Entries tagged with “Prosthetic Leg” from Peru Village Empowerment Project

On the bus yesterday we went from point A to point B, riding for all of 6 hours from Lima to Huarmey, but really it was more than a matter of moving through space.  There was a change in landscape, going from a huge, sprawling city that seems delimited by nothing except its own endlessness to a much smaller, compact one situated in the dry coastal desert at the foothills of the Andes.  There was also a social shift, from the faster and more precarious life of an urban area plagued by all the problems that arise from mixing  incredible population density and economic inequality to a place still infused with the deliberate habits and attitudes of hard-working people not so far away from the isolated rural village (in some cases because they either recently migrated or never did and simply come to shop or visit family).

This morning Dimitrios, Maia and I did an interview with Jacinta, the mother of Javeth.  She has a stall in the local market, selling fruit, and of course she had heard about the leg.  But Jacinta has troubles of her own, some kind of eye ailment, maybe a cataract, and Maia had done the work of finding a free clinic in Lima that she needs.  For whatever reason, the hospital here is not a place that could help her access that care, even merely to tell her about its availability.  I mean, it’s not that hard to get there.  Later in the morning, a few of us walked over, to check on the hospital’s communication radio, and I decided that would be as good as place as any to interview Sarah and Maia about their work on the leg, which we did.  Then we easily walked back to the church.

So that’s where we are now, at the parochia, a church in the middle of town, between the market and the main plaza.  Someone has turned a radio on and the packing for leaving for the mountains is happening to a salsa beat.  There are tools, rolls of cable, and all manner of other things on the floor, to be divided up between four different crews.  One will go to the Casma valley, another to the Huarmey valley, a third to the Culebras valley, and a fourth to an area somewhat between the Huarmey and Culebras valleys.  Dimitrios will be in the second, filming Kevin and Ricky working on their passive solar adobe house, and I’ll be in the last, following Steve and others taking batteries to certain villages still off the grid, possibly requiring a bit of hiking (if that’s how it goes, we’ll carry our own packs and put the 100-lb batteries on mules).

Otherwise, the town is full of Sunday sounds, with so many people out sitting and talking, kids playing, and the ever-present sound of various mototaxi (three-wheeled motor bikes) and car horns.  Also, voting has been going on through the day, the country teetering on the edge of going left or right, selecting either Keiko Fujimori (daughter of the imprisoned, former dictator) or Ollanta Humala (son of a general famous for advocating indigenous empowerment).  Judging by most polls, Fujimori will win, helped by a propaganda campaign associating Humala with Hugo Chavez in Venezuela.  More on that later.

Just as I finished this, it turned 4pm, and the results are coming in on the radio, with Humala the likely winner, contrary to all the earlier predictions.  Amazing.



First blog post

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To begin, I´ve been here for 2.5 days and have already experienced so much.  Last time I was out of the country all I brought with me was a backpack full of beach clothes and sunscreen.  So after a 7.5 hour flight from NJ to Lima I got to experience customs.. we were eventually allowed into the country after they searched all of our equipment bags and none were confiscated so that was a relief.

Upon arriving at the hotel in a very nice bus I was told we did some exploring around the neighborhood, visiting the internet cafe but I had no soles so I could not blog yet.  We then walked down to the ocean, it was nice, I´ve only seen the Pacific Ocean once in California.  Then it was off to bed, it was already 1 in the morning and we had a big day on Friday.

We all met in the ´dining room´ of the hotel for breakfast, cafe con leche and breads with butter and jam.  Friday had begun, a little background is needed however.  The capstone team in 2004 had created a prosthetic leg for a young woman living in Peru.  Javeht was 14 at the time and since then the prosthetic had become very worn and had to be repaired several times.  My capstone group this past spring with members Joanna Langworthy, Luc Messier, and myself were able through many e-mails and visits and a conference call to have a very nice prosthetic leg donated by a local Massachusetts company.

Friday was the day we were going to get to deliver the prosthetic leg to Javeht and have it fitted at the clinic where she recieved her first prosthetic.  Javeht is 20 or 21 now and has had a daughter.  With the prosthetic she had she was not getting around very well and was afraid to travel.  Upon arriving at the clinic there was a mix-up and we did not know where Javeht was, it turned out she was in another part of the hospital waiting for us.  Once she found us and after many hello´s and thank you´s, we opened the box containing her new prosthetic.  I don´t believe there was a dry eye in the room, she was so happy that after all the forms and e-mails for the last 3 months that the day had finally arrived.

During her fitting we encountered a couple of problems and even had to consider switching out some of the parts in order to ensure a proper fit.  The doctor had her walk around the room with the new prosthetic, looking for any problems and discussing with the technicians how to improve it.  There were a few times that I noticed Javeht wiping the tears from her eyes.  After many adjustments and sitting and walking around, the doctor and the now team of technicians in the room trying to fit Javeht´s leg, agreed that it was now ok.  She is going to have to check in with the clinic for physical therapy and adjustments from time to time, but now I think she will be much more confident to travel.  It was a very rewarding day.

After a very emotional day, we got back to the hotel with half an hour to get ready for a wedding!!  It was a very beautiful ceremony and a very very fun reception.  We had to get up the next day and pack to catch the 2 pm bus from Lima to Huarmey, which took about 6 hours.  The view was amazing along the coast, with cliffs down to the ocean on the left and desert mountains to the right.  We arrived at the hostel and picked rooms.  Then off for some traditional Peruvian food.  Then we slept.

Today we are doing inventory and packing for the various tasks which lay ahead the next couple of weeks. 

Peru's Places

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We have touched down in Peru, been here a couple days and have been spending our time in Lima. So, I have not yet seen much of Peru but I like what I do see.

We’ve been staying in Barranco; it’s one of Lima’s neighborhoods and also happens to be the arts district of Lima; I feel at home.

Just the other night we took a walk down to the beach (first time I have seen the Pacific Ocean mind you) and right next to the beach was a massive mosaic. I was simply stunned at the piece’s beauty.

But I forgot my camera.

In just a few hours we’re going to get on a bus that we will stay on for between five and six hours until we reach our destination and homebase for the rest of the trip, Huarmey. From there we will be going into the smaller villages in the valleys and cliffs of the Andes mountain range.

While there I know I won’t be in any arts districts, but the way of life will be a form of art in and of itself. The culture will be drastically different and I can only wait to see some of the traditional items that the people in the mountains make for everyday use, whether it range from a hat made of alpacca wool or a small piece of jewelry. Those pieces are art of a different kind.

Along the way I will be filming what I see, what the other members of the Peru crew see and our reactions to the culture and their reactions to our actions. How are these people affected by what we do?

Well, I can tell you that I know some of them are truly touched. Chad already talked about how we filmed the donation of a prosthetic leg to Javeth. Well, I have to say, as soon as she saw the leg her demeanor completely changed. She went from a cordial and kind person to someone who was simply happy. Happiness defined her in that moment. When we interviewed her later she said "Sentio contento," "I feel happy."

Making people happy and helping these people out is one of the main purposes for this trip and I am glad that I have the opportunity to be able to tell that story through both film and this blog.


I spent part of the time on the plane the other day reading a book, The Wisdom of Donkeys, and came across a couple of lines that fit well as a description for the Village Empowerment Project.  The author had made his own journey through France (leading a donkey of course) and described that traveling as ‘a door opening out to chance, with only vague plans,’ most of which ‘were subject to change. ‘


At packing day on Wednesday (when every one going to Peru gathered at the solar lab to pack gear) and in the airport today (when we sat together during the three hour layover), we did finalize “to do” lists.  But those tasks will be governed by the rules I learned from past trips to Peru (thanks Diana and Cheryl).  One is that the best answer to many questions (when are we leaving, how are we getting there, where are we going, what are we doing there, where will we sleep, what will we eat) is often “depende,” or “it depends.”  The other rule is the fact that things happen here “poco a poco,” little by little.  And already I`ve seen both of those play out.


Today we delivered a prosthetic leg to a clinic in Callao, an area of Lima, with Dimitrios and I tagging along to film.  At first we thought the event wouldn´t happen, because there was a mix up in trying to find Javeth, the young woman who was supposed to get the leg.  We were about to leave, to try again tomorrow, when I saw Javeth, her husband and daughter in the hall, and told Maia.  Then, the doctor wasn´t ready to do the fitting but accommodated us anyway.  Two (or more hours) later, in a crowded rehabilitation room (full of sublime light coming through the windows), the thing was done and Javeth was in tears, beyond happy. 


So Saturday we continue.  We’re off to Huarmey, a long bus trip up the coast (including a few spectacular views of dry brown hills on one side and the Pacific ocean on the other).  In Huarmey, at a church that serves as our base, we’ll pack and repack and divide up into crews, figuring out transportation for each, and then do still more hours of traveling into the mountains, to finally get to work in the villages.  Then we’ll see.



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