A Firsthand Experience Teaching First Aid

On Friday, May 18, Sam and I made the short trip down to Yachay Wasi, the local kindergarten, to teach the first-ever clase de primeros auxilios (first aid class). After finalizing a basic curriculum and frantically rehearsing our Spanish, we showed up ready for anything and were greeted by a small but eager group of teachers and parents. As attendance was somewhat lower than expected, we (happily) discarded our presentation notes and instead gathered around for a more intimate, discussion-based class. With a mug of tea in hand and typical jardin hospitality (think 6 inch high chairs), we started in on the basics of first aid, focusing on common accidents and emergencies for children such as choking and wounds. In addition to practical demonstrations, we put our Spanish to the test to discuss how to better approach scenarios, assess patients, and take preventative steps to avoid accidents and respond adequately to emergencies.

Eager pupil numero uno Michelle testing out Yachay Wasi’s errrr… cozy… furnishings!

Our small group included a great mix of Peruvian, European, and American nationalities, providing our discussion with unique insights into the various threats, treatments, and healthcare systems present on three different continents. The discrepancies in emergency care were especially apparent, from Ollanta’s single, usually non-functioning ambulance, to the general lack of knowledge of local and national emergency phone numbers. Swapping stories of past accidents helped place the lesson in its local context, with the unique challenges to rapid and effective care faced by people in Ollanta.

Teacher Sam leading the discussion with help from Joanna, one of the teachers from Yachay Wasi

Although Sam and I arrived with the goal of imparting some of our own first aid knowledge and experience, the role of student and teacher remained fluid, and we found ourselves asking questions about natural disinfectants and blood coagulants, and even sampling a natural gum derived from bees.  It was a classic example of the mix of ancient and modern and the syncretism of indigenous and foreign elements that characterizes many aspects of Peruvian culture and society. In this spirit, we ended with hopes for future classes in first aid and CPR as well as natural and traditional remedies.

Many thanks to the teachers at Yachay Wasi for all of their help with translating and logistics, as well as to the other Sacred Valley Health volunteers for entertaining the kids during the class! Many opportunities exist for improved first aid skills in the schools and homes here, so hopefully this is only the beginning!

Written by Sacred Valley Health Volunteer Ruth McGovern

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