A journal of my Peace Corps service

Beyond the End of the World

Sometimes it seems like I live at the end of the world. No internet. No phone. Not very much interaction with the outside world. But recent trips to Minasccasa make my town seem like a bustling place.

Minasccasa is an outlying village of Quisuarpampa, a 6 hour hike farther into the mountains. It rains and hails year round and has such a harsh climate that nothing but clumps of desert grass grow. Llamas, alpacas, and vicuñas graze in the surrounding hills. People live in small rock huts called chosas that are spread throughout the hills, often more than an hour walk from neighbors. There is no electricity, no running water, and very limited access to food, healthcare, and education.

Kids in Minasccasa smile with dried, cracked, and bleeding cheeks because of the cold wind. Adolescent girls often drop-out of school in 6th grade because their parents won’t send them to Quisuarpampa for high school. Yet somehow these girls don’t exist in the educational records and it doesn’t look like the high school has a low enrollment rate.

Babies eat soup morning, noon, and night and fall into a vicious cycle of malnutrition, diarrheal diseases, and respiratory infections. Moms are apathetic about child and maternal health. When every child in the area in malnourished it is hard to see the hope. Women hide their pregnancies from the health post in Quisuarpampa, and it is easy to do so when you live in an isolated hut 6-9 hours away. They aren’t properly nourished, don’t receive iron supplements, and give birth in their homes or fields.

Minasccasa is a bleak place. It presents unique challenges for development and public health. How do you reach people who live in such an isolated place, hardly come together, and spend most of their time herding alpacas? How do you convince a mother that never learned to read or write and has never seen a hospital, bank, or business that it is important for her 12 year old daughter to stay in school and become a professional? How can a mother that has four kids under 5 properly feed them when there is no access to fresh food? How can Minasccasa advance?

3 responses

  1. Mom

    This is quite a challenge for you in your roll as a PC volunteer, and for the country of Peru.

    November 19, 2012 at 6:31 pm

  2. CSLawrence

    Wow, and we thought your village was tough! How will a formal education help them? They would have to leave to make it work. Maybe the education should be along the lines you work on: basic tactics to improve daily life. Such as health, sanitation, nutrition, family planning, animal husbandry and a fair price outlet for their results of their labor (animals and animal products), crafts, etc.
    So much to do with such limited resources and an educational system that denies their existence. Can the Peace Corps be their hope?
    Great work Alli.
    Dad

    November 20, 2012 at 12:20 am

  3. Jim Watts

    We love reading your stories. I do not have answers to your questions but I do know that 99.9% of people in the USA have no idea of what property really is. It is amazing to see these folks can still smile and find value. Have you seen or assisted in a delivery yet? I look foreword to talking to you in person and listening to your stories, your thoughts, and what you have learned. You are certainly helping the truly poor and vulnerable in this world and making a difference one child at a time.

    Jim

    November 22, 2012 at 11:59 am

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