I have been in Lima for exactly one month and one week. Most of this time I have been getting accustomed to the culture, the food (easiest one – excellent food!), getting used to the area, getting used to my new job. However, even though I had heard so much about Save the Children (SC) in the office and reading materials and all the good projects it is part of, I had not been able to appreciate it firsthand.
Well, last week I had the opportunity to travel around different cities with delegates from SC UK, Ireland, and Scotland as they came to Perú with the same purpose – appreciate Save the Children work firsthand. And what a week it was…
We started our week travelling to a place called Huancayo. It was clear to me that we had arrived “la sierra” as Peruvians call the mountain area. This was just the beginning of our journey, early the next morning we were joined by our partners from “Tierra de Niños” to go to Huancavelica, 3 hours away. The scenery was amazing though a little scary at the same time as we bordered the Andes in “trochas” (dirt roads). Once we arrived in Huancavelica we met with another organization called “La Mesa de Concertación de Lucha contra la Pobreza de Huancavelica” which together with Tierra de Niños follows childhood policies and local government budget investments towards children wellbeing and also maternal neonatal health. We later met with the Regional Government President to discuss how the regional government is investing in a Health Center built in Ccasapata. With much anticipation we arrived at the Health Center in Csasapata the next day. The staff, along with Tierra de Niños and Save the Children had organized a campaign to raise awareness in the community about the importance of Health Insurance. These communities are so isolated that they don´t even know about insurance or the importance of it – or it is just a hassle for them to get it due to distance to town. The campaign consisted in educating the children at school so they could then educate their families and this was done by coordinating a walk around the community with the children. We brought balloons and bubbles for the children and they had so much fun with it. And, how much joy it was for them to see their faces on a camera or cell phone after a picture was taken!! Later in the day we met with the clinic staff where they explained how the health center was built with a “waiting house” so women could come to the clinic with their family (many times >8) before they were in labor so they could receive proper care. I may note that the further you are from the “main road” the stronger the culture is and these communities are still very true to their traditions and culture and sometimes it is a struggle for the staff to persuade them to come to the clinic for regular pregnancy checkups, delivery and after delivery care for the babies. However, with the help of Promoters (people that go out and reach out to the communities) they have managed to reduce newborn mortalities to < 3 since the beginning of 2014 by providing proper care. We concluded our visit touring the clinic and listening to the cry of a baby that was just born the night before!!
The next day we visited another town called Tarma with another partner of Save the Children, JM Arguedianos. We went there to learn about inclusive education and the challenges that it brings. Inclusive education means that disabled (physical, mental, etc.) children have the right to be treated and receive the same education as those that are not. We visited an inclusive school and met with two representatives of two organizations of children that fight for the rights of children in general, in addition to disabled children. One, Bryan, a kid that has been losing sight since the age of 6 and completed his primary school in the school we visited. He described how that school prepared him to attend one of the high ranked secondary schools in the area. Bryan is the president of an organization that works towards the rights of disabled children. How inspiring it was to listen to him speak about his school, day to day activities, and most of all plans for the future. He was so impressive that on our way to a restaurant for lunch – Bryan was the one giving directions!! And, Mia, a true leader – well-spoken, energetic, and clear in the vision and mission of her organization for the rights of children. Later we met representatives from a new organization of disabled children mothers that are working together for the best of their children. We ended the day meeting with Mia´s counterparts who shared their experiences as part of the organizations CODEME and REDNNIDIS (student councils) and they also had the chance to ask us questions.
We ended the week in Lima where we visited a nursery that has been structured based on children´s needs. This school was designed with one purpose in mind, the wellbeing of the children. Everything in there is thought out – the area where infants learn to walk, the changing table, the eating tables, the library, the drawing wall, the garden. We arrived towards the end of their science fair, projects that they had worked on at school and were prepared to share with their families. Did you know that you can change the color of a white flower by placing it in colored water?? Or, that you can use the juices in beets, carrots, spinach to draw with?? Well, it was great to learn a few things from these little ones.
After visiting the nursery we visited the children of MNNATSOP for lunch. A group of organized children that promote a safe working environment for the working children. These adolescents are leaders that are organized to educate others on how to work safely, know their rights, and also help others understand that they can work and study at the same time or that while working they develop many skills (ie. math, organizational skills, etc.).
Our last visit was to the community of Villa el Salvador, the most dangerous area in Lima in case of an earthquake because of its unstable soil and lack of proper construction. If you are not aware, Perú is situated along the boundary of two tectonic plates (Earth´s outer shell consists of these plates), these plates move slowly and continuously which as a result causes earthquakes. Save the Children has worked in this community with Tierra de Niños to educate the community, teach them how to prepare their families and business and how to help others in case of the natural disaster. The most important learning from this campaign has been to educate them to understand how to rebuild their community after the earthquake as humanitarian help normally takes a couple days to arrive.
Well, it was a long week but the faces, the stories, the people that are there to help, the new infrastructure made it all worth it. And these were the only ones we could visit in just one week…
PS: I know this blog is long but we just did so much in one week! 🙂