Last month SOS volunteer Pam Underwood traveled with a suitcase full of supplies from the SOS warehouse to Ollantaytambo, Peru, where her daughter Mary is working as a nurse with Sacred Valley Health, an organization devoted to improving healthcare access and equity in Peru’s Sacred Valley.
According to Mary, who attended nursing school at University of Louisville and volunteered with SOS before travelling abroad, healthcare access in the mountains surrounding Ollantaytambo is poor for a number of reasons.
“There are government health clinics or postas, but they are difficult to access- certain villages must walk several hours before coming across one. In addition, each posta has limited working hours, which restricts usefulness in emergency situations… During the rainy season, which covers half of the year, the roads leading to the high mountain villages become impassable mud pits cut high into steep cliff faces. Many individuals either prefer to stay at home or are forced to stay at home during times of illness and even during labor or emergency situations.”
Mary noted that she was drawn to Sacred Valley Health’s work due to its emphasis on community buy-in and sustainability. “The communities decides whether or not they would like to become part of the program. If they want to join, the community self-selects a community health worker known as a promotora… These individuals have no special requirements (many only speak Quechua or are illiterate) except for a commitment to the program and a desire to help their community. [Sacred Valley Health] hosts trainings several times a month… The promotoras also receive support as they carry out their job [responsibilities], which include treating patients in their homes as well as giving monthly presentations to their communities on a variety of public health issues.”
Mary noted the importance of the supplies that her mother Pam carried to Peru from the SOS warehouse. “SOS provided a wide range of medical supplies for our promotoras this year including stethoscopes, bulb suctions, emergency blankets, bandage scissors and slings. We run solely on donations and our promotoras have never had access to these supplies before. Now, with this new technology, our healthcare workers can better serve their communities.”