For some it was the hardest thing they had ever done in their lives. For others it was just another day on the job. And for one little girl it was a daily commute to and from school. Our hike to Marcuray for a health campaign at the local elementary school took almost two hours, involved a net elevation change of almost 500 meters, and featured about an hour of punishing switchbacks up a mountainside.
The trek to Marcuray highlights the challenges that SVH staff and our university partners face in reaching the most remote communities of the Sacred Valley of the Inca. Marcuray’s isolation limits the resources available to residents, since most NGOs (non-governmental organizations) and district-level government officials are unwilling to venture to communities that can only be reached on foot. Low interest from the government and NGOs means that families in Marcuray have little access to health care – a sick person must walk or be carried by a mule for at least a couple of hours before reaching the road and seeking a ride to the closest government health clinic.
The visiting nurses from St. John Fisher University and SVH staff members valiantly trekked up the mountain carrying plenty of supplies, including toothbrushes and paste, for this underserved community. The Marcuray school was the smallest that the SJF nurses visited during their time in Peru, but the visit was especially impactful because of the community’s isolation. The nurses performed head to toe physicals and taught students about nutrition, tooth brushing, and hand washing. It may have been the first time that some of the children had received a physical exam from a medical professional. The SJF nurses also distributed toothbrushes, toothpaste, fluoride treatments, and multivitamins. The Marcuray teachers will make sure the students take the vitamins and brush their teeth at school. These resources are aimed at curbing the high rates of tooth decay, cavities, and malnutrition in this community.
Thanks to their willingness to tackle the tough hike, the SJF nurses got to see a rarely-visited area and provide check-ups and health education to children who live far, far off the tourist track. Several of the nurses remarked that they were motivated on the climb by the thought of how the people living in Marcuray do the same trek on a regular basis in order to get resources essential for day-to-day life. A Marcuray child who wants to continue his or her studies beyond primary school has to do the 4 hour roundtrip hike every single day just to attend classes. A big thank you to the SJF nurses for taking on this challenging assignment and providing invaluable onsite health services!
– Written by Daniel Alvarez