My visit with CARE Peru Part 2: Guayacondo
By Amy Brenneman
In December, actress Amy Brenneman traveled to Peru with her family and CARE to visit the women and families benefitting from CARE's maternal and child health and child nutrition programs. The following are her impressions of the experience.
When I first talked to CARE about this trip and the fact that my family would be with me, they emphatically told me that these visits would not be appropriate for children. While I didn't know exactly what they meant by that, I assumed that the villages would be destitute, depressing, and too hard for first world children such as my own to comprehend. I understood, and made plans for Charlotte and Bodhi to do fun stuff with Brad and Melissa on the day I made site visits.
I was pleased and surprised when Lia and Gabby said that they could all come to my afternoon visit, the village of Guayacando. They explained that Guayacando was a village "much better off " than Violete Velasquez, an aspirational CARE site that they were all very proud of.
They had reason to be. Guayacando was similar on the surface to Violeta Velasquez â no paved roads, cars, and little electricity â but the houses were bigger, cleaner, and some even had running water. I was once again shepherded into a community room where I saw the plans for the community and the records of the growth of all the children. One chart showed the community's status from years ago, when many children were malnourished (indicated by an ominous red marker). One chart showed the community's status now, where virtually none of the children were malnourished, thanks to the Windows of Opportunity program. Brava Guayacando! Brava CARE!
Brad came in and sat with me in the community room. Bodhi, Charlotte and Melissa stayed in the van. From inside, I heard a sharp crack, much like a firecracker or a gunshot. Knowing it was probably neither, and knowing that Mel was with the kids, I stayed focused on listening to the community leaders. I then heard the sound that I'd hoped to hear, the sound that was one reason why this trip came to be in the first place. I heard my children laughing, playing and cavorting with the kids of Guayacando.
It seems that one of the boys had a whip â the source of the cracking sound â, which fascinated my kids and brought 15 other children running. Then a puppy appeared â universal fun. Then the boys were teaching parcour to Bodhi â up the walls of the adobe buildings â and the girls were wrapping their arms around Charlotte. They played for literally, hours. No common language, little common experience â except for the common impulse to play, connect and find one another across the expanse of seeming difference.
These joyful sounds were the backdrop to my afternoon, as I visited a wonderful clinic in the town where they taught gestating and nursing moms about nutrition, sanitation and health. I visited a preschool where the teachers talked about fine and gross motor development, language acquisition and social interactions â exactly the same things as any preschool teacher anywhere would discuss. I heard a woman from a nearby village eloquently describe the domino effect of having clean, running water in her home. "We have cleaner houses now, so we don't get so sick. We have separate bedrooms for our children and parents. We don't have our animals inside anymore. We have more crops and things to do so we have less children â that used to be the only thing we did!" Her eyes lit up as she saw her joke land, across two languages. "I am so proud to have visitors come to our town. Before, no one would have ever come. Now, we are proud of our town. Thank you, CARE."
Yes, thank you CARE. For all that you do,. For discerning what traditionally marginalized folks need and giving them the support to have those needs met. I learned many lessons from this trip, and none bigger than this: despite our differences it is our similarities that bind us together in the common endeavor of lifting one another up. It was truly an honor to celebrate the successes in Violeta Velasquez and Guayacando and to support CARE's work in Peru, and beyond.