PASEO Program Adventure—Days 39, 40, and 41: Trujillo and Huanchaco, Peru

Each of the schools we work with were closed on Tuesday (of last week) since all of the students were participating in a march throughout Trujillo, celebrating Peru’s Independence Day (July 28th). I spent the morning working on homework and completing observation evaluations, and in the afternoon, one of the other students and I went to Trujillo to walk around and take in the sights. (We really went in for work because we didn’t realize the schools were closed in the afternoon, but when we arrived, the director of our site gave us a tour of the Plaza de Armas.) So in the end, our mistake ended up working out for the best.

On Wednesday, we had our Spanish for the mental health setting class, followed by supervision. After supervision, one of the other students and I led another group for adolescent males at the site I wrote about last week. This week, the group focused on anger and ways to recognize that one is experiencing feelings of anger. The goal is to help group members recognize their feelings in the moment and try to implement techniques to de-escalate the situation and release one’s anger in a healthy manner. After our group, we had our Spanish Grammar class, since we begin our vacation on Friday due to the national holiday.

Again, since we begin our vacation on Friday (until Wednesday), Thursday was spent getting a head start on homework, completing observation evaluations, and packing for a trip we will be taking to enjoy our time off. Tomorrow morning (this past Friday), we’ll be taking an 8-hour bus ride to Huaraz, in the northern part of Peru to enjoy our time off. The enjoyment will officially start once we get off the bus, but a vacation is a vacation, so here’s to new adventures.

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PASEO Program Adventure—Day 38: Huanchaco, Peru

This morning (Monday), we had our class on DBT (Terapia Conductual Dialéctica), which focused on chain analysis—an integral part of this type of therapy. Chain analysis looks at the ineffective behavior an individual has conducted, in addition to the precipitating event that led to the behavior. From there, vulnerabilities surrounding the behavior and event are explored, as well as consequences stemming from the behavior, and links in between (such as actions, bodily sensations, cognitions, events, and feelings). While it’s definitely not easy being cognizant of each link when analyzing a behavior or triggering event, practicing this type of thinking and analysis regarding our actions truly helps us be more mindful of our behaviors and ways in which we can improve and react to situations differently in the future.

We also learned about validation, and the importance behind this seemingly simply concept. More often than not, we tend to respond to dilemas that others are facing by trying to fix their problems or simplify the situation. Has anyone ever told you that what you’re experiencing isn’t really all that difficult, or that you’ve overcome similar (or harder) situations before, so you’ll figure out a way to do the same once again? While the latter statement may in fact be true, it’s not exactly the response we’re always looking for. In fact, for some, this type of “validation” may lead to experiencing self-doubt in how the individual reacts to and handles trying situations.

So how do we validate what an individual is going through? Instead of trying to solve or minimize their problem, we just need to be attentive and truly listen to what they are saying. While it’s much easier to jump in and interrupt with our perceived “wisdom,” active listening will go even further and make an even greater impact. 

We were left with a quote in our class that truly resonated. It translates to something along the lines of: “Sometimes we simply need someone to be with us, not to solve our problems or anything in particular—just to make us feel that we have their support and that we are important to them.” That right there is the simplest form of validation. More often than not, all we really need is somebody to listen to us. And in that moment alone, when we have that person’s undivided attention and support, we can feel validated and supported in whatever it is that we may be experiencing.

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PASEO Program Adventure—Day 37: Puerto Chicama/Puerto Malabrigo, Peru

This morning (last Sunday), a few of the students and I traveled to Puerto Chicama, also called Puerto Malabrigo, which is two hours north of Trujillo. We arrived in the early afternoon, and spent the day exploring the area alongside the beach. After trying to swim in the water (which was pretty cold, to say the least), we rented four-wheelers for less than three dollars. 

While I’ll admit that I was hesitant about going at first (because of homework, wanting extra sleep, and plenty of other excuses one could pull out of the book), I have to say that driving by the breathtaking beach and lagoons with great friends on a beautiful day with incredible weather was more than I could have asked for. It’s spontaneous adventures like this that last as memories for a lifetime.

While it’s definitely easier said than done, it’s important for us to remember that the only things guaranteed to us in life are death and taxes. Whether or not you pay your taxes is a different story, but everything in between is completely up to us. The decisions we make, the actions we take, and the dreams and adventures we choose to pursue are ours to make. 

It’s easy to say “No” and stay within our comfort zone (which for many of us on a Sunday morning is under our covers), but it’s taking that first step outside the front door and saying “Yes” that leads to new adventures. More often than not, the ball is in our court, and the steps we decide to take are entirely up to us. So why not decide to live a little and enjoy the most of our time here?

PASEO Program Adventure—Day 36: El Porvenir, Peru

Today (last Saturday), we hosted our first workshop with three groups of Líderes Escolares from three different schools in El Porvenir. As previously mentioned, los Líderes Escolares are a group of student leaders in each grade (chosen by various teachers and faculty members) from each school that receive workshops and leadership training events, with the goal of motivating and inspiring their peers—all while gaining the knowledge and support to make a difference in their schools and community.

We will be hosting two workshops with each group (with student leaders from three schools in each group), with the focus of changes in adolescence and psychoeducation regarding anger, aggression, sadness, and depression. Following the first workshop, we’ll host a final workshop with each group with the focus of empowering the student leaders to share everything they learned with their peers, and also how to spot signs of anger, sadness, depression, and suicide, in addition to how they can refer students to necessary resources, should someone be in need of help. It was a blast being able to work alongside the Líderes Escolares this morning, especially because when you see such a drive amongst young individuals, it brings about a refreshing sense of hope and change for the future.

PASEO Program Adventure—Days 34 and 35: El Porvenir y Huanchaco, Peru

On Thursday (of last week), we returned to three different schools to observe whether or not any changes had been made in the classroom following the workshops we provided throughout the past few weeks. While some classrooms continued to have difficulties gaining the attention of students, other classrooms were thriving with participation, motivation, and passion on behalf of the teachers. It’s truly incredible to see such a small difference taking place, and we can only hope that these students will feel a greater level of support in the classroom setting, since so many of them lack the support they need and deserve in their households.

On Friday, we had our Spanish Grammar course, followed by a new experience that myself and one of the other students are just beginning. Today, we began a group for adolescent males at a site that provides meals to children of women (many of whom experienced domestic violence), as well as a safe space where they can play, do homework, do crafts, or just have socialize with friends and community members. Since there are no male workers or volunteers on site, myself and another male from our program began a group for adolescent males, which will focus on providing psychoeducation regarding healthy interpersonal relationships, feelings of anger, aggression, and how to manage them in a healthy manner, as well as effective communication skills.

While there is a great need to focus on possible trauma and situations that these children and adolescents have experienced, unfortunately, due to timing, it wouldn’t be fair to begin therapy and return to the States shortly after. Therefore, we can only hope that these groups will provide these teenagers with a greater level of support, as well as beneficial information about the aforementioned topics. 

PASEO Program Adventure—Days 32 and 33: El Porvenir y Huanchaco, Peru

Today (last Tuesday), was the first day of returning to some of the schools we observed and hosted workshops at to see how the teachers have been implementing what they learned in the workshops. I was (honestly) surprised to see a drastic change in teaching methods utilized by some of the teachers, and the involvement on behalf of the students was pretty incredible too. It just goes to show that change can be made at any level as long as the motivation to accept and implement change is there.

On Wednesday, we had our Spanish for the Mental Health course, followed by supervision for our field experience. I’ll leave this post short and sweet, so as to not bore you, and more so because I honestly can’t remember what else I did during these days. So with that, enjoy your evening, as I try remembering what else I did and continue catching up on the remainder of last week.