The Gift of Time: Serving Mothers and Children in Peru
May 14, 2018 • Niki Harris • Peru
Niki Harris is one of our amazing international volunteers serving in Peru.
What is Happening in Peru?
It has been a quick and busy two months in Peru. During these two months, we have had the opportunity to witness the generous and committed work of the team here in Huancayo Peru. One thing that has struck me the most about the work, is the gift of time that has been given to each beneficiary served. This time is such a gift in the world of medicine, when clinics and medical professionals feel more and more rushed day to day.
This gift of time allows the team of healthcare professionals in Huancayo to develop trusting and caring relationships with the people they serve, something that goes a long way when trying to combat some of the chronic issues, like malnutrition and anemia.
Here is a glimpse into each of the programs and the people they serve.
Mil Dias – 1000 Days
I’ve had the opportunity to work with nurse Maritza in the barrio or neighborhood of Azapampa, Huancayo. In many areas of Azapampa, residents live without a connected sewage system and without access to good, “potable” water. This creates an array of health challenges.
Maritza approaches her work with a smile and caring attitude that transfer to the women, children, and families she supports in her community. One morning, Maritza and I visited a mom who had experienced a very difficult delivery and had been hospitalized for a period of time. We sat and talked with her for nearly an hour, listening. We gave her the space to talk about her traumatic experience, to ask questions and to cry about what had happened, and hopefully to have a better understanding or perspective of the work ahead. She expressed great thanks for the visit and the chance to to describe the day – something she hadn’t been able to share with family or friends.
This is the type of work that Mil Dias is doing day in and day out. It is allowing time for women to ask crucial questions and to share their experiences as mothers.
Nuevas Oportunidades – New Opportunities
As suggested by its name, this is a new program in the Huancan/Huari areas of Huancayo. This project aims to improve the health of children under fve years of age, children, and adolescents in primary schools, and older adults from Huari population center, District of Huancán. The project is supported by two of the most extraordinary CMMB nurses in the area. One afternoon, I was lucky enough to join the nurses and observe them at work. We started at the local school.
Nurse Stefany, with a huge smile on her face and wonderful props, spent time training the school-aged “promotoras” or health agents about parasites. She talked about how to avoid them and highlighted their many harmful effects. The young promotoras, squirming with excitement, jumped at the chance to use the cut-out magnifying glass to “see” the parasites and to describe how to protect themselves, their families, and their friends from these harmful bugs. Young children can be such powerful teachers so arming them with knowledge is key to changing behaviors of families and communities.
In the afternoon, I was fortunate to get the chance to join Nurse Isabel on a visit to the home of an elderly couple living in a remote area of Huari. The promotora guided the couple through a few memory and drawing exercises, talked with them about their children, and shared many laughs. The couple’s children live many miles away, and the couple at times struggle with depression and problems with their memory.
Very grateful for the visit and chance to socialize, the wife offered some of their recently picked tunas (cactus fruit) to all visitors with a big smile. It was clear that this small but dedicated gift of time made a huge difference to this hard working couple. This is the daily and weekly work of the Nuevas Oportunidades program.
I had the opportunity to experience the work of this amazing team during a recent campaign for the health of the parents RBC participants. RBC is a community-based program serving some of the most vulnerable people in the Huancayo population – children with disabilities. The team is acutely aware of not only treating or assisting the children, but in caring for the whole family, something they consider critical to their work.
With the assistance of the visiting Regis University team – made up of physical therapists, occupational therapists, nurse practitioner students, and professors – the RBC team put on a health campaign to benefit the families of children living with disabilities. Due to a lack of wheelchairs and handicap-accessible services (vans, sidewalks, elevators) in Huancayo, many mothers carry their children on their backs for transport.
Some of the participants weigh up to 60 or 70 pounds, creating a physical strain on the backs, abdomens, and necks of the mothers. Physical therapy students and nurse practitioners helped the parents to address their health concerns and learn different ways to approach their daily jobs and duties in ways to support their own physical health. The time and space allowed for the parents to discuss the day-to-day concerns and needs was critical. The RBC team devotes a significant amount of time to improve the movements, day-to-day routines, and mental health of RBC participants and their families.
This is just a little insight into the daily challenges and the rewarding work of the CMMB team in Huancayo. They are working every single day to further CMMB’s vision of promoting the health and dignity of women, children, and the communities that they serve. I am proud to work alongside them.