Updates from January

Work-wise, I have spent most of January helping Dra. Velez setup the SubCentro de Salud that we will be working out of, and trying to start up the community groups for Los Tillales. Like I mentioned last time I wrote, the SubCentro has been neglected for quite some time. While we did get cleaned up at the beginning of February, there was still a lot more logistics to deal with. The two big tasks we’ve been working on for the last 3 weeks or so: inventory, and stocking the pharmacy. The doctora had to submit an inventory of everything in the subcentro; right down to how many tongue depressors were there. The second big thing was reorganizing and stocking the pharmacy. When people come to the subcentro de salud, because it is part of the Ministry of Health, there are certain medicines that are available to patients for free. Every subcentro has a pharmacy, so after you visit the doctor, you can walk over and (theoretically) get the medicines you need. They don’t have everything, but its seems like they have all of the important stuff: birth control, vitamins, blood pressure, basic antibiotics, etc. We finally got everything set last week! I also have being TRYING to set up the women’s groups, youth groups, and kid’s group. I went door to door with invites for everyone, but attendance has been a little small compared to the number of people who signed up and said they were interested. I think part of the reason is the rain. Now that we are into rainy season, it doesn’t rain all day here, but it does rain every day. And even though it rains every day, and you would think everyone would be used to it, they still don’t like going out in the rain. Everyone pretty much stays in their houses until it passes. So that fact that it was down pouring during the meetings probably didn’t help. Hopefully attendance will grow once I get back from the States. The only group that has really strong attendance so far is the kids group, probably because it is most of the kids I have been working with in the reading group. They are so great, and it is so fun and rewarding working with them. Last week I had them do personal flags; a collage of things they like, their families, etc. It was a difficult task for them; as I anticipated. Here in Ecuador, creativity and critical thinking are not a huge part of the curriculum for grade school like it is in the States. It’s more about memorizing and repeating, being able to fill in the blank, choose the right answer. So when I told the kids they had to draw things that defined them, things that they liked or experienced, they were baffled. The kept asking for more specific directions, and once they finally did start drawing, they kept asking me if they were doing it right… and I kept saying “yes, because it’s impossible to do it wrong!” Afterwards, I had everyone present their work, which is another thing that they are absolutely not used to. They were super nervous about it; I actually let 2 girls present together because they were just too afraid to do it by themselves. They ARE getting better at speaking in front of the group though, which is great to see.

Another highlight from January was my tech exchange with my friend Kerry. Kerry lives in a rural community in the mountains of Cañar, about 3 hours from Cuenca. A tech exchange is an opportunity for volunteers and communities to learn from each other. I went to Kerry’s site to teach her community about the environment and the importance of reducing and reusing material. On the way to Kerry’s site, I got to stop in Cuenca and see Lauren, my friend from Stonehill. It was nice to see her again, meet her friends, and see where she’s living. While I was in Kerry’s site, we co-taught the kids in her community’s school about reducing the amount of garbage we produce, and how we can reuse some of the things we consume. Though some of the classes were a bit difficult, for the most part it was quite fun… the little kids were the CUTEST. I also taught Kerry’s girl’s group how to make wallets out of potato chip bags or soda labels, which I learned from a 3rd year volunteer, Olenka. It was nice to pass on knowledge about such a cool little project. Aside from the tech stuff, it was just great to hang out with Kerry. She doesn’t have cell phone service and her nearest internet is about 2.5 hours away, so I don’t get to talk with her very often! She also has an adorable puppy, which is a plus obviously.

Qué más, Qué más? In January, I found out that I was accepted into Peace Corps Ecuador’s Peer Support Network. I was thrilled to be accepted and it is a program that I am very excited about. Next week, I am heading to Quito for some training the PSN… I am excited for it, but it’s also kind of awkward timing… I get to Quito Wednesday, leave Saturday, and then about a week later I will be on my way to the U.S.! I can’t believe I only have 2 weeks left until vacation!!!

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