Editor’s Note: This piece was written on June 15, when Senior Program Officer Rebecca Singer and Senior Clinical Officer Elisa Vandervort were in Peru, investigating Grounds for Health expansion.
It is our last morning in Peru and per usual, I have woken up early. While waiting for the sun to rise so that I can go for a run by the Pacific Ocean, I have replayed many of the moments of this whirlwind visit to Peru.
Elisa and I came to Peru for our first site visit to what we hope will be Grounds for Health’s first South American project. We have been positively overwhelmed by the varied and breathtaking landscape of Peru as well as by the warmth and intelligence of the people of Peru. Our Peruvian counterparts have truly been gracious and welcoming hosts.
After two days of travel, we were greeted by our coffee cooperative host, Lenin Tocto, General Manager of CAC Prosperidad (or Chirinos)—a persistent leader who has waited more than two years for Grounds for Health to finally arrive in his home region. We immediately felt comfortable around this curious and deliberate man, with a most excellent sense of humor. As Lenin himself liked to say, we were “together to decide if we wanted to get married.”
With Lenin at our side, we met members of his community—small farmers, agronomists, expert cuppers, and health care workers. A highlight of our time together was a daylong tour of several of the health centers and health posts in the Chirinos health network. Not only was it our first opportunity to assess the health system in this remote and rural corner of Peru, but it also was Lenin’s first time truly seeing his own country’s health infrastructure and meeting health care workers. He returned to his town more convinced than ever that the marriage between Grounds for Health and Chirinos must move forward. He also returned to town with a carload of some of the sweetest, juiciest pineapple we have ever tasted.
Guided by Lenin, we also had an opportunity to meet with a leader from another nearby coffee cooperative, CENFROCAFE, as well as several regional health system leaders. By this point in our short visit, Lenin was eager to present the Grounds for Health model. Nothing like a recent convert to spread the word about our collaborative, community based model!
Upon our return to Lima, we met with representatives from the National Cancer Institute of Peru. It was thrilling to find that even in the halls of one of the most respected medical institutions in South America, the focus on providing cervical cancer screening to women in rural communities is a high priority.
Elisa and I are exhilarated and energized. We realize that we have a great deal of work ahead of us to help guide Grounds for Health, the coffee and the health care system of Peru down the aisle to the altar. But we are optimistic that it will be a successful marriage.
To view more of Rebecca’s wonderful photos, visit the Grounds for Health Facebook Page »