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:

Nepal: Health Post Plans

In Val’s Spring Update, you will have seen that we are going to be working with the Nepal Youth Foundation to build a LED health post in Gorkha or Sundalpulchok, funded by Faith Harckham and friends.

In April, Val went with the Nepal Youth Foundation to visit schools in the Sundalpulchok area and to see some of the buildings provided by the Nepal Youth Foundation.

The buildings have concrete fibre walls and then either brick or stone and a metal roof plus steel structures, all bolted to allow movement in tremors (unlike welded pieces). We’ll be using a similar design for the health post.

Big thanks to Lalit from NYF for his immense time and effort on the site visits, and to Riswor and Anjita at the NYF main office in Kathmandu for helping coordinate arrangements and for information on the building design and materials.

Val says “The local staff working with NYF are all so friendly and helpful and a true delight to see in action”.

Here are some photos from Val’s visit:

Nepal: May 2016 Report

Val’s just back from her Spring season in Nepal, which included a 3 week trek through Solukhumbu checking/distributing solar lights, and it’s been a busy time on all LED fronts, 12 months on from the earthquake(s).

Since the earthquake, we’ve:

  • Provided 2000 homes with solar lights
  • Delivered 120 tarps, and all tents sent out from UK are still in use in Gorkha and Sundalpulchok areas, along with all the sleeping bags and blankets sent out with the Believers group, other local organisations that we’ve worked with and Sirdar Chhiring
  • Contributed funds to help with Thame school and Thame health post (Khumbu district)
  • Sent money to help with rebuilding of homes in Dolakha, Nuwakot and Solu districts

Val says, “I need to pass on the massive number of thank you I get, constantly, from everyone in Nepal for all the help provided after the earthquakes.  With frequent tremors occurring, people are still sleeping outside, too frightened to spend the night in their houses.”

Light

  • 123 solar lights were distributed in the Solu / PK area and to yak herders in isolated Khumbu valleys.
  • 120 lights distributed in Dolpo – a sterling effort by Chhiring.
  • 65 lights distributed in Tsum.
  • Where possible existing lights in these areas were checked and repaired/replaced.

Education

School supplies have been sent for Manaslu area (Samdu and Samagaon schools)

With many thanks to Faith Harckham, Anthony, Donna and their friends in Canada, we are rebuilding a school in Gorkha district.

Still in the planning stages, we are hoping that we can do something with earthbag rebuilders for a school in Sundalpulchok – one of the hardest hit areas.

The temporary schools in Nuwakot are still running and were resupplied in April – with many thanks to Phillips Wilson and friends.

Thanks to Ersnt, Al, Sarah and Trevor (again) for their superb help with rebuilding the school hostel in Junbesi – we visited it on the April/May trek and it is looking superb.

Many thanks to Tenzing Lamo and Gelek Rapten for their help and advice and assistance with delivery of school supplies and building materials, and to Gelek for his help in organising the Junbesi hostel project and the on going work there.

Development / Health

Working with Nepal Youth Foundation, we are going to be building a health post in Gorkha. More to follow.

Thank you ….

… to everyone who has donated, helped out with relief and awareness raising and practical support for Val.

A few specific big thank yous go to:

  • Lakpa, Doma, Mingmi, Tenzi, Sonam and all at KK treks for their help this last year wth the distribution and organising of relief materials.
  • Emma Lock from Juniper and the friends and folks who helped with the packing of all the gear sent out via the Gurkha Regiment (York) and Turkish Airlines plus especially Ann Brooks and John Walton, Liam and Sue O’Hallaoran and Dave Greening.
  • Geoff Knight and all his friends and team at HSBC and nephew Codey for his school talks raising awareness about Nepal, the earthquakes and the relief needed.

Photos

Taken on the LED trek in SoluKhumbu in April/May 2016

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