Friday, March 26, 2010
Though it seems shocking to me, I am 4 months in site. In less than a week, I will present my community diagnostic to the authorities of Huambomusho, one of the two sectors of Musho I’m focusing on. This will be a shorter diagnostic than the full report I will present a few weeks later to all my fellow health newbies and my boss. I’m nervous in a lot of ways, not because I worry that I won’t have time to finish the presentation or report (Thank you, Brown community health for teaching me how to put together a paper or a powerpoint within any time constraints), but because I want the product to be worthwhile.
Peace Corps Peru works in a form that requires volunteers to spend their first months on site using different tools to “diagnose” the community. The volunteer then presents this report to the community and, together, they make a work plan. I feel like this is of utmost importance as it distinguishes us from NGOs that arrive in the community with their agenda already set and little room for community ideas and input. In health, we use a variety of tools—from very standard public health style surveys to to nonformal education tools. For me, I have learned more about the community from casual conversation than the more formal surveys that I have gone house to house taking.
Certain topics seemed taboo to me when I first came to site: birth control, for instance. However, it comes up in the most surprising ways: when people learn that my oldest sister has arrived, married, to 30 (almost!! happy birthday!!) without any children, they often will be surprised and then say, “Sabe cuidarse” (She knows how to take care of herself) or, in a meeting of authorities, talking about types of trash (inorganic v. organic) when someone made a joke about a condom. Beforehand, I had wondered if anyone had seen one, much less known how to classify it as a piece of trash.
Through different ways, then, formal to irreverent, I have learned so much about Musho and it’s problems, yet I am shaky on the work plan front. Some days I am bewildered by the lack of knowledge and health practices; other days I feel like the community has been saturated by Peace Corps and NGO interventions and needs to be pushed out of the nest. One example of this paradox is knowledge, among mothers, of bacteria. Both Peace Corps and World Vision have given workshops and classes on hygiene and explained about “microbios” (microbes), microscopic bugs that make us sick. Microbios has now entered into Musho’s vocabulary as a synonym for filthy, as in, “Don’t touch that dead rat, it’s microbios!!” It’s hard not to laugh at these moments but I try to keep my cool and wonder only to myself if the teacher of this lesson would be proud of the vocabulary extension or frustrated by the confusion of their lesson. Briefly put: there are scores of problems in Musho, as well as people to work with and projects ready to do. However, I don’t know where to start, to focus, or how to ensure my nutrition talk doesn’t just increase culinary vocabulary while leaving a quarter of children malnourished and potatoes and rice as the dietary base. Advice?