Highlights from a week in the Sacred Valley

“What was the highlight of your week?”

That’s the question we ask each other at the beginning of our weekly staff meeting. If you are from Seattle (like me), the highlight of last week was probably the Seahawks’ Super Bowl victory. For Escolastica, a promotora (community health worker) and community coordinator, it was seeing another promotora bandage a wound on the leg of a community member in front of the town’s General Assembly.

I am the newest member of the Sacred Valley Health team and will be working as a community coordinator for the next six months. I arrived in Ollantaytambo last week and would like to share a few highlights from my first week in the Sacred Valley.

On my second day here, I visited the high altitude community of T’astayoc with Becca, Darragh, Leticia, and Escolastica. The 90-minute standing room only bus ride on a winding mountain road was my first experience with the dedication of the SVH staff to do whatever is needed to get the job done. “Wow, that was a crazy ride,” Becca said smiling. Just another day at the office apparently.

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One of the houses we visited in T’astayoc at over 4,000 meters (approx. 13,000 ft.)

Due to the rainy season, we are not conducting capacitaciones (community health worker trainings) in February, but I did arrive in time to observe a make-up capacitacion at the end of January. Brooke and Lucy enthusiastically led the lesson in Spanish, sharing personal anecdotes and including interactive activities. Leticia translated the lesson into Quechua to ensure that the material would be understood by all the promotoras because for some, Spanish is their second language. Before I started at SVH, I was told that flexibility is an essential part of this job. In my first week I have already found this to be true: several promotoras do not have cell phone service at home, many community members are illiterate, and sometimes the internet does not work. What really drove this lesson home was when I found out that this capacitation had been rescheduled due to landslides.

Brooke sets up posters while the promotoras chat before the capacitacion.
Brooke sets up posters while the promotoras chat before the capacitacion.

During my visit to Huilloc, I saw promotoras Santusa and Teresa stand in front of their town’s monthly General Assembly and give a presentation on what they had learned in the reproductive health training. When Brooke, another community coordinator, and I met with Santusa before the assembly to help her prepare, we asked her what part of the reproductive health lesson she wanted to share with her community. “Urinary tract infections,” she said. “This is a problem for most of the women here.” Teresa spoke about pelvic infections. I was impressed with these women – sexual health is an uncomfortable topic for many people to talk about at all, never mind in front of their entire town.

Brooke and Santusa review notes before Santusa’s presentation on UTIs at the General Assembly.
Brooke and Santusa review notes before Santusa’s presentation on UTIs at the General Assembly.

I am thrilled to have joined this team of dynamic, driven, and compassionate people. I am looking forward to working with them for the next six months and beyond.

– Written by Lydia Jessup

To top it all off, this is the view from my house. I think I’m going to like it here.
To top it all off, this is the view from my house. I think I’m going to like it here.
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