By Jennifer Tridgell
Everyday at 10am in the Quilla Huata school, the Health and Hygiene team kicks into action. Five Macquarie students are responsible for washing the children’s hands, arms and faces, drying them and applying moisturiser. Before we have even finished setting up, the children are eagerly getting into line. Seeing them so enthusiastic about the process gives us hope that learning these sanitation practices will help reduce the incidence of diseases. Warts, infected feet from ill-fitting shoes and malnourishment are just some common health challenges. Prevention is also part of the health regime, with cracked skin from the cold mountain air being moisturised daily to prevent infection.
Once a child has finished Health and Hygiene, she sits at the wooden picnic tables, awaiting her bowl of fruit salad. This nutritious morning tea is thanks to Peru’s Challenge and is followed by lunch; it teaches the children about healthy eating and gives them a decent meal so that they are able to concentrate in lessons. Selvy, the co-founder of Peru’s Challenge, told us that the children of Pumamarca used to walk over two hours without breakfast to school in Cusco, whereupon they promptly fell asleep from exhaustion. Since Peru’s Challenge built a school in Pumamarca, the easier commute and regular nutritious food have helped the children to excel academically. Last year, the school placed first in the region for dance.
During the second week, Selvy began inviting small groups of Macquarie students on house visits around Quilla Huata. As part of Peru’s Challenge, the ‘Project for Life’ initiative identifies families who are most in need within the community, pays monthly house visits and helps them overcome certain obstacles. This assistance may take the form of food, sourcing medication or rebuilding damaged houses. On this particular occasion, we were delivering groceries to Angelica, a single mother of four young children. She invited us warmly into her mud-brick hut, which had dirt floors, smoke-blackened walls and a bare cooking shelf. Despite the conditions, they did not want sympathy, but instead looked hopefully towards the future.
This single room had previously functioned as a kitchen, living area and bedroom. Peru’s Challenge built a bedroom and bought beds, so that they were able to be elevated off the cold, damp ground. Despite the circumstances, Angelica was doing her best and her children were happy and healthy. Peru’s Challenge will continue to support her as greenhouses are built for flower cultivation, which Angelica can sell at the markets. This sustainable source of income will ensure that her children can continue their education and her family will have enough to eat.
Construction of the classroom is right on schedule. Having finished insulating the roof with bamboo, this week was dedicated to plastering the roof, walls and ourselves. After four days, I resemble a snowwoman, but the workers now praise my plastering technique as ‘professional.’ You could say that flicking the plaster is a “wristy” business. Despite the language barrier, we have developed a real camaraderie with the workers. Every Friday, we have a soccer match on the boggy field outside the school with mixed teams of Macquarie students and workers. For an hour, mud flies, the football is kicked enthusiastically and occasionally, goals are scored.
As the weeks pass, the Macquarie students are becoming better and closer friends. On the weekends, we have experienced the beauty and culture of Peru by touring Cusco and hiking around Sacred Valley. Wherever we go, views of the Andean mountains are peaking. During the week, after lesson planning and Spanish classes, we explore the cobbled alleyways, quaint cafes and gilded museums of Cusco.
Team Morale has really being keeping true to their name, introducing a Fairy Godmother system over the last week. Upon drawing a name out of a hat, that person becomes your ‘giant,’ to whom you had to be especially nice, support and compliment. Fairy godmothers have left sweet notes and chocolates on their giants’ pillows, complimented their hard work at construction and helped out with jobs around the house. I’m so lucky to be surrounded by such beautiful and thoughtful people.
Until next time, adios!