Quisuar Health Post Report – August 2017

Leeds University medical students Ella and Laura spent August at the LED health post in Quisuar, high in the Cordillera Blanca of Peru. Here’s what Laura has to say about the experience….

Quisuar Health Post

Our adventure starting by driving through the Llanganuco pass and trekking for two days to arrive in Quisuar. This was to be our base for the next few weeks. We were centred at the health post which has now been running for twelve years. The aim of the project is to provide healthcare and education to a less privileged and remote village in the Andes. In the mornings we ran the clinic seeing villagers with common problems, for example, worms, gastritis and back pain. In the afternoons we would teach English to the children.

Leeds medics, Ella and Laura, with the children, on their last day of English lessons in Quisuar

Ella and I, with the children, on their last day of English lessons in Quisuar

Skills and Attributes developed

There is no doubt that my confidence as a clinician has improved throughout this experience. Our previous exposure to patients in England has often been just observing and it is usually hard to get the opportunity to utilize what we have learnt. I was surprised at how much knowledge we had gained throughout medical school and how we were able to adapt these to the environment. One of the biggest daily challenges was communication. I had tried to learn Spanish before and during my trip. The problem however was that many of the villagers could not speak Spanish, but Quechua. As we learnt this is an impossible language to pick up in a few weeks. The consultations where therefore a lot less straight forward than we had witnessed in England. It was an invaluable experience, as we had to think outside the box in terms of communication. For example, many of the villagers could not read, so when testing eyes we had to point at pictures and things in the room instead.

Once the diagnosis had been figured out, then it was on to treatments. In England often patients leave with multiple medications, however, these were not available and this is not sustainable. Therefore, we had to think of ways to help which did not involve medication. For example, physiotherapy movements for pain and massaging using hot water and oils. It was often down to our judgement and an educated guess.

This experience has also broadened my cultural understanding. Peruvians are very superstitious and believe highly in non-medical treatments for diseases. They explained how they had cured asthma by placing the skin of a particular animal on their skin. It often effected compliance with the advice and medication we had provided, which with potentially life-threatening illnesses like asthma, can be very dangerous.

Benefitting the Wider Community

The project impacted the local community by increasing their understanding of certain illnesses and the importance of hygiene. We worked alongside a Peruvian Nurse Tula. We taught her how to conduct a Muscoskeletal examination of different joints and a thorough examination of the heart and lungs. We also taught her about different illness, for example the different types of diabetes and how you diagnose it. These are skills she can continue once we have left.

Ella and I (Laura) with our guide (Juan) and the nurse (Tula)

Ella and I with our guide (Juan) and the nurse (Tula), at the Quisuar Health Post

In conclusion, I loved my time in Quisuar, being fully immersed in Peruvian culture, without Wi-Fi and bucket washing for a few weeks. It was an experience I would love to relieve, I would recommend it to anybody that asks and hopefully one day I will return.

Laura Chapman

Interested in volunteering with us in Peru or Nepal? Use the Contact LED form on www.lighteducationdevelopment.org or message us on facebook.com/LEDCharity to find out about opportunities in 2018.

Advertisements

Fundraising for LED: The LED & NYF Yorkshire 3 Peaks (& 1 Peak!) Challenge

Looking for a challenge in 2017?

Together with Nepal Youth Foundation UK we are organising a Yorkshire 3 Peaks Challenge to climb Pen-y-Ghent, Whernside and Ingelborough, covering 24.5 miles in under 12 hours.

For those who would prefer to take it a bit easier, we are also running a Yorkshire 1 Peak Challenge, which is around 7.5 miles.

The Challenges will take place on Saturday 20 May 2017, starting and finishing at Horton-in-Ribblesdale, North Yorkshire (Google map).

If you want to take part in one of the Challenges to raise money for LED, visit our NYF & LED Yorkshire 3 Peaks Challenge page. You’ll need to register there, and you’ll also find more information about timings, essential kit and more.

We are asking participants to fundraise at least £100 and we’ve set up a dedicated LED Yorkshire 3 Peaks (and 1 Peak!) Challenge campaign on our JustGiving page for this. Ask your supporters to donate here in advance of the Challenge or to settle up sponsorship after the event – and remember to tell them to mention your name!

NYF-LED Yorkshire Three Peaks Challenge

Summer 2016 in Quisuar

This summer, Leeds University medical student Ross Gillespie spent 4 weeks as a volunteer at the LED health post in Quisuar. Here’s what he has to say about the experience….

I have recently returned from Quisuar having spent 4 weeks in the LED health post, located in the captivating mountain range of the Cordillera Blanca. I’m Ross, a Medical Student of Leeds University, UK, and I’d like to share a short account of my experience over the summer.

My journey began in Lima, a vibrant and busy city with some real gems to offer. An 8 hour bus journey lead me to Huaraz where I met Val, Juan (translator and entertainer), the crew, and four trekking Americans, Janet, Meara, Tara and Nalini. After some acclimatisation walks and some generous meals in the local hotspots of Huaraz we stocked up on medications and food, prepped our kit and headed into the heights of the Cordillera Blanca.

As with previous visitors a private coach journey winding through various towns and villages and over the Llanganuco Pass would lead us to Chingil. Here we would spend the night, before the 4 hour trek over a 4450m pass to the health post in Quisuar. The surreal beauty of the surrounding landscape seen throughout this journey was truly unique and a clear sky allowed us to appreciate the peaks, which appeared from all points of the compass.

Arriving at the village of Quisuar we were greeted by the locals with a traditional welcome party of singing, dancing and general frolicking before arriving to our goal destination of the health post. Here we met Tula, the nurse and I settled in for my 4 week stay.

As mentioned in other reports, the location of the health post is quite unique with incredible views surrounding it. The health post is basic but is well stocked with basic medications and equipment, somewhat loosely comparable to a GP surgery. This allows for a generous consulting room and a private examination room (which doubles up as the bedroom) in which to practise, as well as a small waiting room and decent kitchen.

The first week was especially busy in terms of patients, but we quickly established a system that seemed to work. With Tula translating to Castellano (I must admit, life was made much simpler by being able to speak Spanish, although not essential), a comprehensive history was easy enough to obtain and follow with examination and an appropriate management plan.

Conditions we encountered were mostly chronic back pain, gastritis, infections (of varying types) and the usual signs of ageing (poor vision, aches and pains, loss of strength). The village would most certainly benefit from some dental care and education seems to be the key step missing to further develop the health of the region.

We spent two days in the secondary school teaching about nutrition, mental health and general health. We were keen to address sexual health, a topic which is too frequently ignored or avoided in this region given the reserved nature of its people, however it is essential that any proceeding visitors do their utmost to educate the teenagers about this. Persistence is key, and has been successful in the past with vast reductions in teenage pregnancy rates.

I spent most afternoons teaching the local children English, with ages ranging from 6-16. This was very rewarding and its nice to see kids who remember how to play, using their imagination, and not have their eyes fixed on a screen at all times! We also brought school resources and skipping ropes etc to share with the children and schools.

Juan would cook breakfast, lunch and dinner and free time during the week was spent updating computer records (kids height/weight, consultation records, inventory), training Tula and doing home visits. Weekends were spent trekking and visiting nearby towns and villages. Juan and I trekked to Pombabamba (about 12-14 hours the long way around) and spent a weekend their, restocking and buying gifts for the children. We also visited the two lakes and attempted fishing (NB: spinners or ‘mariposas’ are useless, you need to sink a worm to have any chance), and spent a day at the big Sunday football tournament in Pochgoj.

The political stance of the village is not easy to gauge, but with an elected president representing the people, there is normally someone who knows what is going on. With big companies trying to exploit resources by giving false promises and strange new laws on employment of teachers, it is quite unclear as to the political direction of the village. The most important thing is that the health post continues to have its positive impact on the community, and with consistent support from the majority of the local village, and in fact surrounding villagers, this should not be challenged any time soon.

Tula is great with patients and is keen to learn to further her ability to help others. She is trusted and respected by the patients, and is a key asset to the health post. Juan, who plays a multi-faceted role of translator, guide, cook, entertainer and friend is an easy going Peruvian, and with an innate ability to read people, he knows just how to keep spirits high!

Returning home, we took the lazy option of a coach to Pombabamba and a bus back to Huaraz (about 14 hours of travelling door to door). Back in Huaraz I spent a week in the local public hospital in general surgery/A&E, which was eye opening to say the least. Here the interns taught me and treated me as one of their own, generously inviting me to meals and nights out. They exemplified the welcoming and humble nature of the Peruvian people.

Overall I had an amazing experience, and one that I will surely never forget. I would like to thank Val, Juan, Tula and the Crew (Melki, Antonia, Freddie, Augustin (Cuchin)) for their help throughout my stay. I am also most grateful to the people of Peru who made the experience so rich and memorable.

Ross Gillespie

Interested in volunteering with us in Peru or Nepal? Use the Contact LED form on the website (www.lighteducationdevelopment.org), or message us on facebook.com/LEDCharity, to find out about opportunities in 2017.

For photos, look at our LED at work – Peru 2016 album on Facebook. 

Nepal Update: Solukhumbu trek report

As you’ll have seen from Val’s Nepal: May 2016 Report her Spring season included a 3 week trek through Solukhumbu checking/distributing solar lights.  Here’s an account of that trek and LED’s work in Solukhumbu, from Steffi Wood:

I was lucky enough to return to Nepal this spring after 5 years. On my previous trek I had become friends with fellow trekker Mary and encountered Val as our paths crossed in various lodges. Along with Charles we were embarking on a journey which would be very different to that of 2011. For a start this was going to be in tents and therefore more remote than the usual well trodden paths.

Solukhumbu Trek April/May 2016 - Charles, Mary and Steffi

Solukhumbu Trek April/May 2016 – Charles, Mary and Steffi

We acclimatised with a three day trek in from Dhab via Bhulbhule, the 4000m Pikey Peak, Jase Bhanjyang  and Taktor before joining the “main” route from Jiri near Junebesi where we went to visit the school hostel rebuilt by some of Val’s Canadian friends earlier this year.

Junbesi school hostel, rebuilt ("new wood" building with red roof on the left) – LED Solu Khumbu Trek, April/May 2016

Junbesi school hostel, rebuilt (“new wood” building with red roof on the left) – LED Solu Khumbu Trek, April/May 2016

From the first day it became apparent that Val and her team perform an immensely valuable service – we visited isolated homes with no electricity nor, in a lot of cases, running water and where the gift of a solar light was received with extreme gratitude.

Solukhumbu Trek April/May 2016 - Chhiring and Val, with an elderly monk receiving his LED light, Bhulbhule

Solukhumbu Trek April/May 2016 – Chhiring and Val, with an elderly monk receiving his LED light, Bhulbhule

The giving of each light was carefully recorded and in doing so a picture of the families living in each area has been built up to enable more targeted needs to be addressed, such as the health of the elderly population or the donation of much needed warm clothing.

LED solar light distribution, PK Dairy – LED Solu Khumbu Trek, April/May 2016

LED solar light distribution, PK Dairy – LED Solu Khumbu Trek, April/May 2016

We watched as Chirring carefully repaired old light units, many outliving their predicted 5 year life span.

LED solar light repairs, Jase Bhanjyang – LED Solu Khumbu Trek, April/May 2016

LED solar light repairs, Jase Bhanjyang – LED Solu Khumbu Trek, April/May 2016

The middle of our trek took us onto the well trodden path to Everest base camp and the luxury of coffee pastries and free Wifi in Namche Bazaar. Even here in the relative wealth we saw buildings still in a state of collapse after last year’s earthquake.

Earthquake damage - LED Solu Khumbu Trek, April/May 2016

Earthquake damage – LED Solu Khumbu Trek, April/May 2016

Then on again to more remote areas where our only encounters were with the Yak herders, many of them single women, young and old. Here we met elderly couples still living in tents too terrified to sleep indoors. They offered us tea and food although they have little else but potatoes to eat. Their need for the gift of light was self evident and LED’s lights and repairs were received with heartfelt gratitude.

Solukhumbu Trek April/May 2016 - Chhiring explains how to use an LED inflatable solar light

Solukhumbu Trek April/May 2016 – Chhiring explains how to use an LED inflatable solar light

LED solar light checks, Bhote Kosi valley - LED Solu Khumbu Trek, April/May 2016

LED solar light checks, Bhote Kosi valley – LED Solu Khumbu Trek, April/May 2016

We finished our trek with aching legs and aching hearts for these people who have nothing. Over our three weeks we had seen how a donation to LED reaches the people it is intended for. Thanks Val, Mary and Charles for a fantastic and rewarding time, and I hope in the future to see for myself how the charity works in Peru.

More photos from the trek: