By Campbell PlowdenCACE’s relationship with the public health clinic in Jenaro Herrera began when my daughter Marissa Plowden volunteered there in the summers of 2006 and 2007. Since 2008, CACE has used part of its social rebate from the sale of handicrafts made by artisans from Jenaro to buy supplies for the clinic that serves this town of 5000 people and a dozen other campesino communities along the Ucayali River. These clinics are vitally important to the residents of these remote areas for basic health care and simple emergencies – like treating snake bites. Thanks to John Yarasavage, Sterile Processing Supervisor at the Mount Nittany Medical Center, we were able to receive a large batch of surplus supplies from this regional hospital in central Pennsylvania and donate them to the Jenaro Herrera clinic. CACE volunteers Luke Plowden (my son) and Amrit Moore and I were also able to bring these supplies (and over 60 pounds of donated clothes) to Jenaro thanks to a pledge from the Baltimore Yearly Meeting Young Friends “Do good committee” to pay for extra bag charges on flights. While the clinic appreciated many of the simple items, we learned that it was not able to use equipment intended for complicated surgeries. Next time we’ll be able to choose better.
The clinic’s intern doctor, Sainet Serna, showed us to the maternity room – the busiest place in the clinic where one young mother had recently given birth. It was equipped with one adjustable bed, five worn forceps, an adult size resuscitator patched together with duct tape, and one broken lamp. When I told Sainet about our social rebate, she and two technicians gave me a wish list for the simple items that could make their operation more functional.
While we could have bought some of these supplies in Iquitos, Sainet assured us we could get most of these much cheaper in Lima. Three weeks later, Luke and I made our way to a section of Avenida Emancipacion in downtown Lima that is lined with stores selling nothing but medical and lab equipment.
We wandered into a mini-mall, did some comparison shopping and were very pleased that we were able to buy everything on the Jenaro Herrera wish list (except one item’s description no one could understood) for $326 – just under what we had available from the 20% rebate of craft sales from the Jenaro artisans. So thank you to everyone who bought woven chambira butterflies, stars and other kinds of holiday tree ornaments from CACE in the past year. Thanks also to Trent Chalker, a world traveler we stayed with at the Pariwana backpackers hostel who contributed another $11 to help pay for these supplies.
Our purchases included 4 Kocher forceps, 2 Mayo curved scissors, 2 dissection forceps with tips, 4 Kelly forceps, 2 blood pressure cuffs, a pediatric stethoscope, a pediatric resuscitator, a goose neck lamp, and a portable oxygen tank with a manometer. We boxed up the gear and brought it to an international courier to send off to Jenaro.
GETTING STUFF DONE IN IQUITOS
While it can be very hard to get certain kinds of things done in Peru in an efficient way (like standing in line for hours to pay a bill at a bank), it’s a fun adventure to get other stuff done in a fun, timely and affordable way. I went out on Sunday to get some basic supplies for our house and got most of them at a modern store called Quispe, but right around the corner I found a fellow named Elmo who is the owner of one of the typical mobile micro-stalls (about 3 x 2 x 5 feet) that is his shop for his business to make copies of keys and help people with other kinds of locks. He first used one of those simple machine to make a rough cut of the key copy from the original. He then used a narrow grinder to fine-tune the copy.
I was really impressed that he used a hand caliper to measure the depth of each notch in the original key and the copy he was making. He eyeballed any minute differences because the calipers had no graduated lines on them. Elmo had been doing this work for 30 years so I felt pretty confident that his keys that cost me $1.25 each to make would work. He gave me his phone number to reach him just in case. His copies got me in my house just fine, but I’d like to see him again just to learn more about his life.
While the lease that we signed to rent our new house for CACE in Iquitos said everything was in good working order, we’ve discovered a few things that needed fixing to make the place more comfortable, safe and functional for our needs. As soon Tulio moved into the house, he met our neighbor Jorge who quickly became our go-to motorcar driver. When we mentioned to Jorge yesterday that we had a few plumbing issues that needed tending to, he said he had a friend who could handle them.
Julio showed up ten minutes later. They quickly determined that the threads in the faucet in the kitchen sink were stripped, the sink in my bathroom was leaking because the pipe under it was totally rusted through, and the sink in Tulio’s bathroom was clogged and just needed cleaning. After several trips to the hardware store to get various new pipes, glue, and tape, Julio donned my headlamp and used his and Jorge’s collection of old saws and wrenches to replace or clean all of the degraded items.
Julio returned this morning and spent the better part of the day doing four more tasks: 1) installing new pipes connecting our elevated water tank in the back patio to faucets in the work sinks so we could distill our rosewood material with an abundant supply of cooling water, 2) installed a new section of mosquito netting in my bedroom, 3) installed a new section of mosquito netting in the space above my bathroom, and 4) fixed up a wire in the back patio that was loosely connected by duct tape that was hanging out of a busted piece of PVC pipe.
We paid a total of about $25 in materials and $50 in labor for all seven jobs and everyone felt good about the tasks that were done. Julio looked around the house as he was leaving and said “please call me if you need anything done. I can fix your roof, put up a wall…….” Tulio told me tonight that Julio is someone who is referred to here as a “mil oficios” – someone who can do a thousand things. I know we have handymen in the US, too, but I’m awfully glad that I met Julio here.
STINGLESS BEES AT CHINO One of the houses I also visit first at Chino belongs to the veteran artisan Romelia and her husband Jorge. Jorge is one of the folks in the village who has maintained several wooden box nests with stingless bees as part of a honey producing project developed under the guidance of German Perilla from George Mason University in Virginia. While these bees don't produce as much honey as their stinging honeybee counterparts, their honey is highly valued for its strong flavor and medicinal properties.
During my last visit, Jorge's nest boxes were in his back yard. This time, he had placed both at opposite ends of his kitchen to keep a closer eye on them. I took several shots of bees coming and going out of the entrance tube as well as the guard which is always on duty to prevent the entrance of unwelcome visitors (other bees, flying ants, etc.) who might wish to invade to prey on their young.
Check out the video Beekeeping in the Amazon (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ca2kYBJN4tI) focused on a stingless bee project developed with Maijuna native communities by OnePlanet.Org and its director (and CACE board member) Michael Gilmore.