Friday, June 25, 2010

Chao Peru!

Wow. I can hardly believe the memories I am taking back home with me today. This has been 6 weeks of my life that I will always look back on as an experience that changed me for the better. Above everything, I will always remember the people. I will always remember the kids, who have nothing, who are victims of poverty, abuse, and hunger, but yet are full of so much joy and love for life. I will remember how they hung on to me from day one, saying "hermana Elisabet, no te vayas!" ("don't leave!"). I'm blessed to have been able to stay here for so long with them, but that makes it so much harder to leave them today. I will also remember their mothers who I spent some time with as well. Women who are struggling in more ways than I can imagine, but still took the time everyday to ask me how I was doing and thank me for my work. I will also remember how welcoming all the OSA staff members were to me during my time here. They have truly been my family for the past 6 weeks. I've learned so much from each and every one of them and will miss them dearly. I have also learned so much from Christopher and Jessie. They have showed me what it looks like to step out of your comfort zone to serve others and serve God. I will be forever grateful for their hospitality and for making this experience possible for me.

This past week has flown by....

I celebrted birthdays with neighbors Jhovana and Miguel, and we also celebrated the construction of their new roof:

I witnessed an idol worshiping procession in the streets of Collique:

I taught nutrition classes to the OSA kids:

I taught my last Estimulacion Temprana class:

Jessie and I went to Las Brisas de Titicaca to see the cultural Peruvian dances:

And, of course, I created lasting memories spending time with the OSA kids:

If you'd like to know more about my experiences and what I have learned, don't hesitate to ask! I'd love to share! I am so grateful for ALL of the experiences I had while here. God has been faithful to me and all of the people in Collique. He is moving in great ways here through the people He has sent to be His hands and feet in a needy area. Thank you to everyone who made this experience possible for me, and thanks to those who prayed for me and encouraged me along the way. I am blessed.


Thursday, June 24, 2010

Beautiful kids

I'm not looking forward to saying goodbye to these beautiful faces tomorrow!

Friday, June 18, 2010

Only 1 week left in Collique

I only have a week left in Collique! I can't believe how quickly the time went!

On Monday of this week Blanca, the OSA program director, took me to a place called San Genaro which was about a 2 hour trip from Collique. San Genaro is another non-profit organization that is very similar to OSA. San Genaro provides educational, nutritional, physical, and spiritual support to more than 50 poor children in the area, and feeds about 80 children daily. Blanca wanted me to experience another organization that is impacting the lives of kids and families in Peru. The staff members at San Genaro were so welcoming and excited about my visit. The kids eat lunch there everyday, just like the kids here at OSA, so they were even gracious enough to feed me! We also wanted to make a visit here to pass out warm hats and scarves that women at South Main (my church in Houston) made. The children were all beautiful and so grateful for the gift.

On Tuesday, I went with Gloria again to distribute more prenatal vitamins. Gloria had A LOT of patients today, so we only passed out about 10 bottles and then she had to go back to the clinic. Because we finished early, I waited in Gloria's office with her while she did her check ups with her patients. I felt awkward being in there at first, but apparently this wasn't unusual...other patients and staff members kept walking in and out of the room during her appointments too. This made me so grateful for the privacy we have in the US when we go to the doctor! I was also shocked at how unsterile the examinations were. Things such as the examination table were not cleaned between each appointment, and all the women used the same examination gown. Also, without getting too graphic, the nurse used the same gloves for two different check ups! She only rinsed her hands with water between appointments. Although I was shocked by a lot of this, I was glad I witnessed it. Now I understand more what its like to receive medical attention in a poor country, and will be forever grateful for the healthcare we have in the US. Gracias a Dios! Another thing I thought about during Gloria's appointments, and something I've been noticing throughout my whole experience here with pregnant women, is how non-existent the excitement of pregnancy is. I've been thinking a lot about it, and I think because it is just so common, the women don’t get as excited about having a baby. Or maybe the baby wasn't wanted in the first place. Many of them don't get excited about the gender of the baby or what they're going to name it. In the United States, its the opposite. We rejoice with expecting mothers by throwing showers, suggesting names, and buying presents. I really doubt most of the women in Peru get this same attention.

I had an amazing morning yesterday teaching my second Estimulacion Temprana class! In these 2 hour classes, I have been teaching the women how important it is to show love and affection to their babies in different ways so they can mature and develop. I was so excited because 8 mothers and their beautiful babies showed up to the class! Most of the babies were from 1-5 months, and a couple were from 8-12 months. I had a lot of great activities planned, but was nervous about how they would go over with 8 babies (9 including Diego) in the room! But thankfully, everything was a success and, for the most part, all the babies were content and happy! I taught the mothers many activities to do with their babies that would stimulate their senses of touch, vision, and hearing. I also showed them how to make a couple really inexpensive toys that would stimulate their babies such as a rattle made out of an empty coke or water bottle and little bells. Most of the women cannot afford to buy many toys for their children, so this was a good alternative! I also gave out prizes of blankets and toys if the mothers answered a question correctly. We had such a great time in this class that I'm already looking forward to next Thursday! Let me know if you have any ideas of activities we could do with music next week!

I am already dreading leaving Collique next Friday! Its not because I'm not excited to come home (I am, Mom!), but because its going to be VERY hard to leave the amazing kids I've been spending every day with. They have impacted my life in great ways! Its also going to be very difficult to leave all the OSA staff members, who have been my family for the last month and a half! Please pray that it will be as easy as it can be to leave everyone next week!

I love you all! Thanks for reading and praying!

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Chef Elisabet

Buenos dias! I can't believe I've been here for a month! A LOT went on this week, so I'll highlight the most important things:

On Tuesday I went out with Gloria, the OB nurse, again to make more house visits and distribute more prenatal vitamins. We took a combie higher up the mountain to the 8th zone of Collique. I live in the 4th zone, and this was my first time to go this far up. I knew that Collique was a big town, but this was my first time to realize just HOW big it is. About 1/4 million people live here! We made about 20 visits and stopped when we ran out of vitamins. I was really excited because one of the girls we visited was the girl who came last week with her mother to our prenatal class. It was great running in to someone I knew this far away from OSA, because it made me feel more a part of the community! Please continue to pray that all the women will understand how important it is to take the vitamins we gave them.
This week I also had to opportunity to teach two cooking classes to the OSA mothers! Charo, the OSA social worker, does a lot of work with the OSA families and all the mothers come once a week to a class with her. They do different activities each week and learn about things such as health, personal hygine, birth control, how to help their children with their homework, how to organize their houses, etc. Charo asked me if I would do a cooking class with them this week. So on Wednesday and Thursday (the mothers are divided up in to two groups), I taught the senoras how to make pancakes and a chocolate cake from scratch! It was a great learning experience for everyone, including myself! I had to learn to make substitutions for some of the ingredients that aren't available to the women in Collique or that they can't afford. For example, we used evaporated milk instead of regular milk, and we had to beat everything by hand - no such thing as electric mixers in Collique! The senoras were so fun and SO patient with me as I learned more cooking vocabulary during the process! And they each had a blast making their own pancake in the skillet. Everything turned out great...except for the cake we made in the first class that burned to a crisp... I was impressed by the senora's determination to salvage the edible parts of it. Luckily, I had practiced making the cake the night before, so we ate that one instead :) I am so grateful for this opportunity I had to spend time getting to know these women. I learned so much from them. Since I already know each of their children really well, it was fun seeing where the kids get their personalities. All of the mothers work so hard and have amazing attitudes in spite of the hard lives they lead. I was blessed by their dispositions and eagerness to learn.

On Thursday morning, I taught my first infant stimulation class! I am teaching this class for the 3 Thursdays in June that I am here. This is a very important class and something that the OSA team really wanted me to teach Collique mothers. Many of the women here, unfortunately, do not show much affection to their babies. As we know, this affection is so important for babies' growth and development. Because a lot of the women are single mothers, they just have to throw the babies on their back while they work long days. And others just don’t know how important it is to give their babies attention to stimulate their minds so they can develop motor skills and improve their neurological functioning. At the beginning of the week, Chris and I walked around the 4th zone of Collique to hang fliers about my class. The idea is that mothers with babies between the ages of 0-12 months will bring their babies to the class and I will show them activities that they can do with them to stimulate their muscles and minds. On Thursday morning, I had no idea who would show up, but all I could do was pray that I would have someone to teach! Luckily 4 women and their beautiful babies came! Two of the women came an hour late (I'm now getting used to Latin America's sense of time) so I ended up teaching two classes. The youngest baby was 1 month old and the oldest was a little over 1 year. They were precious! During this week’s class, I taught the mothers how to give their babies a massage and exercise their muscles. It was such a rewarding feeling when the babies would smile or show their mothers that they liked the activity, and this made the mothers happy as well. It was also really interesting for me to watch the mothers interact with their babies. It was really obvious which mothers were used to showing affection to their babies and which were not. I realized that all of the babies may not have been wanted in the first place. This broke my heart, but it was also a great feeling to teach the mothers ways to interact with their babies so they could form a bond and relationship with them. The last activity we did in the class was a mother and baby exercise, so I made the mothers work a little too! This was a lot of fun, and although the mothers were laughing, I don’t know how they felt about me making them do crunches and bench presses with their babies… :)

Please pray that more mothers will come to the next two classes. If you have any ideas for activities the mothers could learn to do with their babies, let me know!

Luis and Ruth Campos arrived in Collique yesterday afternoon -it was a lot of fun having them here at OSA! They’ll also be at church tomorrow so I’ll get to see them again! Many of the OSA team members (including myself) have been sick this past week, so please pray that we’ll all be back to 100% soon!

God bless!

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Take your vitamins!

Yesterday was a great day in Collique! In the afternoon, Jessie took me to meet up with an OB nurse, Gloria, from the Posta (the community health center). Gloria is an amazing nurse who knows almost all of the pregnant women who live in the community. All of the women are supposed to come to at least 6 controls, or check-ups, during their pregnancy. However, most of the women only come to 2 or 3. These controls are very important because Gloria checks for anemia, high blood pressure levels, malnourishment, etc. When the women don't come to their control, Gloria makes house visits to check up on them. Because we have a lot of donated prenatal vitamins here at OSA, Gloria let me go with her on her house visits to distribute them. Most of the women here don't have access to these vitamins that are SO important for the development of their babies. This is one of the reasons why so many of their babies are born malnourished.

This was a great experience for me that I will never forget. I expected that Gloria and I would have to walk pretty far to get to the houses where the pregnant women lived. However, I was shocked at first because it seemed like a pregnant woman lived in every house on one street, and we didn't have to walk very far at all. At every house, Gloria asked the expecting mothers why they haven't been coming to the controls and told them to take the vitamins once a day. I was surprised that many of the women seemed like they had never taken vitamins before and had many questions about how and when to take them. This is something that is very hard for us to understand, but we have to remember that in the U.S., taking vitamins (especially during pregnancy) is a normal practice. But think about all the resources we have that contribute to our habit of taking a daily vitamin: (1) we have access to the vitamins (2) we have water to take them with (3) we have the education to know why it is important (4) we are used to routine. These are all things that the women here just don't have. After taking all this into account, I realized how hard it is to cross all of these barriers to get the women to simply take a vitamin a day. However, all the women were very grateful for the vitamins and seemed like they were going to take them. We can just hope and pray that they will!
I brought about 15-20 bottles of vitamins with me and we passed out all but one. The women ranged in ages from 17 to 40 and were in different stages of their pregnancy. We also passed out handouts that Dr. Campos gave me about possible complications during pregnancy and gestational diabetes.

Gloria and I ended up having to take a treck up a mountain to reach one of the houses, and I thought we were going to get eaten by los perros at one point! Heres a picture of Gloria and the dogs that almost ate us for lunch:
So....after that, we stopped at a little store on the top of the mountain to treat ourselves to an Inca Cola. I think Gloria was really appreciative of the prenatal vitamins, and asked if I want to make house visits with her again on Tuesday. I'm also going with her the next two Fridays that I'm here!

I feel so blessed by everything I saw yesterday. I was amazed at how grateful the women were for something as simple as vitamins. It reminded me how little the people have here and reminded me not to take anything for granted.
Thanks for reading! and thanks for the prayers too. God is good!