At the end of May 2016, we spent a week in and around the Sacred Valley near Cusco, Peru. The short version of events is:
- 248 patients were treated for various skin diseases
- A pediatric medical needs-assessment was conducted at three schools
- 338 pairs of shoes were given to some very happy kids!
- School supplies were delivered to a needy kindergarten
- Health-care interventions at all three schools and infrastructure needs at the kindergarten were identified as targets for future support
The details are as follows:
- Medical Care
In four whirlwind days, Sasha saw 248 patients with skin disorders at the Kausai Wasi Health Clinic in Coya, Peru. The conditions she treated ranged from acne to Leishmaniasis and almost all the patients were low-income individuals who had no other access to specialty care.
- Pediatric Needs Assessment
We visited three schools in the mountains surrounding the Sacred Valley – one kindergarten and two grade schools. A Quechua-speaking nurse accompanied us on the visit to the most remote school in Choquecancha near Lares where she talked to the children about basic preventative health care. She also led a discussion with the school principal, soliciting his views of the health care needs.
The picture that emerged from these various visits was as follows:
- Many children are anemic
- The children typically have short stature compared to Peruvian norms
- Head lice is common
- Intestinal parasites are widespread (probably because of the close proximity of farm animals)
We also visited a typical one-room family home in Choquecancha and were humbled by the hospitality offered despite the harsh poverty in which the family lived.
- Shoe Donations
We consulted in advance with the schoolteachers who suggested that regular footwear was a greater need than rubber boots (which had been our original plan). So we identified a shoe store in Cusco and purchased 338 pairs of shoes based on size lists provided by the teachers – which were distributed at the three schools. For many of the kids, this was the first pair of closed shoes that they had ever owned – since typical footwear is a sandal that can get very cold in winter evenings at 12,000 feet! There were, as you can see below, a lot of happy faces (and feet)!
At every school, the kids performed traditional songs and dances for us and we will be posting videos of these wonderful performances in the near future.
- School Supplies
The kindergarten teacher identified some very basic needs for which she had no available funds and we were able to take her shopping. Her purchases included plates, cups, and utensils for school meals, a new whiteboard, kitchen supplies, toilet paper, soap, towels, exercise books, pens, pencils, and many other basic needs. During our visit we noticed that, in contrast to the other schools, most of the kids had no protection from the blazing sun, so we left funds for our local collaborators to purchase sombreros for all the kids.
So where do we go from here?
Shoe donations have provided a gateway that has allowed us to identify more fundamental and long-lasting needs. Two of the important pediatric health care issues are fairly simple to address: we plan to seek bulk donations of multi-vitamins and anti-parasite drugs from US pharmas and then use our local school and clinic networks to administer these to the children on a regular basis.
We have identified the kindergarten in Pillaray as a future target where a great deal can be accomplished with surprisingly little funding. The small one-room schoolhouse shown in the picture below is inadequate for the multiple needs of the ~18 children who spend 6 days a week at the school and eat most of their meals there. During the visit, we obtained an on-site estimate for a new building from a parent who is a construction worker. He estimates that for only $8,000 we can build a new expanded schoolroom to serve the needs of this community. There is also a need for a fence or wall to keep out the farm animals that currently roam freely over the ground where the children play.
Your help for this next phase of our campaign will be much appreciated!