Three flights, and two six hours layovers later, we finally made it to Iquitos. MacKenzie Turner said “Iquitos is one crazy city!” We were reunited with the rest of our group who had traveled to Peru earlier than the rest of us to do a clinic to test for hearing loss. That night we were treated to a fantastic dinner at the hotel, and then it was off to bed. The next day we got to see the Amazon…no we got to touch, smell, and ride on the Amazon for 50 miles up to our river side sanctuary. Up on stilts in the middle of the rainforest we explored our living quarters for the next ten days, the Heliconia Lodge. After lunch we took the boats up to the village we will be working in while we are here. “As we arrived, all the children lined up along the dock holding signs. It is an experience I will never forget. The children latched onto us almost immediately,” said MacKenzie Turner. We went to the school building for the opening ceremonies. Megan said “the excitement was on both sides. That butterfly feeling when you first meet someone or go to your first class; that feeling was such a rush!” The children sang us songs, and we sang one back. Aaron found the music to be extremely touching. He said, “Music is a universal language even in the remote village of Yanamono 2 they use music to say hello.” Then Caitlyn performed a ballet dance, which was so beautiful and amazing. Many of the women in the village adorned us with handmade jewelry. “I wish I would have known this,” said Megan, “I wanted to be able to give them something to show my appreciation more than my very small vocabulary of thank you, and beautiful. After the opening ceremony we went to field to play games with the children. Futbol, volleyball, and spikey bush ball were all at play. “I’ll never forget three little boys throwing Velcro-like pokyballs at my shirt. The more they threw at me the more ammo I had to retaliate,” said Amanda. Everyone seemed to bond with the kids so quickly. Caitlyn said, “We were amazed how quickly the kids warmed up to us.” We headed home sweaty and tired, but exhilarated after a day of exciting events.
Today was our first official day of work. Some of the group was teaching English lessons, some went to villagers homes and interviewed them about different aspects of their and their families’ health, and the rest of the group was on construction. Anna said, “Today was our first day of work, and boy did we work! I don’t think I have ever worked so hard, it’s incredible that this is normal for the Anemone villagers.” Two construction projects commenced today. The first was building a bridge and the second was building the classroom for the kindergarteners. Aaron was on the team working on the kindergarten classroom today. He said, “There is something very profound about total strangers who don’t even speak the same language working together and sweating buckets together in order to build something for the education of children.” Lauren went into great detail of the process on building the bridge today. “Eight Americans, five Peruvians, one common goal…to build a bridge. The construction boss put us right to work framing and preparing the foundation for the bridge. Next came 25 buckets of sand bucket by bucket. Then cement was added and mixed by moving the pile three times. Little by little the mixture came to life and was ready to be set. After a long day of work we completed the bridge. We learned complete respect for the hard work and craft the individuals here do and have.” Today I (Kenzie Mitchell) had the opportunity to visit the homes of some of the villagers with Anne and Samantha and ask them about different aspects of their health. This was an amazing experience. I learned so much from where villagers get their water based on the location of their homes, to who in their family have suffered illnesses like Dengue and Malaria, to the methods of birth control the women of the village do and don’t use. I was very happily surprised to hear that some of the women do actually use pills to assist in family planning. They told me that they can go to the clinic down the river and get birth control for 5 soles (about 2 US dollars). Although this may not be affordable for all the women in the village, it was great to learn this information about the population we are working with so I can adjust my lesson on reproductive health accordingly. Again today was an amazing day full of hard work and smiling, amazing children to motivate us to keep working hard. We are looking forward to another day of these very rewarding experiences.
Raquel had a very amazing experience meeting with Flor the village doctor. This is what she said about that interaction. “Flor has been a “Practical nurse” for 20 years and she treated and cared for many of her people. The current clinic in the village is closed due to the need of repairs. The doors need locks, and she needs shelves and furniture to be able see patients. Flor lives next to the clinic so she provides service from her home or she travels to individuals homes. Flor dispenses minor antibiotics, treats diarrhea, vomiting, bronchitis, pneumonia, sutures lacerations, and delivers about 25 babies per year. She says she has not lost one of the babies in delivery. Flor is a grandmother and mother with a big heart. Often times she does not get paid. Occasionally the patient will bring her a chicken for payment and occasionally someone will give her a few soles. Flor buys her antibiotics or medicines she thinks she needs and she charges a small fee to recuperate her expense in order to buy more medicine. Flor has a great attitude, smiles often and she “goes with the flow” she does not seem to get over excited. She responds to needs and emergencies in a calm manner. When she gets very ill or injured she will help get them to the clinic or see someone else who can help them. Flor would love to have a functioning clinic. She says there is a great need for a clinic in her own community. Traveling to the main clinic in Yanamono is often difficult especially if it is in the evening or at night.” The work Flor is doing in this community is invaluable, and with the proper resources her work can continue to grow and benefit the community she lives in.
Today was our second day in the village. We started some new projects today. The first was pouring cement for the floor of the kindergarten. This was hard work. We had two piles going at a time. 10 buckets of sand to one bag of cement. We would move the pile back and forth four times to mix it, and then we would make a bowl out of the mixture, add water to the divot in the pile to mix it into concrete. This whole process was amazing to experience because of the ingenuity of the people. We don’t have something to mix it with? Just shovel the pile back and forth and it’s mixed. We don’t have a container to mix the water into it in? Just use the sand/cement mixture as a bowl. There is so much we can learn from the people we work with. The next project some of the group was working on was digging and flattening and area to make a cement sidewalk. Pablo Fiesta – a Mentor on our team– was a part of this group. He said, “I am one of the leaders of the brute squad. We have spent the day shoveling off grass and dirt in preparation to pour concrete. Most of us even worked during the rain storm in the afternoon. The women work harder than the men. My group is called Los Paublitos.” Don’t you worry moms your sons are working hard too! Emily Halliday was also part of that group. She talked about an exciting experience she had there today. “During construction, a fisherman came into the village with a stingray and he let us hold it, super cool!” Some of these experiences we get to have in this village are so novel and on any other trip, we wouldn’t be able to have them. Our interactions with the villagers are what make Youthlinc such an enriching experience. Rather than going to a country and seeing the tourist site, we have the opportunity to become enveloped by the culture of the country. That aspect of traveling is more enriching than a thousand tourist sites. The last project our group worked on today was the garden. The vocational committee took the reins on this and have transformed the area into the beginnings of an amazing garden. We are excited to see this garden develop as the week progresses.
Today was another day full of hard work and lots and lots of cement! While one group worked to finish mixing and pouring concrete for the floor of the kindergarten, another group did the same for the sidewalk. Everyone worked so hard in the morning, that by the time we came back in the afternoon we only had about two hours of work left on those projects. We started sawing and nailing the wood for the walls of the kindergarten, and it is starting to look awesome! Lyra started off her reflection with a quote by Pele “Success is no accident. It is hard work, perseverance, learning, studying, sacrifice, and most of all, love of what you are doing or learning to do.” This quote is very fitting for the work we are doing here. We may not be the world best ditch diggers, but we are working hard and we love the work we are doing Lyra then goes on to say “Today I had the opportunity to make a sidewalk. After the long process of mixing, we poured the cement into the assigned places. We were rewarded with a sidewalk that will forever help the village. This is a great experience, and I’m so glad this Youthlinc group is impacting these beautiful people’s lives.” Today we got to start planting in the garden. We had three rows ready to plant, but we have to wait for more fertilizer to plant the rest. We planted two rows of cilantro and one of tomatoes. The garden is really coming together, and it is exciting to see it materialize. This team is bonding so quickly, and it is amazing to see the relationships that are being built between people who were pretty much strangers less than a week ago.