Giving and Receiving

Each morning I have a routine. I wake up, tumble down to the kitchen to make breakfast and start my coffee, return to my room, put on my scrubs and then run down the stairs once more (coffee in hand and cell phone in the air trying to send my parents a good morning message) to head to work.

In my attempt to get to morning prayers on time I usually miss the picture hanging on the stairway wall. However, this morning it caught my eye. It is the prayer of St. Francis. I reflected on the prayer, both in Spanish and in English, throughout my day today.

For it is in giving that we receive. 

I came to Peru to work in a medical clinic and to experience third world medicine. What I didn’t realize is that in addition to my work in clinic I would also be spending  an abundance of time in the onsite orphanage. If you are new to the blog, we have 15 orphans that live at the Maternidad and these children have touched my life in a way that cannot be put into words. As I enter my last week in Peru I decided to spend my afternoon (my only day off) with the children watching a movie. This morning I proudly purchased the Spanish version of 101 Dalmatians, made s’mores and popcorn and headed off to the Maternity.

I had an absolutely wonderful afternoon surrounded by the children watching the movie. I reflected on the prayer of St. Francis and noted how we receive when we give to others. These children, either taken away from their homes or abandoned by their parents, have little possessions to call their own. They receive good care from the staff members, but the orphanage is not their home. Today I sat on the floor watching all of “my babies” look intently at the movie on my computer screen and for the first time I did not feel sadness for them but rather joy. Joy that I was able to bring them happiness and look on as they enjoyed their popcorn and the “perros” on the screen.

I have received so much love from these 15 children and am so grateful to have them have been a part of my life and an essential piece of my Peruvian Adventure. I have been able to give, but I have also been able to receive. It is bittersweet to sit here and realize that I only have seven days left of my journey, but I am forever grateful for all of my opportunities thus far and look with optimism to  embrace everything that the next week has to offer.

Love from Peru,

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Love and Light

IMG_3217” Let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.” Matthew 5:16

Over the past week I have found myself turning to a song that I used to sing in high school for inspiration. The song, entitled Go Light Your World, reminds us that we all possess a light and that this light can be used to bring others out of the darkness.  We are called to be a beacon for others, and as much as I find myself being that light for the people of Peru, I also find them being a source of light for me.

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Over the course of the past week I have found myself in some dark situations, and I have tried (to the best of my ability) to be a beacon of light in these situations.

I learned on Wednesday of the passing of my “first patient” Señor Nicholas. Señor was the first person that I visited in Chimbote. Although he was very ill and confined to his bed, he and his family were a source of light for me Their dedication to caring without avail for Nicholas was inspiring and I watched in awe as they cradled him while we tended to his wounds and tried their best to keep the flies (and there were many) away from him as we worked. I pray that his family maybe able to overcome the darkness that surrounds his death by remembering him with fondness and knowing that they did everything for him to keep him content while he was still with them.

Although I am trying my best, there is still a language barrier between myself and the people of Peru. Each day I show improvement, but my greatest struggle thus far has been feeling as though I cannot connect to the patients that I work with.

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One day we visited the house of a 31 year old man named Michael. Michael is a schizophrenic who is also suffering from other medical issues. He refuses to take his medications and to leave his bed. Our objective of our trip to his home was to prepare him to take an ambulance to the local hospital where he could receive treatment for his ailments (we unfortunately  do not have the capacity to care for him at our clinic). We spent HOURS in the darkness of Michael’s room trying to coax him out of his bed with no avail. After much time had passed several police officers came to assist. They suggested that I go over and try to comfort him. We told him that “Doctora Catalina” was here and that it was imperative for him to get out of bed. I tried my best, I grabbed his hand and I told him he could do it and that I would be there with him every step of the way. Sadly, we were unable to get him out of his bed and after endlessly trying we had to move on to visit other patients. I do hope, however, to return to his home this week and to check on his condition.

Later that day I visited the home of two young boys ages four and two. I was absolutely shocked to find that they were home alone and that there was no one to care for them. They were so young, so helpless and explained to me that their mother worked each day and only came home later in the evening. This also meant that the boys only ate when their mother was home, and they were “mucho hambre”- very hungry. This was very disturbing for me, but is so very common here. So many of our children in the orphanage faced similar situations and so many people do not have the means to provide food for their children. I found myself questioning “how can I bring light to this situation?” The only solution I had was to provide them with comfort, attention, love, and of course some stickers.

My heart was broken after seeing those boys. Walking back to the Maternidad from their house we spotted the cutest boy sitting outside of a house in his red stroller. The boy, who I fell in love with, has several disabilities and was basically confined to his stroller. He had the most infectious smile and loved holding my hand. I asked his mom if he was getting any therapy to improve his muscle strength. She told me that he wasn’t. I then proceeded to inform her about the services we have for the children at the Maternidad; Monday through Friday we offer therapy for children in the afternoon and offer speech therapy on Saturday mornings. This afternoon when I went to work I spotted a red stroller sitting outside of the therapy unit, they had taken my advice and come! I was greeted with a warm smile from my little guy and a hug from his mother. Their love and gratitude for suggesting the clinic for them brought so much warmth into my day.

Sometimes all you need is to be yourself to bring joy into the hearts of others. A simple smile, the touch of a hand, and some concern can bring light into a situation. As I reflect on this week, I am determined to carry my candle and share my light with others and hope that in turn they take that light and pass it on.

So, “Carry your candle, and run to the darkness
Seek out the helpless, confused and torn
And hold out your candle for all to see it
Take your candle, and go light your world

Love from Peru,

Kate

Time is “knot” important


The Peruvian people have absolutely no concern for time. As for me, time has absolutely flown by, and I keep wishing that it would just slow down, or that I would develop the Peruvian way of looking at time (which is to completely ignore it). I am at the half way point in my journey; as I write this post I have been in Peru for 22 days and have 21 more days to go.  My desire to stop the clock has made me realize how important it is to cherish and savor each and every moment that I have here in Peru whether it be in the clinic, in the barrios, or even in my downtime with the Sisters, people at La Casa and the workers at la Maternidad.

This week has afforded me many opportunities both in and out of the clinic. On Thursday evening I attended the bachelorette party of one of our workers Magaly who is tying the knot with  another worker at the clinic, Luis. The workers have graciously accepted me as one of their own and I love that I am able to spend time with them and celebrate this special event with Magaly. The bachelorette party was hosted in her parents home, and the spouses of all of the girls were also in attendance. There was a lot of food, music, dancing, and laughter. Most of the laughter was directed at me, since I am an absolutely HORRIBLE dancer, but was doing my best to keep in sync with the music and the swaying hips and shoulders of my co-workers. (Pictures from the event will be featured in the next post since they are on the camera of a friend who is currently in Lima!)

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On Monday night I attended their wedding. The invitation stated that the wedding ceremony would be held at 7, so the three Americans (Sisters Margaret Mary and Lillian and myself) showed up promptly at 7 to find that we were the first to arrive and that they were still setting up for the wedding. People started coming in around 8 and the wedding only began at 8:45. Incase you don’t know me well, I absolutely LOVE weddings. Growing up my Friday nights were dedicated to TLC’s wedding night and I would always be found watching the latest episode of Say Yes to the Dress. I loved every moment of their wedding (even the time spent waiting for it to start!) and am so very glad that I was able to share in their special day and watch them tie the knot!

Life at the clinic has been just as exciting as my night life. Each day is a new adventure and presents itself with new places and new faces. On Friday I went food shopping with two of the workers. Now it wasn’t Whole Foods, but it was an absolutely amazing experience. The market is about four city blocks long, and is completely outdoors. We had a two page list of things that we needed, and spent 3 hours walking through the alleys bargaining with the vendors.

 I have spent a lot of time traveling to different areas of Chimbote this week. On Monday morning we traveled an hour away to Santa Rosa to bring blankets to three houses. There are no words to describe how these people live. After three weeks in Peru I have become accustomed to seeing the bare minimum in their homes, but these houses were the worst I have seen. It absolutely broke my heart to see the way that they live, but I was able to bring them joy through the blankets as well as through stickers given to me by my Grandmother prior to my trip! The children absolutely LOVE the stickers and it serves as a testament to how little it takes to bring joy to the life of a child.

Some of the faces of Peru:

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And of course my day wouldn’t be complete with out some time with Pedro. The only time that doesn’t fly is the hour with this little guy in my arms!

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Until next time,

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It’s a girl

Each day I find myself questioning “how can it get any better than this“?

And then each day it gets a little bit better. I get a little more comfortable with my surroundings, speak a little more Spanish and witness something absolutely INCREDIBLE.

Sundays are usually my day off. After Mass with the Sisters I returned to the Casa to rest. And rest is exactly what I did, until 11 o’clock when I was woken up to our cook pounding on my bedroom door. One of the workers from the maternity had come to the house to tell me that I needed to go to the maternity right away. I had no clue what was so important especially after I had just been there to visit Pedrito a few hours before. When I arrived I was greeted with a fiesta! One of the orphans, James, is celebrating his first birthday on the 22nd and the children and staff had all gathered in the yard to celebrate his special day! The fiesta was huge, complete with music, professional dancers, cake and candy galore!

After a wonderful celebration I headed to the beach with people from La Casa. It was my first time in the Pacific Ocean and the view was absolutely incredible. I throughly enjoyed reflecting on my week with my toes in the sand soaking in the warm Peruvian sun.

Monday was another day of home visits. Ellie and I ventured into a different section of Chimbote called San Pedro. The houses that we visited were on top of a mountain and we had to climb up the mountain to reach them. It was quite the hike, especially when you have to carry up your medical supplies and donations for the families with you. I really appreciate the fact that the clinic does not simply care for the medical needs of their patients. In addition to providing them with quality medical care they also provide clothing, bedding and food.

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The first house we visited is in need of new beds. We made arrangement with the woman, who has horrible arthritis, to bring new beds to her later this week. Like every person I have encountered on the home visits, she was extremely grateful. It is so hard for me to understand how they can be so grateful when they have so little, but yet the Peruvian people beam with gratitude for all that we do for them, and have so much pride for all that they have, although in most cases they have barely anything.

The view from their houses was absolutely INCREDIBLE, which made the trek up the mountain so worth it! We visited several other houses, assessing their needs, and making arrangements to return with donations.

Later that afternoon another INCREDIBLE thing happened: I witnessed my first birth. Mothers are constantly giving birth at the clinic, but I always seem to arrive too late to see the delivery. The nursing staff came to get me around 4 in the afternoon and I was able to be with the staff and the mother for the entire “process”.  I was also able to step in and be of assistance during the delivery, and by “assistance” I mean I was told to close the windows in the room because I was the only one who was tall enough to reach them. The mother was so incredibly calm and gave birth to a little girl at 6:05. It was an absolutely wonderful way to end my day.

On Tuesday I broke from my usual schedule and went on home visits again. We returned to the houses we had visited the day before with the supplies for the families. This time we traveled by car, thank goodness because there was no way I could carry a mattress up a mountain!

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Each morning I pray with the workers at the clinic. I have become very close to them in such a short period of time and love that we start each morning together. As part of the prayers (which I have now perfected in Spanish) we recite the mission statement of the center.

In Spanish:

Pidamos de Dios , que El nos ilumine, que nos Guie y que nos Proteja para servir con AMOR CHRISTIANO con un ESPIRITU DE ALEGRIA creando un ambiente de AMOR y ESPERANZA.

In English:

Let us ask that God enlightens us, guides us and protects us to serve with Christian love with a spirit of joy creating an atmosphere of LOVE and HOPE.

The Maternidad is truly an oasis of hope and love and I find myself to be blessed each and every day to be able to serve in such an incredible environment. And to answer my initial question, it can’t get much better than that.

Until next time,

Kate

Madre

Madre. In Spanish it means mother.

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When I am in public people usually approach me, partially because I stick out like a sore thumb, but also because they assume that I am either a Nun or a Doctor.

Although I prefer the sound of “Doctora”, I have come to accept either greeting.

The Peruvians call the Sisters, Madre, and so they also call me Madre. 

I have assumed the mother role in a variety of ways during my first two weeks in Chimbote. After a brief conversation with my parents the other evening I was told that it isn’t acceptable for a nineteen year old to adopt a child (preferably a little girl named, Sandra) but, nonetheless, the Peruvians still call me Madre, Momma, or Mommy (and refer to Sandra as my daughter).

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Each day I spend an hour with Peter (Pedrito) the now 17 day old baby boy in our  Neonatal unit. There are three other babies on the unit and their mothers are constantly visiting, and I felt it only right that Pedrito had someone who visited him as frequently. Many of the staff members flock to the window around 3 PM to see Pedrito and his “Mommy” (and they do call me Mommy) sitting in the rocking chair.

After my time with my little one, I head over to spend the remainder of the afternoon with the rest of my “children” at the orphanage.

MY BABIES

Meet Sarita, Jesus (who was ADOPTED on Wednesday!), Kenji, Luciana, Graciela, Sandra, Hector, Maria Guadalupe, Mary Teresa, Patrick, Angelita, Julio, James, Diego, Maria Laura and Santiago.

They are some of the most precious children you will ever meet, and as you can see from the above pictures have the most infectious smiles.

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On Wednesday I went on my second round of home visits. We traveled by car about 45 minutes to a town called Nuevo Chimbote. The area that we visited recently caught fire and we were able to bring clothing and mattresses (and a stroller for the little cutie pictured above) to those who lost their possessions in the fire.

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We went to one house and the man assumed that I was a “Madre” and absolutely insisted that I took a tour of his “house” which was all but a two room shack with walls made of cardboard. He was so incredibly proud to introduce me to his family and have me meet his little daughter. He is able to support his family by selling bags of fried bananas. His wife slaves over the stove frying these bananas and was so delighted to send me and the nurses on our way with about 5 bags worth of these things, which I have to admit were TO DIE FOR.

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Each person that we met was so extremely grateful for what we were able to give them. It was such an amazing experience for me to witness, and it really made me reexamine many of the things that I previously held as highly important in my life.

Through the people of Peru I have learned that material things are not as important as we often make them out to be and that the most important thing is family.

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On Friday I returned to visit my “friend” with schizophrenia. We were able to lift her out of bed, due to her illness she often refuses to leave her bed and is now completely unable to use her legs. She was so excited to see me and immediately yelled “Hola Catalina (what most people call me here in Peru).” She was particularly interested in my  family and I was able to tell her about my own family and even show her pictures of my mom and dad.

IMG_2450The next house we visited was a man who was recently widowed back in April and now is in charge of taking care of their six children. As if the burden of loosing your wife and providing for your children (one of which is severely physically disabled) isn’t enough the man is going blind. Despite all of his set backs, he is a wonderful father and is extremely dedicated to his family.

Each story touches my heart in a different way, and each person I meet takes a part of my heart with them. There are no words to describe all that I have seen in the past two weeks, but despite the pain and sorrow that I feel for these people I have been inspired by their hope and love. It is my sincere hope that you might take some love from their stories and remember them throughout your day today. Be thankful for all that you have, especially your family.

Until next time,

Kate

Braving the Barrios

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When I was a little girl I had a Fisher Price doctor’s kit. At the time that little black bag had all I needed to cure the world.

Today I upgraded my doctor’s kit. I got a red lunch box filled to the brim with gauze, hydrogen peroxide, medications and a suture kit. Today I had all I needed to help cure the people of Peru.

With the doctor’s kit (lunch box) in hand I headed out with Ellie, one of the nurses, into the streets of Chimbote. Our first stop was to visit Señor Nicholas, an 81 year old man confined to his bed who is now suffering from severely infected bed sores. We were able to clean his wounds, cut away part of the infection and change his dressings. Nicholas was in severe pain, he took his shirt and covered it over his face while we worked on the bed sores. On a professional level it was very interesting assess the infection and to clean the wound, but on a personal level it pained me to see him suffering and to know there was little that I could do to alleviate his pain.

After Nicholas we traveled further into the barrios to deliver an air mattress to a young mother who has been consumed by cancer. Her daughter took particular interest to me and asked if I could read the Bible to her, I was so touched! In addition to the cancer, her mother is extremely anemic and is not adhering to the diet recommended by the doctors. She also refuses to heave her bed, which leaves her prone to bed sores. We are hoping that the mattress might help prevent the sores and will be more comfortable for her to lay on throughout the day as she does not want to leave her bed despite our best efforts to tell her that it is good to sit up and get outside!

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Next we traveled to our last house of the morning to visit a young girl with schizophrenia. As we approached the house, we noticed that the street was full of people: they were celebrating a funeral. Now I have gone to my fair share of funerals, but I have never experienced something so astounding. The street was lined with people, and there was a FULL BAND processing behind the casket which was carried high in the air by the deceased’s family and friends. I had the chills as they processed by me and walked through the streets, it was such an incredible sight and something that I will never forget.

After  watching the procession fade into the distance we met the mother of the girl we were trying to visit. The girl is so severely ill that she refuses to open the door and let us into her house. We brought her mother to a near by center which specializes in providing treatment for those who suffer from mental illness. We arranged to have treatment brought to the girl in hopes that it will lessen some of her symptoms. We will be returning to her house on Wednesday, so I will be sure to keep everyone updated on her progress.

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As if this entire experience wasn’t overwhelming enough, I had my first (and hopefully last experience) with a Mototaxi. The best way to describe the “moto” is a tricycle with a motor that travels (at a very fast speed) down the dirt roads near the barrios. The staff that I was with got extreme delight out of my experience with the moto, I was scared to death and was holding on for dear life! After the ride was over, they had me take a picture with the moto so that I could show everyone back home what I rode to work on today.

To think all of this happened before I even ate lunch! Now I am not going to get in the habit of posting each day, but I felt that it was important to share my first day with all of you. It was such an eye opening experience on a variety of levels and I am truly blessed to be working alongside these incredible people. These people may not have much, but as I remarked to the Sisters today they are some of the happiest people I have ever met.

Love from Peru,

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Rooftop Reflections

Gratitude. 

Over the past week I have found so much to be thankful for.

I am grateful to have Sundays off. Today I am spending my afternoon basking in the Peruvian sun on the roof of the Casa.  After my first experience with a Spanish washing machine, I am watching my clothes dry as they sway on the rooftop clothesline. I have this huge fear that something will blow off the roof and into the streets of Chimbote so I am currently keeping a close eye on them!

I have found solace on this roof and have decided it is the perfect spot to reflect and come to understand all that has happened to me this week.

I am thankful for the Sisters. Sister Lillian and Sister Margaret Mary are two of the most amazing individuals that I have ever met, and they are the perfect example of women who have gone above and beyond to answer God’s call. Each morning I venture with them to Mass prior to beginning our day at La Maternidad. They are so devout in their faith and have been so welcoming to me. This morning we traveled to a small little chapel which is about a 20 minute walk from La Casa. The Sisters like this Mass because it is at 9 (most churches in Chimbote celebrate Mass at 7) and allows us to sleep in, but also because it is a beautiful and vibrant service (nothing like I have ever seen back home).

The people of Chimbote LOVE the Sisters, and have also welcomed me as one of their own. I am grateful for Mass as it gives me a time to reflect, a time to grow in my faith, and also grow closer to the Sisters.

I am a strong believer that things happen for a reason.

This week I met a group of individuals who I truly believe were placed in my life for a reason. They were a group of ten Americans from the Diocese of Pittsburgh traveling on a mission trip to Chimbote. They were my guardian angels for the week; they welcomed me into their “family”as if I was one of their own and proved to be a constant source of strength and faith throughout my first week in Peru. I wish to send lots of love and gratitude from Peru to my new friends back in Pittsburgh!

I am grateful for the children at the orphanage, each day they steal an even bigger piece of my heart. Although all of the children deserve notice, there are two children whose stories have held particular meaning this week and I would love for you to know more about them.

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Luciana is a sweet one year old girl who was born with a brain deformity in which she only has half of her brain. She is mute and blind, some of the nurses believe that she is also deaf, but I tend to disagree. She has been able to see her first birthday due to the love and care by the staff at the orphanage. The nurses keep her clean, happy, and fed, and that is all this sweet girl needs. She also receives tons of love from me, I have come to think she enjoys being held in my arms as much as I enjoy holding her.

Peter, who is now 12 days old, is not in the orphanage but is new to the Maternidad and is currently in their neonatal unit. He was abandoned by his parents in a public bathroom in the middle of town. He was later found and brought to the local public hospital. He was transported to our clinic on Thursday. Later in the day I was able to hold him and bring him a brand new hat made with love from our family friend, Mrs. Lambert. I found it so hard to understand how someone could literally toss away something so beautiful, and am so grateful that he is now in the protective care of the Maternidad because I know that so very often Peruvian children like Peter are unable to get the love, care and attention that they truly deserve.

Tomorrow I begin the next phase of my Peruvian adventure. After morning Mass with the Sisters I will be embarking on my first home visit. I will be traveling with the medical staff to the more impoverished areas of Chimbote (known as the Barrios) on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays. On Tuesdays and Thursdays I will be working in the clinic and shadowing the on-site psychologist. Mental issues are very prevalent here in Peru because there is a lack of available resources for patients who suffer from a mental illness, and the psychologist at the clinic is in high demand. On Saturdays I will return home to my babies at the orphanage. As you can see, my days will be very busy, but I wouldn’t want my time in Chimbote to be spent any other way.

Saint Catherine of Siena once said “Be who God meant you to be and you will set the world on fire.” God has sent me to Chimbote for a reason, and I am eager and anxious to begin this next adventure and to set Peru ablaze with my love and compassion for these wonderful people.

Until next time,

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