The Little Things
It’s been quite a week. I expected to kick off the new school year with my youth groups and move forward on a new healthy homes theme with local mothers. My email inbox* was uncomfortably full of memos, secondary projects, and other seemingly important things I should be doing in my spare time. My plans were re-arranged when I developed exorcism-of-Emily-Rose-style vomiting and diarrhea.
So, I rescheduled sessions, postponed meetings, and did my best to ignore my inbox while I dealt with my body’s revolt of something I ate. (In what appears to be both a blessing and curse, Ian is traveling this week to help with training events. He was spared my grossness, but now the whole town thinks I was sick because he’s gone. Sigh.) My host mom brought me chicken broth, I watched a shameful amount of The Wire, and eventually I called the Peace Corps doctors in Lima for some medicine to fix my intestines. I thought this week was for the birds, but then today brought a blessing. Coincidentally, today also marks 18 months in Perú.
When I first met Yolanda in September, she was three months pregnant. Her reality isn’t uncommon in this corner of the world: she’s 17, single, and she already has a three-year-old daughter. For the past six months or so, I’ve been working with mothers, including Yolanda, in a nearby village named Shipata. In this community one in three children are malnourished. All of the children are anemic. The list goes on.
Therefore, in coordination with the Peace Corps health promotion program and local institutions, community health promoters and I have been conducting a healthy homes project to support at-risk families in this community. The campaign includes educational sessions, small in-home modifications, and regular household visits with the family. Fundamentally though, we’re working to modify behaviors. We want the families to adopt healthy practices regarding sanitation, nutrition, family planning, and early childhood stimulation. It’s slow work, but we’re making progress, little by little. I hear mothers talk to each other about their children’s medical appointments. I see children washing their hands with soap. I watch mothers add protein to their child’s plate.
This afternoon, a friend knocked on my front door to A) see if I was still alive (with Ian gone), and B) let me know that Yolanda just gave birth to a healthy baby girl. She said Yolanda wanted me to visit her in the health center. Maternal mortality rates are high in Amazonas; however, this time Yolanda chose to give birth in the health center with a medical team instead of at home without a midwife or medical professional. The newborn’s weight is normal, which is another incredibly important first step. Mom is healthy; baby girl is healthy. The little changes are finally starting to add up. Many people and institutions played a role in this happy beginning. I’m so grateful I got small part in it.
Later, Yolanda honored me by asking if I would take some photos of her with the little one. (Her name is to be decided.) Here are a few of my favorites:
*I know, right? Emails in the Peace Corps. Not what I expected either.