I am Andrew, “The Intern,” from Texas. I am the first official intern for CU Peru. As a second year MPH student at Baylor University, I was searching for an organization to intern with to wrap up my last semester. I was looking for an established organization working in global/international health. I didn’t want to settle for just any internship to finish the MPH. I wanted to feel connected. I wanted to work with an organization where it felt natural to adopt their mission wholeheartedly. I wanted to surround myself with like-minded people, with friends, and with community. I wanted to fuel my passion for connecting with people through health, health education, and service.
I had visited Denver a few times before and always enjoyed it, so naturally I found myself looking here. It is a big city, yet close to the mountains. It has music, craft beer, coffee, bicycles, down jackets, down-to-earth people, and enough outdoor activities to satisfy every weekend warrior’s calling. When I found CU Peru, I was immediately riveted – it seemed to be everything I was searching for: community health education in the Peruvian Amazon, sustainable interventions starting with the community, it was community-based, and a collaborative project. I also have family in Iquitos. I am studying Community Health Education. I had been reading about work exactly like this in books and I have always want to be more involved, to serve, and to learn more about public health in a global setting. I realized this could be it. This could be the meaningful experience I was hoping and praying for!
First stop Iquitos, Peru for winter 2015 training.
Two months later I found myself on a plane to Lima. Five other members and I had volunteered to implement CU Peru’s second annual winter training. Despite the hustle and bustle of a fast paced city, we arrived safely at the Nativa Apartments. A couple of us were acquainted before, but for the most part our friendships started there in a small hostel room in Iquitos. We came from different places, we studied different subjects, and had differing backgrounds in Spanish. One thing was consistent: we were there together to serve Peruvian Community Health Workers (CHWs) and to further represent and carry out the mission and values of CU Peru. From that moment on I knew I had found my people (and there were 20 more back in Colorado)!
Broken down to its simplest terms, the goal of our trip was to deliver the curriculum in Mazán and to strengthen relationships with our partnering organizations. During the week preceding our training we were collecting supplies, finalizing documents, reading and re-reading curricula, having meetings with the Ministry of Health (MINSA) and with SOCIEMAP, and refining logistics.
Despite some minor logistical speed bumps associated with working in such a remote location, the promoters received the training well. MINSA and SOCIEMAP were both present and helped by teaching various topics; in addition, they both expressed an interest to be more involved in future trainings. We had 50 promoters in attendance and they were excited for us to be there. In the back of my mind I felt like they knew how far we had traveled and how much we had invested in making this trip possible. They were all eager to learn new topics and solidify old themes, and I am confident that they did just that. Some were new to being promoters, and others were experienced and had a wealth of prior knowledge. Most of the promoters are farmers or fisherman and volunteer their time and effort as promoters. As a promoter, they are unpaid government workers; they are volunteers with a huge responsibility. They work hard to provide for their families and they are also responsible for monitoring the health for their respective communities –they are selfless. This speaks volumes as to what kind of hearts and minds these people have. These men and women are the foundation of good community health.
On the last day of training we held a certificate ceremony where we presented each promoter with his or her official certificate of completing their health education training. This certificate is a source of pride and empowerment to them. You could see it in their eyes and faces. You could see the excitement. At that moment I realized why CU Peru does what it does and I realized how I came to be there. Simply put, there is a need. I am not just a young college mind seeing and experiencing the poverty and the health disparities in a developing country and saying these people need help. Promoters are the foundation for the health care system out in these remote villages. There is a need for these promoters to be supported with materials, supplies, and basic knowledge of the fundamentals of primary care in a remote setting (e.g. home visits, healthy practices, preventive measures, warning signs of serious diseases, basic supportive care, basic clinical assessments, first aid, water treatment, and hygienic practices), because without these basic tools it is difficult to serve and care casino for their communities’ health. Their jobs are indispensible. These men and women are humans with dignity and hearts and minds just like you and me and they deserve well-earned respect. Fulfilling a need in a place like this requires more than money and power. It requires approaching the situation/problem with the people and strategically thinking how we can work together to solve the issues in a culturally competent and sustainable way. I truly believe CU Peru is doing just that, and as an organization they are always striving for quality improvement. We are there to partner with the already existing local health care systems and deliver these trainings. We could not do this without the help of the local health officials and local medical students. We are therefore a collaborative project working together to provide health education essentials to these promoters. We are showing them the respect they deserve.
Every adventure starts with an idea, and every idea becomes a dream. My adventure to Peru started with an idea a few years ago that I one day I would go back as a professional and participate in community health work. I didn’t know the details, but I knew I would go back to serve. My classes didn’t prepare me for every aspect of being in Peru. Some things I just had to be there to experience. The work it takes to organize and host a training session for 50 people is tough. The cliché, “Teamwork makes the dream work,” proved to be true once again. This training could not have happened without CU Peru, SOCIEMAP, and MINSA working together. The people, the long days, the heat, the rain, the mosquitos, the tears, the joys, the triumphs, and the friendships made this a unique experience for all of us, even the promoters. I can step back and say I am proud to be a part of an organization that is doing such great work. The members of CU Peru are motivated by more than good intentions and the ‘idea’ of wanting to make a difference –they are making the difference and the passion is evident. This experience, the memories and the friends I have made, and the lives I have touched and been able to influence would not have happened without CU Peru.
Becoming the intern and traveling to Peru to kick off the internship have exceeded my expectations. I thank all the members and supporters (past and current) that have shaped CU Peru into what it is today and I look forward to being a part of carrying on the legacy.