Overnight Adventure in Kelccanka and Yanamayo

Last weekend, Volunteer Coordinator Lucy and Community Coordinator Brooke travelled to Kelccanka and Yanamayo, two of the most remote communities that SVH serves. Carrying sleeping bags, water, and food for SVH’s promotoras (community health workers), they got a ride on a fruit truck that left Ollantaytambo at 6 AM on Friday. Their fellow passengers spoke only Quechua and one woman gave Lucy and Brooke a despacho, or offering, of three perfectly formed coca leaves. This gesture signified that she wished them well and they took this as a good omen for the journey ahead.

Lucy in the fruit truck up to Kelccanka accompanied by new friends.
Lucy in the fruit truck up to Kelccanka accompanied by new friends.

The two arrived in Kelccanka around lunchtime and were greeted by Ana Cecilia, SVH’s promotora there. They made some guacamole to share and spent time with Ana Cecilia, her husband Edwin, and their two children, Alex and Nancy. After lunch, Ana Cecilia led Lucy and Brooke to some neighboring houses where they received a warm welcome.

View of Kelccanka on arrival
View of Kelccanka on arrival

One of the neighbors had recently given birth at the nearest government health post, and Lucy and Brooke learned about some of the challenges she experienced there. Like many people in the region, the new mother spoke only Quechua.  Surprisingly, the health post does not have many staff members that speak Quechua, and the language barrier can make a health care encounter difficult. After telling them about her experience through Ana Cecilia, who translated, she kindly offered to dress Brooke and Lucy in clothing she had made by hand and to walk them around to other houses to visit. Brooke and Lucy appreciated the opportunity to wear the traditional clothing, especially since it offered them extra warmth in the cold climate.

Brooke enjoying her time with Ana Cecilia.
Brooke enjoying her time with Ana Cecilia.
Lucy dressed in traditional clothing from Kelccanka.
Lucy dressed in traditional clothing from Kelccanka.

By staying with Ana Cecilia in Kelccanka, Lucy and Brooke got firsthand experience of local health challenges. The fruit truck comes to Kelccanka on a weekly basis, but it offers very limited varieties of fresh produce. There is no toilet paper for sale in Kelccanka, no access to emergency services, and many houses lack chimneys. These households fill up with smoke, especially during the rainy season when it is difficult to find dry firewood. SVH is reaching out to potential partner organizations that can help get chimneys into these households.

Lucy and Ana Cecilia out in the community of Kelccanka.
Lucy and Ana Cecilia out in the community of Kelccanka.
An alpaca owned by Ana Cecilia
An alpaca owned by Ana Cecilia

Brooke and Lucy then walked to Yanamayo, a trek that lasted about eight hours.

Brooke on the way to Yanamayo from Kelccanka.
Brooke on the way to Yanamayo from Kelccanka.

At the last mountain pass before they reached the village, Yanamayo promotora Matilde greeted them. She told them that a landslide had occurred and they wouldn’t be able to reach the community. Fortunately they were able to get a ride back to Ollantaytambo on a fruit truck, and will set up another visit to Yanamayo when the landslide has been cleared.

The twisted road to Yanamayo.
The twisted road to Yanamayo.

Brooke and Lucy deemed this adventure a  success despite the landslide, and they look forward to more overnight visits in the future. Brooke relates this experience to the patient visits she made as a home health nurse in the U.S. In both countries, providers can learn a lot on home visits that they might otherwise not realize.  Home visits present a great opportunity to build relationships and increase knowledge and positive impact.

Stay tuned for Lucy’s post on teaching reproductive health at Casa Mosqoy!

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