Monday, June 04, 2007

Day 265: June email update


Wow, it's been forever since we've been in touch and I just wanted to send out a quick hello to you all to tell you how much I love you and think about you. I write to you from a dark, humming Internet cafe, hidden back in somebody's house and identified from the main street of Yungay by a red and white cocacola style painted sign 'INTERNET.' Ahh, you gotta love the obvious, but not-so-obvious things in life, eh?

Benjamin and I are moving along with our Peace Corps Service... hard to believe that we've been in Musho for just over 6 months now, and in Peru 9 months already. Today we had a great meeting with an international NGO working in the area, World Vision International, to present our Community Baseline Study. We've spent the past couple of months working hard to complete a series of family interviews and surveys, asking questions, and investigating life in Musho. The result was a 45 page document reporting on 'life in Musho' - topics include stats on frequent illnesses (the majority of which are preventable with a few key behavior changes like boiling your water, washing your hands, cooking on a stove with a chimney so that the smoke isn't causing respiratory illnesses, etc), trash management (they don't...people burn their plastics and throw the rest of the non-burnable trash in the rock fences around their fields or in the forest or river), sources of income (mostly agricultural, with a few miners and taxi drivers), religion (mostly catholic, some evangelicals and one israelite family), access to safe water (lots are connected to the water system, but lots don't boil their water and drink right out of the irrigation ditches), presence of a bathroom or connection to the sewage system (most aren't connected and many people don't even have a letrine and just poop in their fields), use of medicinal herbs (wow... lots, and mostly for stomach pain and diarreahs...), what they plant in their fields (corn and potatoes... just add rice and you've got a peruvian's favorite dish). And some other stuff, all leading to our conclusion that what is most needed in Musho is a change in behavior based in the home and hence a national program called 'Viviendas Saludables' or 'Healthy Homes.' We've convinced World Vision and the local health post to jump on board the implementation of the program and will start with informational sessions this week. We plan to work with a pilot community of 24 families, and then also work with 5-10 families in each of the other 4 neighborhoods to create what we will call 'show homes/casas de muestra.' Our first phase will focus on improved nutrition practices through a series of educational and demonstrative sessions, and will include building a 'cocina mejorada/improved stove' in each home. The key to the improved stove is that it has a chimney and holes appropriately sized for the pots used in the family's cooking, thus helping to eliminate smoke in the kitchen and ideally repiratory illnesses. The stove is also built off the ground so that the cook can stand in front of the stove, eliminating back problems created by stooping over a smokey fire all day long. The end result will be improved health, better eyesight, improved nutrition, and a host of other benefits. Other aspects of the project will include family gardens, cages for guinnea pigs and chickens, and sinks connected to the safe water system.

Benj also plans to start a radio program in the next week entitled 'Tres Leches' - named for the famous peruvian dessert and insinuating three languages... Quechua, English, and Spanish.

Libby will start a program called 'Como Planear mi Vida' - a six-month course on life-skills, she'll work with a small group of adolescents on life planning, thinking about the future, sex-ed, self-esteem, family values, communication skills, among many others.

We had a great 2 week vacation with Steve and Lola Skolnik... Our explorations led us from Huaraz to Musho, north to Caraz and up into the Cordillera Negra to see the huge 'puya raimondi' flowering pineapple plant. From there we headed off to the Santa Cruz Trek and spent 3 nights and 4 days of high-altitude hiking in the beautiful Cordillera Blanca. Good and tired after the trek, we headed up to a hostal above Huaraz to spend the last few nights... enjoying day hikes and treating ourselves to massages, cribbage and wine. Our days were mostly clear, cloudless and splendidly beautiful, affording constant views of the snow-capped peaks.

Ok, Please keep in touch, thanks for all the recent emails and snail-mails. We love the contact.