Two days. Two days until Andrew and I leave for somewhere totally new, somewhere wholly unexplored. Mention Nicaragua to the average American and, depending on their age, they may hold a passing knowledge of that country’s revolutionary civil war. More than likely they know little to nothing at all about this impoverished Central American country, let alone its geographic location. To that point, after telling a few friends about my voyage, they would later ask me, “So when are you going to South America again?” Before I signed up for this project, I at least I knew where Nicaragua was. What I didn’t know was that it is the second poorest country in the western hemisphere and that the majority of the population over 30 years of age has seen the brutality of a dictatorial regime and a violent civil war. Now, in preparation for this immanent journey, it’s not the fear of the unknown that haunts me, nor the inherent doubt and anxiety that accompanies a novel venture. I find myself confronted by my own luxurious American life like the leering reflection of an unfamiliar face upon my body. In preparing a welcome gift for my host family I began to look through pictures from my life that I thought would represent me well. Looking through these pictures, and mentally comparing the photographic evidence of my existence with the conceptualization I have of Nicaraguan life, I realized how lucky I am to have been born in America, how comfortable my life is, and how extraordinarily fortunate and successful this American life may be compared to the lives of impoverished Nicaraguans. Forced to stare at the magnitude of my fortune, the conceived discrepancy is alarming, if not slightly revolting. I can’t possibly imagine what I will face when my feet are on Nicaraguan soil, but I will try to give as much of myself as I can to the experience. I hope I can take something meaningful back.
As it is only two days before our departure, Bobby and I are both very excited to begin our expedition. Neither of us know exactly what to expect but in the communication we have had with ATRAVES, the service group we are working with in Nicaragua, it seems that the project will be both efficient and organized. One aspect of the trip that I am interested in is the homestay experience. We will each be staying with a Nicaraguan family, thus completely immersing ourselves in Nicaraguan life and culture. From the look of our daily work schedule, it appears we will be exhausted come evening time. The work aspect of the trip is also exciting, however, as we will have a chance to work with and assist the most unfortunate members of Nicaraguan society. I am also very excited about the length of time of this trip (5 weeks) because it gives us time to explore different locations across the country in our free time. Had the trip only been a week or 2, we would not be able to see as much of the beautiful landscape that this Central American nation has to offer. I can honestly say that I feel extremely fortunate and lucky to have such a unique opportunity. Needless to say, I am anxious for our departure!
It has been a few weeks since the project in Peru has finished and I have had a good amount of time to reflect on the experience. First let me share a picture of how the clinic looked the day we left it, with the foundation for the new rooms finished and the brick work well under way.
Here is a review of the project:
Our Goals: Our project will serve to facilitate good health practice and services in the community through our construction of a medical clinic. This will increase access to medications and increase education about health topics. It is also a networking opportunity to increase cooperation between the community and Nourish International.
Actions taken to work toward these goals: We worked on the construction every day for 4-5 hours. We tried in the first week to walk around and talk to community members, but that was largely unsuccessful (no one seemed to want to talk). We joined a community meeting once in the second week so that we could introduce the project and ourselves so that people weren’t wondering who we were. During the third and fourth week, we took turns lodging with members of the community to get to know a family better, have cultural exchanges, and connect with the community. We also connected to the youth in the community by helping to teach at the schools and playing with children during our lunch break.
Our Impact: We made progress on the clinic construction. We did not quite get to the point where the clinic can begin taking patients, but it is closer to being functional. The construction project, the clinic itself, has a great potential to have impact on the community through offering reduced price health care right in the community of those who will need it. It will help to improve their health, increase their productivity and ability to be more successful.
I think we can all say that it was a good summer. There were definitely some bumps, bruises, and trials along the way, but the lessons that we learned about Peru, international development, and being flexible were all extremely eyeopening. Peru was nothing like I expected. I honestly had my expectations grounded in ideals and past experiences that maybe were not relevant to this project, but I learned to fight through my initial disenchantment and take my experience in through the eyes of a learner, looking at everything with a bit of wonder and curiosity rather than judgement.
Thank you Peru, MOCHE Inc, and Nourish for the experience. I will never regret being a part of it.
How the time has flown by the past 5 weeks. It is hard to believe that we only have one more day left at the construction site and then the Nourish team will be going their separate ways, some to travel a little, visit family in Peru, go home, or stay to work on other projects in Peru. What has happened in the last couple of weeks? We will share highlights illustrated for you with some lovely pictures.
1. Much trench digging. With pickaxes, shovels, and these big metal rods, we spent more than 7 work days digging trenches to be the foundation of walls.
2. Plastering – the inside of the walls of the examination rooms that were previously built.
3. Painting – a beautiful Peruvian inspired mural for the area and the inside of the examination rooms. And of course, coming back to the hospedaje covered head to toe in paint speckles.
4. Visiting awesome archeological sites: Huaca de La Luna – and learning about the heritage of Peru.
5. Pouring concrete – to make floors for the examination rooms and foundations for the new walls. We are aiming for earthquake-proof construction with the depth of those foundations.
6. Conducting health fairs for two communities – We brought in various types of physicians to offer free examinatons, gave free hair cuts, and had booths of information and activities on the topics of nutrition, sanitation, and dental hygiene
7. Visiting major Peru attractions; Cuzco/Machu Pichu or Juaráz – Part of the team went on a longer trip to visit the amazing Andes mountains and hike some trails in Machu Pichu. The rest of the team spent a few days in the mountains to enjoy the outdoor activities in Juaráz.
8. Finally building up: Brick laying. Look at that progress! We are building an entrance, a triage room, and a hallway, off which will be bathrooms.
9. Resting. Because manual labor is tiring.
Hello from Hana and Liz, the two students from Cornell who are participating in the MOCHE clinic construction in Bello Horizonte, Peru. We are partnering with Nourish´s USF and Yale chapters for this project, so make sure to check out their blog posts as well to get the whole story on this development project. We are about a week and a half into the trip and now understand our project enough to be able to give a good report on the details of our project.
We are quite pleasantly surprised by Peru! Our first week has been incredibly fun and packed full of activities. We arrived in Lima, and were luckily able to spend 3 days there in a lovely side of town called Barranco. We ran along the beach, explored the Ican ruins of Pachacamac where we climbed to the top of a sun temple, and explored the many parks (including a water park), museums, and cathedrals beautiful downtown Lima had to offer.
On Sunday we were warmly greeted in Huanchaco by fellow Nourish and Moche members. We’ve gotten incredibly close in the short amount of time we’ve been together, and are quite looking forward to the next several weeks!
Today was our first official day on the job. We split up into two separate groups, 7 of us meeting with a Peace Corps volunteer staying in Bello Horizonte to work on community outreach projects such as health assesments and teaching English to the middle school students, and the other half working on clearing the pathway for the foundation of the next part of the clinic. As the work settled down towards the end of our work day we were able to spend some time playing soccer with the children of the community, as well as a few dance steps!
Aside from the main goal of the completion of the clinic, we were pleasantly surprised by many side projects tailored to the many interests of the project members, ranging from public health to engineering.
Phase Two of the Bello Horizonte Health Clinic Summer 2012
The date is quickly approaching for us to head to Perú and we are all super excited! We´re prepared for the weather being a tad colder than Tampa, but other than that we don´t know exactly what to expect. We´ll be taking donated hygiene products down with us to dristribute, as well as some pharmaceuticals.
We´re flying into Lima on the 18th, and on the 22nd we´ll head up to Huanchaco. The purpose of our trip is to aid in the construction of a health clinic that will provide health care for approximately 6,000 rural Peruvians. We will also be putting together a few health cares for the community and working on the garden adjacent to the clinic.
Our parter organization is Moche, Inc., an anthropological research group, with a humanitarian focus. More information about Moche can be found at http://www.savethemoche.org/.
To keep current with our project´s progress and read about our experiences, please follow this blog.
Wish us luck!