Friday the 13th and our Open House

 

Friday the thirteenth, the day we were all expecting with a strange mix of excitement and dread. We were super excited about Healthy Living’s open house. The open house was HL’s closing event, where we would be showcasing what the team and the community members had been working on together for the past few weeks. On the other hand we were dreading two things: the bad luck of a Friday the 13th- which fortunately waited until the event was finished to manifest- and, more than anything, we dreaded the thought of having to say goodbye to the people of Chaquizhca, Guara and Bella Maria. People who had so warmly opened their homes, schools, and their hearts to us.

We arrived very early in the morning to set everything up, gosh I had like 300 drawings from the story telling and participatory project I was working on at the local schools. Lucky for me the children arrived shortly and came to my rescue. Later, some folks from our french ally institution Tsiky Tzanaka joined in, and we were done in the nick of time. The party started at around 10 in the morning, it was the perfect mix of a cultural fair and a gathering between good friends. There were booths with local produce and crafts, others with some creative work from the members of the HL team, and some from local partners and institutions. There were interactive activities like the solar clock, which aimed to show community members traditional alternatives to new technologies that have been forgotten; the family photo booth and community photo shows; the balance and jumping ropes for the children. I was in charge of the children’s room, where the drawings from the story telling and participatory sketching activities were showcased, along with art projects from the children’s class work. It was a very nice experience, having people come and explaining what the children and I had worked on for the entire month, why it was relevant and what was next.

Later on, there were performances from the children and community members. The best moment for me was when I found out the community members had set up a snack post with traditional Latin-American delights like empanadas and salchi-papas (fries and wienies); I always loved those back in Colombia and had missed them a lot. We concluded the event with a nice lunch and warm goodbyes. The children asked me “Lily, Lily!!! are you coming back next year?” I smiled cautiously and answered “God willing, I will try ” I was sad about the uncertainty of it all, but I felt worse about people who were probably asked the same question, but knew for sure they were not coming back. Still, whether we planned on coming back or not, we hoped that the communities had found our presence as enjoyable as we had found their company, and that our work had impacted their lives at least half as much as it did our souls.

Going home, Friday the 13th started kicking in: two vans had flat tires, we encountered all kinds of crazy stuff on the road, but at the end of the day there was nothing but satisfaction in the memory of that day. As we shared dinner and drinks we also shared warm and happy memories, funny anecdotes and jokes about some not so pleasant experiences. The open house had closed, but we hope that the hearts we tried to reach during our time there would remain open.

Apart from the display of children’s drawings, there are also other booths of Clinic, Entomology, Mammal, Entomology, Healthy Living, and some agriculture products and souvenirs bought to the Open House by local people. Let’s see what we have for the day.

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Link to the original post: http://oueduabroad.wordpress.com/2012/07/27/open-houses-open-hearts-and-bitter-sweet-farewells/

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Focus Group on Healthy Housing

One particular thing about Healthy Living Project is that we have always used participatory approach while working with the communities here. This has been proved to be the appropriate method to approach the local people, who better understand their different aspects of life here and see things in a different way than the development experts or professionals. What we think may be good for them is not the same as what they think it is. Therefore, participatory approach is necessary to better comprehend the needs and necessities of local people and to bridge the gap in knowledge and understanding between local people and experts.

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The housing component is one of the five major components of HLP and has been the most critical part in our fight against Chagas and to improve housing and living conditions of the communities here. To engage local people in developing the idea of a healthy housing and living, we invited some women from the communities in Chaquizhca, Guara, and Bella Maria to conduct a focus group on Healthy House and Healthy Living.

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The participants were shown some pictures of houses in different conditions and were asked what they see in the houses that need to be improved. After the evaluation of houses, we went on gathering ideas of how a healthy house should be. They were divided in two groups and each one tried to sketch an ideal house that can keep the bugs away and help them maintain a healthy living condition. From their sketching, it looks like they already had a clear idea of the house they want. The most encouraging thing that we found is that their picture of the ideal house also fits the requirement of a healthy house that we think of, which is built of nice materials, has fence, no animals in the house, and has cages for animals and pets located outside the house.

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The focus group ended up with the question of how to build the house that has this ideal conditions and what kind of assistance that local people require from donors, organizations, and from us. The participants supposed that they can build their own houses or improve their current place if they have enough money, and of course they need assistance in building houses, but they also believe they can do it with their labor.

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It was such a productive meeting as we could better understand the needs of people in building the houses, how they want to build their houses and how we could help them in achieving the goal. We are also happy with the fact that three out of five women came to the meeting will become our health promoters, which mean they will spread the knowledge and information within the community. We believe they will be the positive deviants among their communities and will help to promote how to live a healthy life and the importance of having a healthy house. Way to go, health promoters!!!!

Visiting women’s workshop in Bella Maria

Sunday is supposed to be a day of rest, but to Development team members of Healthy Living project, there seems to be no off day as we all have a lot of surveys, focus groups and other work to facilitate before the end of the program this summer. And so we spent this Sunday visiting women’s workshop in Bella Maria so we can figure out what they think about the activities they are doing at the workshop and how they expect the workshop will become in future. We also want to help them out with the workshop if they need any promotion or any assistance with their business.

Some of the stuff made by women in Bella Maria

As we have been so connected with the communities here and more and more engaged with the project, all the work and facilitation does not seem that hard anymore. It is always nice to meet with local people here as they always treat us with the best they could and makes us feel like home. And so this visit to Bella Maria was actually great to all of us. The women’s workshop is located in one of the women’s house in the community and is the place where the women get together every Sunday, sometimes with their kids and husbands, to share their ideas of how to make beautiful handicrafts and jewelry to generate more income for their families. We can see that this activity serves as many purposes for the women: it is not only a means to generate income but also a meaningful way for women who want to work and share their ideas to make a better life and future for their families and the community.

Working on ideas to expand the business of women’s workshop

However, what surprised us most are not the beautiful stuff that they made and how much they enjoy the activity but their clear vision of how they would like this workshop to become in future. They do not only see it as a women’s activity but a potential business, which they want to expand in negotiation and distribution. To make this come true, they are thinking of having a space to display their items in Cariamanga, one of the biggest cities in Loja province, so they can distribute the products to bigger population. It is not only a dream as they are really working on the ideas of logo and the message they want to deliver. While working with them on the image of their group activity, the women were very active and gave us a lot of ideas on how they want to develop the image of their business. What we are trying to help them is to realize their ideas, including designing the logo, making promotion for their products, and packaging.

Well, people may think that our Development team is helping the communities to figure out what they should do to improve their living conditions, but actually we are also learning while working with the communities. That has made our working process more stimulating and fulfilling. There is always something interesting about the communities, their thoughts and ideas that we have not learned before every time we work or facilitate an activity with them; and all of those things, together with their nice gestures, just make us want to stay longer and work harder for the project. Yeah, that’s why working on Sunday is not bad at all. 🙂

a great view on our way back, one of the reasons that keep us excited when going to the field everyday 🙂

Work hard, play harder!!! – A day with clinic team

One of the critical activities and components of Tropical Disease Institute’s Summer Program is health research, which is conducted by Clinic team. They have been working hard this whole week to set up the lab in and invite local people in Melva Usaime and Usaime communities to come and check for disease, not only Chagas disease but also overall health condition. After health checking, they also get consultation from our doctors to see what they should take for medication to improve their health condition.

Explaining the health checking process and getting signatures for consent forms

Local people waiting for health checking

The day started with setting up the lab and reception table for people who come for clinical test. They are first explained what the test is for and is asked for consent before taking their blood samples. Once they have understood the purpose of the research and agree to participate, they will sign in two copies of consent forms, with one for participant and one for our record. Children who are accompanied by their parents are also asked for their parents’ consent to take part in the research. A lot of people come with their children who are too small to understand what is going on, so we mostly get their parents consent for children under 12 years old. It is reported that there were 113 samples on the busiest day of the clinical team so far, and more than 90 people on average come everyday for health checking.

Taking blood samples for testing

OU and PUCE students working in the lab

When the consent forms have been signed, the participants will be sent to clinic room to take blood samples. While their samples are sent to the lab for testing, they can go to the vision clinic right next door to test for shortsighted and other vision diseases. Once we have the results of their samples from the lab and their vision tests, they are going to be sent to our doctors for consultation and medication if necessary. The process keeps the whole team working all day long although they are the biggest team in Healthy Living Initiative this summer with more than 30 people.

Measuring blood pressure, height and weight

checking vision for local people

Healthcare consulting

Well, working hard does not mean that clinic people don’t know how to have fun.  On our way to Melva Usaime in one of the “bananas”, music is always on and we were all swinging in the car not sure it is because of the music or the bumpy road. And after a long day working at the lab, they finally end up with a soccer or basketball game, while other team members who have finished their duties become the audience. It seems like the clinic people are both good at working hard and relaxing. Great job, clinic team!

end up the day with a soccer game! 🙂

Con nuestra labor, sin chagas en Ecuador!!!!

All the participants in the project, both from Ohio University and la PUCE arrived over the weekend, and it seems like the population of Cariamanga, or at least the area we are staying in has risen considerably as a result of their arrival as one cannot walk in Cariamanga without seeing a team member. On Monday we had a meeting in another hotel in Cariamanga with all of the participants where the different components of the project were explained to those who had arrived. Yesterday we went back to the communities, but this time in a whole fleet of different vehicles, school vans (called bananas by the team), SUVs and the tried and trusted pick up trucks driven by Don Victor and Eduardo. We left Cariamanga at 6 in the morning, after a rally cry led by Dr. Grijalva: “Con nuestra labor, sin chagas en Ecuador!” We arrived at the school in Chaquizca, where members of the Healthy Living team were greeted by students at the school we had worked with in the previous weeks. We had breakfast at the school including cereal, eggs, coffee, juice, bread and fruits; then split up into our fumigation teams to head to Guara.

Each team included members of a national health group that works in fumigation, they work both with chagas and malaria prevention, undergraduate students from Ohio University, students from la PUCE and members of the OU Healthy Living team. Our team arrived at Don Milenio’s house in Guara and proceeded to walk up, a direction that we would become very familiar with over 5 hours, to our first houses. We first arrived at the house of Don Sirilo, a very friendly man who welcomed us warmly with lemonade. He had a nice, adobe house and kept chickens and pigs outside of the house. After talking briefly with him and his wife, we went back down the hill to his daughter’s house, where we drank more lemonade, interviewed her with a socio economic survey while the other members of the team looked for chinchorros and fumigated the house. We then went back to Don Sirilo, and while Daniela did the interview, I helped looked for chinchorros. His house was very nice and clean and we found no chinchorros on the inside, however, while walking on the porch I spotted one on the outside wall. The chinchorro had likely just landed there from the fields and bushes near the house, and confirms the theory that while a house may be fumigated regularly, the chinchorros come back from the field to the houses once the danger is gone. We then spent about half an hour taking most everything out of the house so it could then be fumigated. While Marco, a PUCE biology student and John Jack got some good exercise by carrying a full tank of water out of the house, I had to deal with trying to get a defensive hen out of the bodega, trying to calm it down to prevent it from biting me. I tied her up outside of the house, and all the chicks that were inside the bodega before followed her out when they heard her voice. The fumigation was done by spraying the walls with the solution and giving attention to cracks in between walls where chinchorros may congregate. After the fumigation was complete we put the stuff back in the house, roughly where it was before and proceeded to the next house.

We took a slight detour through less walked upon paths going up hill over loose terrain to get to the next house, the house of Don Abram, which while classified for the project as part of Guara, is actually part of Luranda, which is in between Guara and Chaquizca. Here I interviewed Don Abram and we also talked about different foods that they eat there and he showed me his gamecocks that he had in bamboo cages, including a few that had already won a handful of fights. No chinchorros were found but the house, as all houses in the project was fumigated as a preventive measure. We then began a long trek back down to the highway, where we passed through woods, a creek, a pasture, where people attending the fields gave us oranges. We bumped into Don Sirilo again, who showed us the way back to the road, and while walking through his property, we saw a irrigation system called séquia, which channels the creek water in small canals above the fields, and when one wants to irrigate an area they dam the canal and make an opening in the side of it. We met up with Dr. Grijalva who drove us back to Chaquizca where we recuperated before taking a “banana” back to Cariamanga.

Written by Coner Tong

Bird watching activity

One of the focuses of the Healthy Living project is the economic development component and thus, we have been particularly concentrated on this aspect over the last few days. Our most recent activity is going on the bird watching hike in Bella Maria to get more insights and ideas on the feasibility of ecotourism.Image

We were accompanied with Don Wilmar, an NGO staff in Cariamanga who works in communication and empowerment of the youth in the area. Don Wilmar explained that he saw part of the group’s goal was to have youth from the town and communities interact and learn from each other, and to use this communication to transfer awareness of rights and responsibilities children and students have as citizens in order to cultivate education and citizenship amongst themselves. We then met with Don Dionisio, the guide, who took us on the tour with members of ornithological club at the school of Bella Maria. On the tour, students were enthralled with the video camera and conducted several interviews and statements with the members of the communications group.

Although the tour was designated for bird watching, Imagethere were great views of the mountains and ravines below on the trail as it ascended up a hill, as well as a mostly intact dry tropical forest and its natural vegetation, including el ceibo and other flowering plants. We saw a few parakeets and a bright gold bird that all the students from Bella Maria identified as a margarita. After coming back to Bella Maria, we went to the school in Chaquizca to work out logistics of a project of perimeter fencing as well as meetings for tourism research and a meeting of the water committee that will be held tomorrow. We then went to a house in Guara where Claudia interviewed its owner about practices that he implemented that might prevent chagas vectors from being in his house. 

 

Working hard while playing like a child

The past few days I have reconnected with my childhood by helping children reconnect with their communities’ folklore and narrative. I’ve been working on the story-telling and participatory sketching activities, and it has been a blast. When I came last year I collected stories from the communities’ elders   and then transcribed them. Initially these stories were meant to be used as part of our community based tourism strategy but somewhere down the road we decided to have the children from this community.

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For this activities we brought an illustrated album built with the typed stories and the children’s illustrations and we did a critical dialogue activity using the morals and lessons from each of the stories in a discussion with the children. Then we had another participatory sketching activity, where we asked the children to draw a story about what the characters from the stories should have done and how things would have been different if they had acted better. munities illustrate the stories. In the pilot activity they seemed to be having a lot of fun, and they seem to be very engaged with the stories, so we decided this was an awesome activity to incorporate into our education and culture initiative.

 ImageThe schools’ teachers were very enthusiastic about these activities since, as one of them stated, “they help the kids create and reflect at the same time, instead of reading and memorizing things” and all of them said they would be interested in incorporating this kind of activity into their curriculum. I’d  like to pretend to be a very noble person and say I’m working hard to make a difference , but truth to be told I’m just having fun . Gosh I’m so lucky! I get to play like a little kid and call it a work day 😉

Written and photo by Lily Acevedo

Healthy Living Team – First day in the field

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In Chaquizca

We woke up to a chilly, misty Andean morning to begin our first full day of research in the communities. We left Cariamanga for Chaquizca, where we arrived at the school and then split into our different groups to do our designated activities. Lily conducted her activity at the school for her project on local stories. She had all thirty students illustrate responses to the stories that they had compiled the year before as they split into groups and collaborated with each other, using crayons and colored pencils to draw their responses to stories such as La paloma llora and El conejo y el zorro. Lily talked to the teachers who had positive responses to the concept of involving local stories in the curriculum for it inspires critical thinking and pride in their communities.

Claudia, Ing. Darwin and I visited two houses in Chaquizca that had consistently tested negative for the presence of Chagas vectors to see if there are common characteristics to their houses that inhibits the vectors from having a presence in their houses. Our first visit was with a man who lived next to the school named Don Alberto. He seemed very aware of the need to prevent against Chagas disease as he fumigates his house regularly and cleans it daily. We then went in the truck to a community on the edge of Chaquizca going back towards the highway. There we met Don José and his family, who were in the process of making a dulce block locally called panela, which is made out of sugar cane that he grows on his property. The process seemed similar to making maple syrup, a large fire is made below large trays where the liquid caña juice is placed in order for it to condense. When it is sufficiently thick, the liquid is placed in block molds to cool. Don José said that the blocks, along with other crops that he cultivates are taken to the ferías libres held in Cariamanga on Sundays. Don José and his family were also very aware of the need to prevent the presence of vectors in their household, claiming that they fumigate the house regularly, keep animals outside of the house and go to the doctor or other place to be taken care of when they feel sick.

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Claudia and Susan working with community

Miks, Guillermo and Susan went to the house of Don Fernando, a large landholder in the community of Chaquizca. They went on a long drive through the land and met up with him in an orange grove on his property. According to Miks, they ate the best oranges that photosynthesis has ever produced they talked about his impressions of the community and the project. He emphasized that education was important for the community and also that he was interested in giving legal status to the farmers who lived on his land.

Written by Coner Tong

Photo by Susan Pomar Queirolo