Tag Archives: Latin America

Sarah Sexton: “Promotion of Health Access in Peru’s Sacred Valley”

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As I placed my feet onto the red-eye flight to Lima, Peru I instantly felt a rush of emotions that had been building up in my stubborn self for several months. From the discussions of packing to the safety concerns from my family, it was not until my long flight that I started to consider what I had gotten myself into. The next 24 hours of travel that involved several plane transfers, unsafe cars, donkeys, and wagons proved to become a microcosm of the adventures I had voluntarily placed myself in for the next few months.

As a health education coordinator working for Sacred Valley Health in Ollantaytambo, Peru, it was my responsibility to develop and train community health workers (promotoras) in 7 surrounding communities. With little knowledge about the communities, I found my first day hiking 8 hours with a Peruvian nurse to quickly learn about my main areas of focus. Let me say that hiking over 14,000 ft. passes and extreme conversation barriers leaves a lot of time to think, and a lot of time to complain about your aching legs. In fact, the majority of my time in Peru was spent in solitude trekking across the mountains, riding donkeys across the passes, or more commonly hitchhiking in the back of an animal truck just praying to get back to my village. Everyday I left my home in Ollantaytambo, never knowing what danger I may face, or if I would make it down the mountain alone. If I wasn’t hiking or up working in one of my communities, my time was spent in my own village. This often included hour-long meals eating guinea pig, being chased by rabid dogs, or more simply just living out underneath the beauty of the stars. With zero electricity, I didn’t have any modern conveniences such as a hot shower, running toilet, or even a normal sleeping arrangement for several months. Despite the hardships that I faced, these were the three best months of my life, and I am yearning for the moment that I can return.

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Kelsey Ludwig: “It’s like wearing new glasses”

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I took my first medical anthropology course during the spring semester of my freshman year.  I realized I was hooked to the field in the middle of a lecture in Professor Rivkin-Fish’s Comparative Healing Systems class.  As I recall, we were discussing an anthropological explanation of the transition from the era of midwifery prevalence to the rise of obstetrics and gynecology as a male-dominated, biomedical “profession.”  Previously, I had been drawn to the natural sciences and their steadfast faith in the scientific-method, evidence-based research and the like.  Fortunately, my first medical anthropology class – and the many that ensued – opened my eyes and my mind to the extremely complex nature of human beings and the way the world works in general.  Though we may like to view the world as regimented, consistent and predictable; this is rarely the case.  I continued to learn this lesson throughout my college career and have carried it with me into what many call “the real world.”

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