19TH June- 30th June
Before you get my next update I thought I would give you a flavour of the present moment and tell you what I am now ready to start working on. Unfortunately James and I have had to put working with the schools on hold until further notice. This is to allow us to add more value to the NGO. The short time we have had in the communities though has given us a bit of an insight into the culture and what the current state of play is re our work there.
There are a number of things I feel are right for me to do while I am here. I have mentioned (I think) about helping set up a structure that will allow Living Heart to grow thus helping other very needy remote communities that we know are out there.
From a healthcare perspective, and something I need to look at quickly, I want to get a simple Dental Project set up (i.e. a toothbrush and toothpaste for every child in the school) with a view to encouraging dentists to visit these communities (we have annual GP visits only at the moment). By having a toothbrush and toothpaste for every child you don’t distinguish between those who have and those who haven’t. In one school we were working in the new pronoei (nursery) teacher had bought them herself for the children in her class and was showing them how to use them. We have this set up in our Scottish schools (or certainly the one lovely little school I visited) so why shouldn’t these children have the same opportunity. Living heart is providing them with a great diet and we are about to extend that into the community by building greenhouses that can withstand the cruel weather (see below for the latest freak weather and the results of it!!). We will teach the children and parents how to grow and cook the vegetables so they can get the most from them. So back to my Dental Project - that’s 5 communities I need to fundraise for toothbrushes and toothpaste. The other small but vital thing missing is hygiene. The school directors have encouraged a real respect for their schools with the children helping to clean out the classrooms, in some cases taking off their shoes before they enter the classroom. When they want to go to the toilet they always ask you " Permisio Profesora" and wait to see if that is OK. This means they can take a soap dish with them to wash their hands before they come back. I can hear you saying “No, they won’t do that. They are kids!” Well I can tell you “Yes they will!” I started taking soap as well as antibacterial gel with me for myself and the minute I brought it out they all wanted to use it. I had to bring bigger bars of soap! Having spoken to the directors and teachers I know they will encourage and enforce this. I reckon approximately 4 bars of soap and soap dishes (of course) for each the classroom should do it. So currently we have 5 communities and schools (of about 100 kids in each) we work in so if anyone wants to help me please let me know by e mail, facebook, a message on the blog site or through our Living heart newsletter, blog etc. The other thing I need to work on ASAP is funding for the contraceptive programme. The injections are the best and most popular here so I must find a way to:
1. Get access to injections on a regular basis and
2. A regular source of funding for them.
The difference this reduction in unwanted pregnancies is making is incredible.It is the men who are coming forward and saying thank you!! How good is that!!!!
I also need to prepare a sheet of the drugs they currently have, when to give them and for what symptoms depending on the age (child to adult). We can get it laminated (I hope) for the school directors to use. We receive donations and supply some reasonably strong drugs to the school director for the children and these communities to use, hopefully catching minor infections at an early stage. I am not convinced though that a conversation with Rita, our local nurse, on how to use them and for what infection etc, will be remembered!!
Once we have all this is place it will make our health programme in the communities more complete.
All that should keep me busy for a little while.
So back to what I have been up to:
With all the noise of the festivals and winter nights getting colder I had been looking to move house. When I spoke to my landlord I decided to move room instead. Much easier considering the junk I had gathered up. The room was at the back of the house (although the central courtyard meant you could still hear some of the noise.) It had an ensuite (hand held shower though) but was brighter and warmer (well usually when the sun was out). I decided to try this for a while to see if things got better.
On the weekend of the 18th I really felt the need to get into the mountains. At home I climb our little hills/ mountains as often as I can. I get a real sense of joy and peace when I am in the mountains. I had spoken to a number of the guys to see if they knew the way to La Crux then Annabelle phoned me to say someone would show us so we set off on Saturday. Stephanie, my temporary flatmate came too. You definitely needed someone to show you as the path wasn’t clear. It took us about 2-3 hours (just because some walk slower than me) but the view from the top was lovely. You get a great view of Chicon – the glazier behind Urubamba. I’ll post some pics soon. I really must find a way to do a bit more of this. On Sunday Stephanie was going to Pisac market so I decided to join her. It was a lovely day and the views as you travel to Pisac are just stunning..well actually they are stunning on most of the journeys. What is a real shame is the amount of rubbish at the sides of the road. When the bus stops at bigger towns usually women on children are selling ice lollies (we can’t have them ) popcorn, cake etc. If the bus driver is kind he lets them on the bus, otherwise goods and money are passed through the windows. Often the plastic or paper the food comes in is then flung out the window are we drive along! Que pena ..it is such a shame!! The Sunday market in Pisac is famous and huge. It is so colourful with lots of things you can buy. I treated myself to a pair of slippers but couldn’t find a jumper to fit. Whilst browsing a young boy in traditional dress shook my trouser leg. I looked down and it was one of the pupils from one of the remote schools. He asked me when we were coming back so I told him the following week. It was sooo lovely to see that little smiling face. I didn’t realise at that point my next visit would be the last for a little while. Getting back from Pisac proved to be a interesting. All the buses were only going as far as Calca which was 40mins from Urubamba. Eventually after the 3rd bus passed I decided we should get on one and see if we could get a collectivo from Calca which you usually can through the week. It turned out this wasn’t really an option late on a Sunday afternoon! Fortunately another couple of women whom I recognised got on the same bus so we haggled for a taxi in Calca to get back.
Time was marching on for our Nestle deadline. I had asked Jess and James for their sections for the Monday and we would all meet at Sonia’s to hopefully pull it all together. We needed things from the NGO computer to complete the work. Unfortunately as the office space is a room off someone’s living space we weren’t allowed to use the office. Sonia’s house was about to have new roof put on it so everything was being packed up so that wasn’t an option so eventually we ended up working in the shade outside for as long as our laptop batteries could cope...not the easiest way to have a meeting!! As usual things didn’t go to plan and we got some work done but not enough. James and I had schools for the next 2 days so Jess was going to do what she could with her sections. On Tuesday James and I duly got up at 5am for the 6am bus to Pisac and waited for the professor to arrive. He arrived to say we weren’t needed as it was sport’s day!! It was freezing in Pisac so I had my puffa jacket on. When we got on the bus the sun had come out so it was really warm as we travelled back. The spaces between the seats were tight so when I took my jacket off I couldn’t put it into my rucksack. We got off in hurry at the Grifo (petrol station) and it must have slipped down without me realising. I completely forgot about it until much later that day. I did check at the bus terminal but it was not there needless to say. I only hope it was taken by someone who really needed it!... Oh well!!
We decided to make good use of the day so James came back to my house and we continued to work on Nestle. I was at the stage I needed them to cast their eye over it and give me their critical opinion. James gave me some bits he thought needed changed around. I also still had the last 2 sections to do. Section 1 was the really meaty bit and I had rewritten it so many times in completely different styles! I did a full day on Nestle and James left to work on his greenhouse project with Alma. It was proving to be less straight forward than we had first been led to believe. James had a good mentor though who was helping him with that.
On Wednesday we did manage to get to the schools. This was the really early morning start 4am for the 5am bus..eek . I still hate this one!! If you had your own motorbike you could sleep a little longer. Anyway we had a really good day in the school. We had a little competition for them. To colour in Heart’s Cafe. Then decorate their page with pictures. Some did the jungle theme we had been doing some did where they stay. They were really colourful and a couple of the kids are really good at free drawing. I still have the prizes for the winners so will have to make a trip to give them out. I decide I’d take tangerines for the rest. Our walk down that afternoon was a little longer than before as there were no taxis so we walked for about 2 hours. I actually felt it the next day..just shows how stiff I am getting..not good. Nestle took over our lives for the next week. Apart from the weekend....
I sooo needed a break so I went to Cusco on Friday afternoon in the hope of seeing the Inti Raymi (Festival of the Sun) celebrations, I had mentioned in my last blog. This is huge here and runs for about a week with lots of marches etc. Unfortunately when I finally reached Sachsaywaman where it was being held on the Friday it was 4pm. I had spent 2 hours on the bus and the guards wouldn’t let any of us cross to the stones so we had to walk down the road. It was seemingly one way by that time..Oh well maybe another time. On the bus a funny thing happened. I turned round at some movement in the aisle to see the tiniest little pup wandering up the aisle. It then squatted down and peed down the bus..everyone just laughed although I had to open my window to let the urine smell out!! I had called Carol to see if I could stay. She had been at the celebrations with the 3 kids all day so was heading home. I joined her there as I had my big rucksack and didn’t fancy carting it around a very busy Cusco. Lara (her daughter) showed me her photos. During all the dancing they pretend to slaughter a llama (which was obviously done for real years ago). They have also turned the fountain in the Plaza de Armas into an Inca king on top of a giant rock, for the centenary of Machu Picchu. Lots of people are queuing to get their photos taken there. Paul had been away for about 6 weeks, off and on, getting ready for the film crew and Robson Green. Ultimate fishing was coming to Peru! This week was the filming and as Paul had warned them it did not run as smoothly as they had hoped!! The fisherman had said June was the worst month to come but they came anyway. They tried to save a little money by booking their own (nonflexible) tickets. It ended up costing them a lot more as needless to say timelines changed! Poor Paul was wrung out as had to be on full alert and change things at a moment’s notice. They constantly wanted to know what was being said in Spanish. I laughed when he told me, they had asked him “What did the fisherman say?” He told them “There are no fish”. They asked, “Why are there no fish?” ...I don’t think there is an answer to that.
On the Friday and Saturday nights I chilled at their house with some beer and wine. It was lovely and Carol and Paul have a fire so it was sooo cosy - a real treat for me. The kids are great..On a Sat or Sun morning when you come down they have made a den or a shop or something, depending on what they have been watching, with whatever cushions/ rugs/ mattresses etc they can find.... Yes, I have even saw a little television! Not missing it in the slightest actually and haven’t even watched a video yet. I’m just reading a book, working on the computer or sleeping. You definitely sleep a lot more here.
On Sat I was meeting Jess to catch up with someone who we will be applying to for a grant. She is from America but travelling just now. She gave us some useful insights into how to set up the application and I think we can go for something quite grand if Sonia is up for it! It is one of her visions for Living Heart so we shall see. We also needed to go over Nestle and Jess made up a fictitious meeting to try to keep the other one short. It didn’t work we had to stand up and pretend to go. We were just taking our coats back off when she came back and asked for a picture!! Oops!! She was really nice but wanted to spend the weekend with me! Anyway we got Nestle out the way and went shopping. There were a number of things I needed including some clothes so we had a bit of fun. I could only use my credit card once though before it blocked. It’s the first time I have used it since arriving so will need to check it out. We really had fun...a girlie day. Jess hasn’t been shopping with a girl in a long time. I bought a pair of pumps as I am fed up wearing my trainers after 8 weeks! I’ll go back to the market and get some trainers later as the pumps will not last if I am outwith the town on the rough dusty roads. I had to buy a new puffa jacket after losing it. I got a North Face fake for 52 solis (£13) so not bad for just now. Mind you trying to get things small enough for me is a problem. I shouldn’t complain though.
On the Sunday Carol and Paul were taking the kids white water rafting.My first reaction was I must do Nestle then I thought how often will I get a chance to do this. ...Yes I went and we had a ball! It was a lovely day to be on the water. The hard bit was pumping up the raft and “ducky” – an inflatable kayak. A friend Katie, who is 7 months pregnant, came. It wasn’t major rapids but enough to get soaked and create some excitement. Katie and I were rowing at each side of the raft when Paul instructed us to. I also got put into the kayak and had to figure it out..but I managed quite well I think. I got back to Urubamba about 7pm and started work on Nestle!!
Nestle was finally sent on Thursday morning (the last possible day) but it has really tested us all! We all worked from 9am to 7pm with a short break for lunch (I then worked on until 11pm) on Monday. This was the day I put all the word documents onto the application form and got them printed out allowing us to read it through in its entirety. Jess and James dissected all my sections and I read and commented on theirs. Mine was the bulk of the application and all prose whereas theirs were more facts and figures. It was particularly hard to sit there and listen to them dissect my work I must admit! Until we got it set up in the application form (at long last!!) it was difficult to see what was duplicated and needed tightening up. They didn’t change huge sections and everyone’s interpretation and idea of how it should be set out are different but the final result was something we were all proud of. I thought we were there with Nestle on Tuesday and was just waiting on one section to check, when Jess phoned me in quite a state. She couldn’t find the only copy of our work from the day before!! After lots of calls I suggested she took it to a computer expert in Cusco ASAP. It turned out she had picked up a “Trojan Horse” virus that was eating its way through her files!!! She thought she had Norton proper but what she had only covered a small amount as it wasn’t the full paid up version. Apart from losing all the Nestle stuff she had been preparing contracts for the other grant we are hoping to get; translating documents etc for meetings that week....All were lost!! I phoned James and told him we would have to pull out of the schools and redo our Monday work. As it turned out it was a school holiday which we hadn’t known about so the director had phoned James to tell us not to come. On Wednesday we got through my first 4 sections quite quickly – within 4 hours but it took us until 7pm to redo the missing sections and reread for any minor amendments. We managed to give Jess some space to redo some of her documents too which was good. Once James and Jess had left I made the amendments and sent them to Jess. This wasn’t the end of it, as the endorsements hadn’t been scanned in at that point and our total size for the application was to be a maximum of 5MB. At 11.45pm I got a frantic call from Jess. She had sent me a copy through and it was 9.2MB!! I had provided the pics and had shrunk them. To help I shrunk them even further. The problem was all the endorsements were too big so some would have to go. I suggested which ones I thought but told her to leave it until tomorrow. We couldn’t lose it all now!! Poor Jess was caffeined up on too much coffee and no food and was beside herself. She and James had a meeting the next morning so I suggested she could look at it with him then and send it before lunch. There were things James needed to look at in his budget anyway and I wasn’t about to tamper with that! When I called James he was in a nightclub thinking all was done so no use to us at that hour. Anyway all was well and it got sent off. Even if we don’t get it (we’ll be up against a huge number of other applications) it is going to form the basis of lots of changes we need to make, tightening up things and recommencing things Sonia thinks are being done and not!! This is because Sonia can no longer go to the mountains and these really high altitudes so has to rely on what she is told. It also has given us a real insight on what we will build on for a strong foundation for the future.
To top it all the local nurse went a-wall for 4 days during this!! If we had been any bigger it would have caused chaos..It was bad enough as it was, with a food buy needing done for one of the communities!! Discussions will be had when the time is right!
My work here, I feel, is around supporting the setting up of a management structure and training to allow them to grow. Jess, Sonia and I will work really closely together to first decide what all needs to be done and then prioritise who will do what and when. That will help us all. I have told Sonia I need time to go back over my notes etc as they are not very organised at the moment, to see what I have identified already.
Sonia and Jess will do the same and we should hopefully cover everything off.
A couple more blogs to follw and you will be up to date.