Sleeping over in Soccma

 “You can’t carry that up the mountain!” Leticia laughed at me in Spanish as she lifted my backpack. “Of course I can!” I answered defiantly, making a mental note not to complain on the three-hour hike up to Soccma. She and Escolastica exchanged a quick word in Quechua and looked at me, shaking their heads and laughing. I was in the office on a Monday morning with Escolastica, one of our promotoras (community health workers) who also works as a community coordinator, preparing for an overnight visit to Soccma.

Overnight visits are a very special part of my job as a community coordinator at Sacred Valley Health. SVH’s policy is that our community coordinators make overnight visits to our highest, most isolated communities 2-3 times a year. These visits foster strong relationships with these communities, and it’s an incredible way to get to know our promotoras on a deeper level.

Community Coordinator Jenny with Promotora Bertha and her daughter, Luzandra, in front of their house in Soccma
Community Coordinator Jenny with Promotora Bertha and her daughter, Luzandra, in front of their house in Soccma

Promotora and Community Coordinator Escolastica and I made an overnight visit to Soccma to stay with promotora Bertha and help her prepare for a presentation she was giving about natural medicine. We spent a wonderful evening with Bertha, sharing food, friendship, and happy conversation. The next morning, we left early to gather herbs from the mountain slopes for Bertha’s presentation. Ignacia and Luzmilla, two promotoras from communities near Soccma, came over to Bertha’s house to help her make pomades and tinctures, and soon the scents of mint, chamomile, eucalyptus, and a bouquet of other herbs filled the air as Bertha’s kitchen was converted into a natural medicine laboratory.

Community Coordinators Escolastica and Jenny gathering herbs in the early morning.
Community Coordinators Escolastica and Jenny gathering herbs in the early morning.
Looking down on the community of Soccma.
Looking down on the community of Soccma.
Helping Bertha take her sheep and goats out to pasture up in the mountains.
Helping Bertha take her sheep and goats out to pasture up in the mountains.
Promotoras Luzmila, Escolastica, Bertha, and Ignacia preparing medicinal pomades, syrups, and tinctures from local herbs in Bertha’s kitchen.
Promotoras Luzmila, Escolastica, Bertha, and Ignacia preparing medicinal pomades, syrups, and tinctures from local herbs in Bertha’s kitchen.

One of my favorite parts of my job is watching promotoras give presentations in their communities. We teach these women about health so that they can impart that knowledge to their communities. I felt so proud watching Berta teach, and people were really interested in what she had to say! A group of men lounging under a nearby tree wandered over to listen, some women were taking notes and asking questions, and everyone was very keen on tasting her homemade cough syrup and testing out the pomade for sore muscles.

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When Bertha had finished her presentation, she asked if we could review the material from her most recent training, which focused on STD prevention and family planning. “I really want to learn about this well and teach it in in a presentation,” said Bertha, who is usually painfully shy. “People here just don’t know about these things; no one teaches them. And women, they don’t get pap smears done like they should. They don’t know why they should do it, so they don’t. I want to teach them because this is important.” I was so happy and proud I thought I was going to burst. For me, priceless moments like this make my job worth it.  I was lucky enough to have two days full of priceless moments. I left Soccma with a greater appreciation for the community and a much closer bond with Bertha. There is usually at least one moment everyday when I stop and think, “I can’t believe this is my life!” and that day, I thought it the whole way down the mountain.

– Written by Jenny Jordan

 

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