subject. I learned that in Peru, only about 40% of births are desired/planned births. Also, the grand majority of people don't use contraception at all. One thing to note is that birth control is free in all of Peru. It is free because reproduction is a huge problem here and the population is continuously growing. This means that the reason women aren’t taking birth control is not because of the money. It is because of lack of education. Another thing to mention is that the local hospital in Collique has the highest maternal death rate in Lima. This is not because of malpractice, but because of malnutrition and anemia. The mothers either don’t know that they are supposed to take their prenatal vitamins, or they don’t have any, or they just don’t do it. This hospital also has the highest rate of cesarean sections because they don’t use epidural so the women get so tense and can’t relax enough to have a natural birth.

While the Tallowood team was here last week, they spent a lot of time painting houses for a few of the OSA families. On Friday, I was able to go help paint two of the houses. We were working on the first house, and before we knew it, we had about 6 little boys from the neighborhood helping us paint! You could say that we pulled a “Tom Sawyer” on them....but they were all so anxious to help out. While we were painting, we got a chance to tell them why we were doing this. (I think they were a little shocked that we would do this for free!) I know that the Lord had us painting that house at the perfect time, because we were able to have some great conversations with those children. Jennifer from the Tallowood team told the kiddos about Jesus, prayed with them, and handed out New Testament Bibles to all of them. I was surprised at how receptive all the kids were to this. Isnt' God awesome?
There’s another cute story I have to share about this experience… while we were painting, there was a group of older boys down the street whistling at us and yelling things at us. They were harmless and really did not bother us at all, but a precious 6 year old boy who was helping us paint, Elias (yellow shirt), stood out in the middle of the street with his hands on his hips and yelled, “No saben ustedes como respetar a mujeres?!” (“Don’t you guys know how to respect women!?”) It was the cutest thing ever, and it warmed my heart that this little 6 year old would stand up for us like that in front of his older peers. Too cute.

One of the houses I helped paint was Nilda’s (the woman who just had baby Moses). We asked if her and her children would like to pray with us for her house. After the prayer, she told us how grateful she was for our work and that she didn’t have the words to thank us enough. It was a beautiful moment because even those in the group who couldn’t understand what she was saying literally, knew was she was trying to express. I love how moments like these can be bigger than the language barrier.

This weekend I went to Miraflores with the Tallowood group. This is a very nice, touristy part of Lima and was a HUGE change from Collique. It was a lot of fun to experience this side of town, but it was also hard for some of us to accept the fact that the kids we had been working with all week have never seen any of it. My favorite part of the weekend was going to the markets on Saturday! The Tallowood group left Saturday night and it was hard saying goodbye to them! They were all great people and a lot of fun to have around.

I’m also very excited about a project that the OSA team and I have decided would be good for me to work on while I am here!…. Here at OSA, all the kids in the program receive a nutritious lunch when they arrive at 1:00 every school day. Three different OSA mothers come to prepare the meals everyday according to a schedule. It is very important that the mothers come on their assigned day, because if they don’t, the children don’t eat. Unfortunately, this has happened 3 times since I’ve been here. In addition to the kids not eating, the child whose mother didn’t show up to cook gets suspended for the week. If the mother doesn’t come 3 times, the child gets suspended from the program. This is a very hard rule to enforce, but is necessary to teach responsibility. Many of the kids who used to be malnourished are now at a healthy weight because of the daily meals, which was the hope of the program. We have the height and weight measurements from the kids from 2007 till now. So the project I’m going to work on is to organize this information and make a growth chart for each child to show how they have grown since they started receiving these meals. Metche and I will be taking the kids’ measurements this week.

last thing - i have to share this paparazzi shot of Diego:

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

learning a lot

It’s been a busy few days so I have a lot to update you on!

Saturday, Christopher and Jessie took all the kids (aka me, Joshua, and Diego) to Lima Central and La Plaza de Almas to visit the cathedral. Afterwards, we walked around in a few markets and ate lunch at my first peruvian restaurant! When we got back, the women’s sewing group was here so they had me help by inspecting and ironing the beautiful pillowcases they are making. They are sewing them for an organization, called CBF, that will sell them in the states in order for the women to make a little extra money for their families. Their attention to detail and pride for their work amazes me.

Sunday, we went to church and met up with the Tallowood group that is here for the week. It was great meeting them and it has been a blast having them here! The Roses go to a church here in Collique and I enjoyed the service a lot – the pastor spoke slowly so I was able to understand the majority of what he said! Later Sunday evening we got a chance to talk as a group and hear a little more about how the Roses got to Collique and all about what OSA does in the community. I even learned a lot of new things that I didn’t know already. Afterward, we took a walk around Collique so the Tallowood group could get acquainted with the area. While walking around, I saw a couple OSA kids that I recognized from the program. I was excited to see them, but it was also hard because it was the first time for me to see them in front of the homes they live in. Their struggles and suffering became even more real to me when I saw the humble houses they sleep in each night.

While we were walking, Christopher also explained Collique’s water system. Unfortunately, the water here really is not okay for anyone to drink because it has many parasites in it. However, they drink it anyway because it is what they have and can afford. They can’t afford to take parasite medicine, so instead they just choose to live with the discomfort. When the OSA medical teams come, the doctors always give out parasite medicine for this reason. They are told to boil their water to kill whatever is in it, but to do this they would have to spend more money on gas to heat the water which is often not an option. About HALF of the world does not have clean water to drink and Collique can be included in this. How blessed are we to have access to clean water and not have to worry about what we are drinking?

I’ve also been learning that most of the people in Collique and Peru are what we can call “cultural Catholics.” Meaning, they are really non-practicing Catholics who participate in all the traditions and social aspects of their religion. For example, they have parties and processionals throughout the year where they will honor and worship saints, idols, and objects that they believe to be holy. Because of this, their beliefs are not focused on a relationship with God, but are more focused on the traditions.

Yesterday, I got to go on a house visit with Charo (the OSA social worker) and Metche. We went to the house of a woman named Nilda who just had a baby last week. It was so gracious of them include me in this trip to visit the baby and his mother. This house visit was both beautiful and heart-breaking to me. On one hand, we were able to celebrate with a mother the arrival of her healthy baby boy, Moses. On the other hand, it was very hard for me to see an infant living in the conditions that I saw. Nilda, her three children, and the father of her children live in a small two bedroom house with dirt floors and thin sheets of wood for walls. The baby sleeps on a twin mattress with his mother. There isn’t much electricity in the house so it was very dark and cold. Charo and Metche brought the baby many warm clothes and blankets so he can stay warm in the house. The good news is, both Moses and Nilda are doing well! During the visit, Charo said a beautiful prayer for the baby and for Nilda that almost brought me to tears. Nilda also said how grateful she was for OSA because without them, she wouldn’t have anyone to help her.

There are two other things that I stood out in my mind about the visit today. First, the women told me that Nilda had a tubal ligation after she had her other daughter, Rocio, 10 years ago. She was not supposed to be able to have children, but she got pregnant anyway. This means either the doctor didn’t do the operation correctly, or he didn’t do it at all. This made me even more grateful for the healthcare we recieve in the U.S.- when we get an operation, we can expect for it to be done correctly. I was also told later that Nilda is only 33 years old. I was shocked when I heard this because she looked to be at least in her late 40’s -this is the effect of her hard and stressful life.

We also found out today that one of the OSA mothers has TB. Unfortunately, we had to send her son, Isaac, home until he has a chest x-ray and tests negative. Please pray for Isaac’s mother and family, and that he has not been infected so he can return to OSA soon.

The longer I have been here, the more I am realizing that Collique is a place of poverty, domestic violence, drug abuse, and suffering. But it is also a place of hope. It is a place of hope because of the work God has started through OSA and through the people on staff at OSA.

Other than what I have mentioned, I have been helping the Tallowood group with their morning and afternoon science classes with the kids. They have had so many great ideas and have done a lot of fun activities that the kids have loved! We also had an OSA team meeting today and I am excited about the projects I will be starting in June!

In the meantime, please pray for:
- Baby Moses and his mother, Nilda
- Isaac’s mother who has TB
Love from Peru,

Here are some precious OSA kids to make you smile like they make me do every day :)

Friday, May 21, 2010

the internet is back!

Well, the internet was down for a few days but its back again! Sorry for the lack of communication. I'm still having a great time here in Collique! I've been helping out with a lot of the kids classes here at OSA. They are all 5th and 6th graders and are the sweetest kids ever. I think they really get a kick out of my Spanish, and they are all full of questions for "Hermana Elisabet." Today, the girls wanted to know everything about los estados unidos...they asked if it is pretty and what kind of sports we cute. And roommates - they wanted to know ALL of your names and all about you! The kids come to OSA after they get out of school around 1:00 and they are fed lunch and then go to a few more classes here. They take different classes depending on the day such as literature, science, math, psychology, bible, and sports classes. This is the OSA sports complex and the view from my room:

Yesterday, I taught the breastfeeding class to the women who have been coming to OSA regularly for the birthing classes with an OB Nurse named Maria. Maria graciously let me help teach this class. I used resources that Jessie gave me to find information about breastfeeding(since im obviously not an expert on the subject!) and prepared a powerpoint to present to the women. Jessie helped me to make sure everything was translated corretly! I was a little nervous about teaching in Spanish, but all went well! 4 women came to the class and Jessie opened with a devotional and then Maria gave an introduction to breastfeeding before I began teaching. I think the women learned a lot from the class - luckily, I was able to use Jessie and Diego (her baby) to demonstrate breastfeeding positions, how to get the baby to latch properly, and burping positions. The women in the class then demonstrated these positions with a babydoll. After I was done with the powerpoint, Maria did some relaxation techniques and ball exercises to music with the women - and I participated too :)! It was a great experience to watch Maria teach the class. I realized that without her and organizations like OSA, many of these women may not have received the same prenatal education.

This morning, I got to walk around Collique with a great man named Willy to find kids to sign up for next week's classes. A college group from Tallowood Baptist Church in Houston is coming to teach some classes and we wanted to make sure there would be kids for them! We got about 18 kids in 5th and 6th grade to sign up. I was excited by how eager the parents were to sign their kids up and I realized how big of an influence OSA has here in the community because the people already trust any program they are putting on. While walking around with Willy I got a better taste of the type of houses people live in here. A lot of the houses only have concrete or dirt floors with wood siding. We had to walk up some pretty high hills to reach some of the dwellings, so I got some great views of Collique. Everyone was so friendly to me - except the perros! You have to be very careful of all the dogs that roam the streets because people mostly have them to protect their homes. Willy also took me to see a program called WaWa Wasi. This is an government run organization that provides meals to the people in the community as well as child care for babies and toddlers. Willy asked if I wanted a picture with the babies, and before I knew it, the two ladies working gathered all the babies into one corner and took this photo, haha!

I also helped out Petry (the psychologist on staff at OSA) with his "clase de ecologia." Petry teaches this ecology class to children in the program that may have some kind of social issue or kids who are affected by problems at home. Petry believes that by using nature, exploration, and other forms of expression, the kids will grow and mature. Right now the kids are learning how to design and build their own gardens, so I helped a group paint rocks to use to decorate their gardens. I love that OSA looks at the whole person when the kids enter the program, and that they consider mental health to be just as important as everything else.

The Roses are wonderful and have been so gracious in sharing their home with me. Tomorrow we are going to do some site seeing before the Tallowood group arrives!

Buenas noches!


Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Estoy en Collique!

Hola amigos!

I made it safely to Lima last night around 10pm and found Jessie (the missionary I'm living with) and our taxi driver, Raul, with no trouble at all! It was great getting to know a little about Jessie on the taxi ride to her and Christopher's home in Collique. They live in a fully functional apartment on the third floor of the OSA building, and they definitely have spoiled me with a large room and my own bathroom! Christopher and Jessie gave me a quick tour of their apt and told me what to do if there were to be a bad tremor - we would meet in the safest part of the apartment. Its funny they told me this, because I actually did wake up at about 5am to a small tremor. It definitely wasnt a bad one at all (not to worry, Mom!) because I even thought it might have been in my dreams. Turns out, Christ and Jessie "dreamed" the same thing!
This morning I met little Diego (Christopher and Jessie's 5 1/2 month old) but Joshua was already at school. Jessie, Diego, and I went to the grocery store to get food for the next couple of weeks. To get there I got to see parts of Collique because we had to walk to the main street to catch a "combies", which are small vans that people use as taxis. This was an interesting experience! They cram as many people in as they can to the comas and people are always getting on and off. Jessie said we were lucky because we got a calm driver today!

Its already a little hard digest the conditions that people live in here, but I'm looking foward to exploring Collique more. Its definitely the poorest area of the world that I've been to - the closest thing I can compare it to are the favelas in Brazil. On Thursday morning I am going to help teach a breast feeding class to a group 6 mothers with the help of an OB Nurse and Jessie. Please pray that the class will go well and be effective! Ive breifly met a few of the OSA staff members and everyone has been so gracious. I'm looking forward to getting to know them better.

Thanks for the prayers! Chao chao!