Today was a very rewarding day, besides the notion of returning from Trujillo at 4 o’clock in the morning and only receiving one hour of sleep. At the spur of the moment, or rather, finally giving in, I went into Trujillo for the night to run some errands, withdraw desperately needed funds, and pay back our coordinator of La Libertad, who spotted me a chunk of soles to pay for the materials to lay concrete on my floor, or which will hopefully become my floor soon. I was accompanied by some carreterra/road workers, a couple of engineers, and to both to our surprise, another volunteer, the closest to myself, who is living in Lluin, Megan. It was a ridiculous, funny ensemble running around making purchases in urbanization, being accompanied by these engineers. The hilarity of circumstances I’ve been in doesn’t cease to surprise me. Only in Peru I guess. I feel like that just tends to be the case while traveling. Making it back up to the Sierra in the wee hours of the morning was a feat, as always, in the rainy season, getting stuck in the muckiest barro, jumping up and down on one side of the bed of a pickup to get uncaught in the other side… Nonetheless, I survived to attend a meeting of the mother leaders of Juntos, a program put in place by the government to provide aid to extremely poor mother and address the factors usually accompanying poverty (malnutrition, multiple unwanted pregnancies, easily treatable disease, etc.). Mothers are eligible to join Programa Juntos if they make, I believe, 150 soles or less a month (aka nothing), with kids, without a neighborhood store, etc.; they receive a monthly sum of 100 soles if they meet these criterium, attend monthly charlas, and are attended to by the health post on a monthly basis. Anyway, making it to this meeting, you could feel the empowerment that was taking place – education is so revolutionary. After this, and resting for 1 hour, I trekked down to a caserío called Leoncio Prado, down a valley and slightly up onto another mountainside, into the Salpo district. There I coordinated with an already established health promoter of the community, also serving as the teniente gobernador, to meet his community. Like the meeting I had in Olaya (another caserío), it went beautifully with the exchange that occurred. There was a drastic difference with the direction of the conversation. Olaya lacks any functioning latrines or improved kitchens, whereas Leoncio Prado, a very impoverished community, has established a latrine and improved kitchen in every home, thanks to the support of a NGO called Sembrando. Starting in June/July 2009, they already have made their mark in this community and capacitated those of Leoncio Prado with functional knowledge. People here are intelligible and they just needed to be afforded the opportunity of an education, like anywhere else in the world. Education drastically transforms communities, and it will definitely intrigue me to see the progress in the next two years, because there will be significant progress, I can feel it and I am working toward it.
Anyway, the direction of the conversation in Leoncio Prado in comparison to Olaya – instead of focusing on the basic necessities of improved kitchens and latrines – was centered around raising cuyes/guinea pigs and the production of their own gas, methane gas, from sources such as composting, lombriculturas, and biodigestors in general. It will be somewhat a feat to work across the caseríos and curtail charlas to meet their necessities when there are so many caseríos to coordinate with, but with the establishment of health promoters in each caserío, it’s possible. They are competent and willing to work and plant a seed toward progression. This makes me so excited.
I have shared so many valuable conversations already, and to gage the impact all these conversations will have on others and myself is enlightening. I thrive from sharing accordance in humanitarian efforts. There really are so many beautifully intrinsic people.
Afterward, I popped into the municipality and the scenery completely changed. Promoting active participation on behalf of the municipality is my goal – for them to see themselves as a source, or perhaps, the most prevailing source of social services. They should be providing infrastructure such as water systems, resources for individuals to improve their living circumstances, etc. I want active participation and coordination between all involved parties, such as the municipality, health post, NGO’s, religious institutions, and organizations in effect, so that optimal progress can be realized. I feel that each takes its own path and if there were more coordination, greater efficiency could and would take place. Hopefully I can temporarily serve as the intermediary between these identities and encourage others to take this front of collaboration.
We had a chocolatada following a novena (the novenas takes place every night at 8pm from the 15th of December until Christmas in Mache and also in many other communities). The novenas or posadas are hosted in different nooks of the community and serve as a gathering consisting of singing Christmas songs and discussing biblical passages. The chocolatada, more curtailed to kids, but inclusive to adults, is basically when hot chocolate is served, accompanied by a chunk of Panetone. I think after being here, I will never look at Panetone the same way – it is so popular/omnipresent here during Christmas. Anyway, the gathering was beautiful, which I think is normally the case for community gatherings.
I am excited my family was receptive to me throwing in some artichokes onto the dinner plate. Again, I neglected to really consider my host mom’s lack of molars, but she seemed to manage just fine. It’s deceiving because she does have her front teeth and she doesn’t really smile big, so you can’t tell she’s missing her molars. My brother actually enjoyed a vegetable which is such a challenge. We now have the nightly tradition of brushing our teeth together (he wouldn’t brush his teeth at night beforehand), and now, I am starting to incorporate flossing. It’s difficult teaching a kid to floss, but there will be a learning curve. I am wondering if my host mom just gave up on brushing her teeth altogether, I will need to figure that out…
It’s heart warming when people are receptive to you when you are from a different culture. And when you are preparing to go to bed, your host brother gives you a kiss on the cheek and tells you to dream with the angels. I have been blessed and will continue to keep my chin up and looking forward.