A Multi Team Mission to Peru: November 2013
by Mike Safley
The team arrived in Peru 3 weeks before the Thanksgiving Holiday and left in time to rejoin their families for the traditional rituals of giving thanks and counting blessings. The 32 members some from as far away as Australia and England, formed 4 teams, worked at 9 different locations, saw 1890 patients offering free medical and dental care. Each team member experienced the gift of giving back.
2013 Macusani-Corani Team
TEAM 1: 10 members of this team visited one of the most remote areas of Peru that Quechua Benefit has ever seen. The narrow dirt roads often found the bus seemingly suspended over canyons dropping more than 1,000 feet to the silver ribbon of a river threading its way below. When the canyons gave way, a surreal plain of giant rock monolith’s appeared like an ancient stone forest protruding from a moonscape of dark brown clay and ichu grass.
Quechua patience waiting at the clinic
This mission was to the very heart of alpaca breeding in Peru and ended up in towns named Corani, Quelcaya and Aymana where Quechua was the predominate language. The doctors often spoke to patients through an English/Spanish translator who spoke to the Quechua translator who spoke to the patient and then listened as the process was reversed. When Alonso Burgos was told where we visited, he remarked that, “you have seen the end of the earth”.
This trip was unique in several other ways; 1) it was sponsored and paid for by Bear Creek Mining Company of Canada who are in the process of building a silver mine in the area. 2) Bear Creek has also partnered with Quechua Benefit to create an alpaca selection program called the Corani project that will utilize EPD’s to select breeding stock. Mike Safley accompanied the team and spent several days selecting 40 breeding males for the projects Plantel herd. 3) AOBA helped raise funds for this part of the mission to deliver disaster relief to the Corani area breeders who were at the heart of the freakish winter freeze that killed 30,000 alpacas and put many of the breeders lives at risk. The fundraising effort was conducted as a part of AOBA’s National Farm Day and was augmented by a grant from the German Alpaca Association (AAeB). All told they raised more than $7,400 and the team delivered more than 1000 warm garments and 1,000’s of antibiotic pills to ward of the after effects of the bone chilling cold.
TEAM MEMBERS: Dr. Dwight Bailey, Dr. Rhonda Deschner, Dr. Jim Anderson, Dr. Rachel Brauner, Ursula Munro RN, Bill Beranek, Mario Garcia, Patricia Gillotin, Cor Kester and Alejandro Tejeda
TEAM 2: 12 mission members set up shop in the Snowmass medical clinic and spent 5 days seeing 864 patients that either walked or were bused to the clinic from surrounding towns by the participating municipalities. This team featured Obstetricians, Pediatricians and Dentists.
Dr. Ed Fannon with Joyce Kester RN
This is the second year that a clinic was held onsite at the Snowmass Health Center and it allowed another opportunity for the local population to visit Casa Chapi and see the children and their life and care at the project in person. As Casa Chapi has become a successful reality the local community has embraced Quechua Benefit in a way that we have not experienced before. The local Municipality of Chivay recently funded the finish work to the upstairs of the clinic turning it into 2 large guest rooms, 2 staff apartments, a sitting area and 2 restrooms. These improvements will allow CASA Chapi to offer accommodations to folks who want to volunteer at the Children’s Village.
TEAM MEMBERS: Dr. Wayne Jarvis, Dr. Ed Fannon, Dr. Rebecca Levy, Dr. Megan Moran, Dr. Penelope Heyward, Joyce Kester RN, Shellie Clark RN, Jenny Lou, Kylee Thompson, Julie Safley, Katherine Safley and Sue Whitrow RN
Dr. Jim Gallagher, Quechua woman patient and Richard “Dick” Miller
TEAM 3: 8 mission members utilized Casa Chapi as their home base and made one day clinic trips to more remote towns in the valley including;
1)Tisco, 2) Tuti, 3)Corporaque and 4) Sibayo where they saw 430 patients. The clinic in Tisco was timed to occur on their weekly market day when a large number of alpaca breeders who live with their alpacas in the remote grazing areas that sustain their herds.
Team members have been going to Tisco for several years and they love people who walk many miles to see them and who seldom have the opportunity for the same health care that the folks living in the more populated areas of the Colca Valley enjoy. Everyone remarked that the criadors from Tisco were the most thankful of all the patients they saw.
TEAM MEMBERS: Dr. Jim Gallagher, Dr. Erin Meyer, Dr. Alana Rickard, Richard Miller, Diane Podvin, Mary Clark, Stephanie Pope and Patsy Reams
Katie Safley with Andrew Curtis and Aaron Marcellino of Hitchhiker Films interviewing Dr. Rhonda Deschner
Team 4: This team shadowed all of the first three teams shooting 7 days of film that will be crafted into a documentary about Quechua Benefit
and Casa Chapi. We will be scripting and editing the video over the next 3 months and it will hopefully be showing soon at a gathering close to you.
TEAM MEMBERS: Aaron Marcellino and Andrew Curtis fromHitchhiker Pictures and Mike Safley.
Finally this mission would have not been possible without Quechua Benefits team on the ground in both Peru and the United States. Carla Villanueva works out of the Arequipa office and handled hotels reservations, bus transportation, safe meals, in country airline reservations and coordinated all of the international travel documents with Steve Johnson who organized the state side planning and logistics
Padre Marcos, Mike Safley,, Arch Bishop Javier del Rio Alba, Mario Garcia, Dr. Dwight Bailey and
such as allocating the medicine for the missionaries to pack to Peru, Medical credential certifications, communication and Steve was also the general go to persons with pre mission questions that ranged
from, “do I need altitude sickness pills?” (Yes) “to what clothes should I
bring” (Think layers) and “how much money will I need” (Not much) and “is the water safe to drink?” (No).
Alejandro Tejada is the Quechua Benefit project manager on the ground and among other
things he was the construction superintendent of Casa Chapi, coordinator of the Corani project and the liaison with all of the Peruvian agency’s with which Quechua Benefit interacts. On this mission alone Alejandro negotiated agreements with the Peruvian Health Ministry, The Minister of Education, the cities of Sibayo, Corani, Tuti, Chivay, Corporaque, the college of medicine in Lima, the customs bureau and the Catholic Arch Bishop of Arequipa.
Quite simply this multi team, multi town, multi Peruvian Government approvals would not have happened without Carla, Steve and Alejandro.
Day 4 in Peru November 12, 2013
Here are photos of the Children’s Village of Casa Chapi. Think of a small school campus in the middle of a wide spot in the road surrounded by nothing but vacant land and mountains. As you enter the beautiful red gates, the first building is a community center where the children gather to do dances and crafts. Then there’s a garage and maintenance building. Farther to the right are two green houses. In the central area are the medical clinic on the left and the dinning hall and director’s office in the building on the right. Further up on the mountain are four cottages for the students. Each cottage has 5 double bedrooms, two bathrooms, and a study room. The children are mixed ages and genders, from 4 years old to 12 years old. They live with a godmother called a Madrina. Beyond the cottages is an area with three alpacas, so the children feel more at home.
There are multiple teams that function independently every day. Our team in the town of Chivay splits into two every day. One stays at Casa Chapi, the Childrens Village, and sees people for free medical and dental care from that town and the surrounding area. The other half travels at least an hour to an outlying and smaller town (a different one every day) to see those local people. The other intact team is based many hours away in a place called Maccusani, which is the area many alpacas came from that were imported from Peru. They, too, split into two halves, and one team stays at a home base, and one goes to an outlying area. It means all the pharmacy meds travel with the travelling teams every day. I stay at Casa Chapi all the time. Between the 34 Children and over 20 staff, I am seeing each one of them, and some have asked to see me repeatedly. I work with an interpreter. When I am not seeing counseling clients, I work in the pharmacy dispensing the perscription meds. It is a very good balance of work. We usually leave our small hotel in town about 7:30 AM, and return around 9:00 PM.
Days 2 and 3 in Peru Nov 10 and 11, 2013
We have arrived in the town of Chivay and had our first full day with the medical clinic open to the public at the childrens village of Casa Chapi of the Quechua Benefit. Last night we sorted thousands of packages of donated medications that each of the 25 of us brought with us. We sorted, stocked shelves, and organized a whole clinic in several hours. This morning we arrived to swarms of hugs and kisses from the 34 children who live here. As we opened the gates to local families for whom this might be the only medical care they ever get, I stationed myself in the pharmacy. After a quick tutorial from the doctors as to what a perscription meant, I began filling perscriptions as patients were being seen. Talk about a crash course as a pharmasist! In the afternoon I met with the director and planned a way for me to see each child individually and all the staff before the end of the week. This afternoon I saw 10 children one on one. Thank you St. Pauls United Church of Christ again for the puppets. They are a hit doing counseling with the children. We are at 12,000 ft altitude, but I am doing fine, and my energy is good for these full days.
Just more pictures! The town of Chivay is so poor, and this amazing childrens village rises up like shinning star of hope. Some of our volunteers are crammed into the bus that leaves at 7.30 am to get us there. And of course, more pictures of the resident children.
Day 1 in Peru November 9, 2013
Here we are at Arequipa Airport waiting for our luggaage to be loaded. Each of those suitcases is 50 pounds filled with medicine or donated clothes. These men hoisted them up on top of this van and drove us to our hotel. There are 25 of us. Some will go to the coal mines near Maccusani, and others, including me, will go to Chivay. This will be our only brush with a city, so naturally, I went to the town park and then joined new friends for a Pisco sour and the most delicious cerviche ever. Tonight we will all have dinner together. I am so happy being in Peru again. This is my 6th visit, and just wonderful. Tomorrow we go by bus to Chivay and begin our work.
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Almost 25 years ago I had my first of many trips to Peru where I became Mom to Joanna and Ruthie, my precious children. I am returning to Peru in 12 days to join a faith-based medical mission to the poorest regions of Peru as counselor for the children and families served by the Quechua Benefit. I want to keep you updated with my journey, and begin by thanking St. Paul’s United Church of Christ in Westminster, MD, whose Seeker’s and Bible Study adult education classes are making generous donations to my journey. Thank you also to Carolyn Puckett and Michael Teare for their individual gifts. I am a little anxious about this, my first mission trip, but also excited. I’ll be sharing about this wonderful charity in the days to come so you might join me in spirit. You can go online at http://quechuabenefit.org/ to learn more about this 17 year old benefit born of the kind response of my fellow North American alpaca owners and breeders to a tiny sport in the world with such need.