One Year. One Physical Therapist in Trujillo, Peru.

Combining passions of global public health with travel and cultural immersion... With the help of the Catholic Medical Mission Board, I was afforded the opportunity to live outside of Trujillo, Peru for one year's time (2010-2011). Check out old posts about my experiences as a PT working in hospitals, a school, an outpatient clinic, doing research/community based rehabilitation, and a little teaching too. And my experiences with an entire calendar year of holidays, cultural customs and new culinary experiences!

I make it back about once a year with university students/CMMB projects, so I will periodically provide updates :)

Friday, April 29, 2011

THANK YOU Holy Cross Rumson!!!

Amamos los alumnos del séptimo grado en Rumson Holy Cross!
I am thrilled to announce that the 7th graders at Holy Cross in Rumson, New Jersey raised an incredible amount of $2,700 dollars for La Esperanza’s school for children with special needs, Colegio Sagrada Familia! Their fundraiser concert last month was a huge success and I want to especially thank …

MaryJane Gallo, the students’ teacher, who has been working hard since August of 2010 to support CMMB’s work in Peru
Jeff Wilson, the singer/songwriter who volunteered his talent to make the event so successful
Holy Cross teachers Geri Ciampoli, Kyle Baldi
Class moms Debbie Bagnell, Tara Avallone, Lynn Worobel, Cathy Caruso
Paul McGuire and CMMB
And, of course, the 34 7th-graders who made it happen!
Thank you Jeff Wilson, leaders at Holy Cross and CMMB for working together to support us!
I was recently asked to comment on the support from Holy Cross for a newspaper article, and I wrote, “It's been a tremendous joy and blessing to build a relationship with the 7th graders at Holy Cross in Rumson, NJ. From the start, the students have proven to be extremely passionate about service and have a great hunger to learn about another culture. Their support via emails, letters and prayers has been a huge blessing in my work down here in Peru. They went above and beyond by coming up with the idea to have a fundraiser concert.”

I (heart) my 7th graders!

“The implications of financial support for the school are tremendous. Most of the children who attend the school have moderate to severe disabilities, and their quality of life is influenced by additional factors such as extreme poverty and abandonment. Colegio Sagrada Familia is the only opportunity for children with disabilities to receive education and free physical therapy in a community of about 40,000 people in La Esperanza, Peru. The school is a safe haven for the children by providing a roof, regular meals, bathroom facilities, and recreation opportunities, in addition to the free physical therapy and speech therapy services.”

“The community is extremely touched by the efforts of the Holy Cross students, as the funds will help clothe the children at Colegio Sagrada Familia and provide them with basic school supplies. Normally, all children in Peru wear uniforms to school, but due to lack of funding Colegio Sagrada Familia went without in past years – thanks to our supporters at Holy Cross Rumson, this year it will be different! In addition, the donations will be used to help outfit children with appropriate assistive devices such as wheelchairs and orthotics, items which they would not otherwise receive and which will have a huge impact on their quality of life. I am so grateful for the generous efforts and leadership from the Holy Cross community and hope that we can work together in the future to create a sustainable source of support and partnership with the school and community of La Esperanza.” Basically, I cannot thank you guys enough for what you have done, and I hope you’re very proud of your efforts.

This week I went out to an area called Winchinzao, which is about ten minutes from La Esperanza. The Hermanas Del Buen Soccorro (the same nuns who run the clinic and the school) have a small clothing factory business in the “red zone” of Winchinzao – this district has high problems with delinquency, violence, and poverty. The business provides mothers (victims of abuse) a safe opportunity to work, with a steady income source. So, in addition to supporting the kids at Colegio Sagrada Familia, the money will also be poured back into a nearby community of need. We selected colors (blue and white) and fabrics for the clothing. I’m not sure how long the production will take, but I’ll be sure to post photos once the kids are outfitted in their new uniforms (etc.)!

The congregation is also beginning a new project in Winchinzao to support the mothers, young children and youth of this high-risk area. They are planning a community center that will include space for about 15 children to live full-time, and plan to serve another ~75 youth with day activities promoting healthy living and respectful values. They’re also planning for services such as psychology, speech therapy, and physical therapy on-site. I will begin working with families there next month, doing physical therapy a few mornings a week, most likely with tarps, mats and blankets until they construct a roof and put in cement. Right now the space is a lot filled with sand and trash, but I look forward to seeing it transform into a great resource for the Winchinzao community.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Cuzco, Perú

Dear avid followers, (ha, ha), so sorry about the several week blogging absence! I’ve just returned from an incredible vacation with family to southern Peru. I had a great time playing tourist for a few weeks and feel so lucky to have these opportunities!

It’s hard to sum up the entire trip at once so I’ll do it little by little… beginning with Cuzco. Cuzco is the gateway to Machu Picchu and seems most known for its’ high altitude, coca leaf tea, alpaca products and abundance of backpackers.

Coca leaf tea
People often just dash through this town en route to the “main event,” but I think it was well deserving of a few days stay. The vendors and sheer volume of tourists were a bit overwhelming in certain parts, but all in all it’s a quaint, vibrant town full of beautiful cobblestone streets to explore.

Calle San Blas
The Plaza de Armas and Catedral were especially beautiful, both day and night. The Cathedral is known for it’s painting of the last supper that features the Peruvian dish cuy (guinea pig). We were lured in at mass time and thus didn’t pay the usual fee!

Plaza de Armas
We came across a colorful Anniversary Parade in the city center. One of my favorite things about Peru – there’s always something random to stumble upon!

Anniversary Parade

To see the main Cuzco area sites you are forced to buy a wide-encompassing tourist pass, but it’s worth it. Highlights in town include Sacsayhuaman and the once gold-covered Qorikancha Inka Ruins next to Iglesia Santo Domingo.

In addition to ruins and museums, the pass gives you access to the Centro Qosqo de Arte Nativo, where you can check out regional dances.

Don’t miss Mercado San Pedro – where you can buy slabs of meat, clothing, hand-woven crafts, agricultural products, flower bouquets, ceviche, and live frogs, (amidst other things) all in one stop!

Mercado San Pedro
Speaking of meat, if you’re looking for some American comfort food, check out Jack’s café. Nice big juicy cheeseburger I’ve been dreaming about for the last 6 months, plus the best French toast I’ve ever had! (Yes, went there twice).

Fortunately nobody came down with major altitude sickness, although at elevation 3,326 meters we were definitely huffing and puffing around. Tried running on day 4, which - aside from the gaping stares from the locals and burning cough attacks - was a pleasant and scenic experience.
All in all, I would say on the 0-10 scale, Cuzco coasts in with a solid 8.5!

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Election Day!

Peruvians love to talk politics. Fortunately, down here the Sarah Palin jokes are kept to a minimum, (it’s amazing how much Peruvians know about Alaska!) although I still get them from time to time, in addition to Obama comments! (Which are overwhelmingly unfavorable... they say that Obama made a lot of promises to the Latino population that he never fulfilled.) Okay, yeah, moving on…

The Perú 2011 elections have been the heart of many conversations since my arrival back in October. Here, you find advertisements for candidates painted or posted on nearly every wall, building, bus, truck, home, teenager, etc. It’s completely legal for parties to pay home and business owners to display their logos.

Presidential elections happen every 5 years, and the next one – the Primaries - are this coming Sunday. Prices on transportation have already risen, because Peruvians are required to vote in the place where they originally registered (even if decades ago), and regardless of whether it’s in another part of the country. (If they don’t go, they have to pay a huge fine!)

It seems that no-one is too concerned about election-time violence or riots, which is a relief. My very first day in this country fell on a smaller election day, and all I remember is walking around in a culture-shocked daze and seeing armed men everywhere!

I’ve been asked three times in the last week who I am going to vote for, which I find hilarious. I feel like I still stand out terribly here, but maybe I am actually starting to blend in, because people have also started asking me if I’m from Lima! (Limenians have lighter skin and hair. YES – Mission Become Peruvian nearly accomplished!)

But, I’m glad I don’t have to vote, because the choices are a bit overwhelming. There are 10 candidates for President. Every time I tune in, someone else seems to have made a big break in the polls. Last I checked, it was pretty close – there were four people hovering all between 15-20% popularity each. Keiko has been pretty popular – and if elected would become the first female President of Perú. Castañeda and Toledo are also up there, and PPK and Ollanta seem to be gaining some late momentum. I guess only time will tell… I will keep you posted!

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Fundraiser Concert!

My pen-pals – 7th graders at Holy Cross in Rumson, NJ - have truly done a tremendous job of supporting me while I’ve been down here. They are a wonderful group of young people embracing service and social justice – and they recently decided that they want to send even more help my way! These bright minds, along with their teacher Mrs. MaryJane Gallo, have created a concert to raise money for Colegio Sagrada Familia, the school for children with disabilities here in La Esperanza! The school has about 100 elementary-junior high aged kids and 50 young adults. The children that attend this school live in impoverished environments, often lacking running water and toilets, and many with a tarp roof which does little to keep the elements out. We hope to provide them with clothing and other basic supplies, and also aim to provide properly-fitted assistive devices and other aids to improve function and mobility.

I am so touched by these amazing efforts and want to again give a
HUGE THANK YOU to Mrs. Gallo’s 7th graders!

If you live in the New York/New Jersey area, Save the Date …

Help Us Help Them
Friday, April 8, 2011
The Catholic Medical Mission Board / CMMB
Jersey Shore Folk Rock Artist
Jeff Wilson
Monmouth Beach Cultural Center
128 Ocean Avenue
Monmouth Beach, New Jersey

Light fare and “sweets” will be provided
BYOB; you are welcome to bring a small cooler if need be!

$20.00 per person – limited tickets are available; cash or checks payable to CMMB; donations are welcomed.

All proceeds will go to aid underprivileged children with physical and cognitive disabilities engaged in a CMMB sponsored service program in Peru.