PASEO Program Adventure—Day 56: Trujillo Alto, Huanchaco, y Lima, Peru

On Friday morning, we hosted another workshop with a different group of Líderes Escolares. Similar to what I mentioned in yesterday’s post, today’s workshop focused on mental health, including psychoeducation regarding the difference between sadness and depression, the difference between stress and anxiety, how to spot signs of suicidality, and resources that the students can use in the case that a peer is experiencing any of the aforementioned topics.

The students who participated in today’s workshop were younger than most of the other students we worked with thus far, but their interest and participation in such serious topics was great to see. Following the workshop, one of the students stood up and thanked us for the work we have been doing in Peru, and for the information and support we have provided the Líderes Escolares with. You can never know if you are making a difference in the surrounding community, and even though we still don’t know whether or not we have been and are making a difference, it was truly rewarding to hear such young students thanking us for working with them. After working with such inspiring, young leaders, one can’t help but feel a great sense of hope for the future.

After our workshop, some of the social workers we have been working with took us out for a delicious lunch, consisting of ceviche mixto and chicharron de pescado. As soon as we finished lunch, I had to get back to Huanchaco for my last Spanish grammar class.

Once our class ended, another student and I ran over to facilitate our last group with adolescent males that I spoke about throughout the past few weeks. Today’s group focused on support systems and evaluating the different types of support we each have in our lives (including practical support, social support, emotional support, and advice-based support). This activity helps you realize the types of support you may or may not have, which is useful in thinking about who one’s main confidants may be. We then focused on TIPP, which I wrote about on Monday.

During times of crises, TIPP is a useful tool that one can utilize to take a step back from the crisis to de-escalate the situation. TIPP can be used when one is about to engage in dangerous behaviors during a crisis, when an individual needs to make an important decision, but is too overwhelmed to think/make a decision, the individual is not processing information effectively, the individual is emotionally overwhelmed, and/or the individual isn’t able to use his/her abilities. TIPP stands for Temperature, Intense Exercise, Paced Breathing, and Paired Muscle Relaxation—all of which are techniques one can utilize during a time of crisis. As we finished the session, we celebrated our time together and the group members’ participation throughout the past few weeks with a chocolate cake.

Following the group, we ran over to the beach to watch the sunset one last time, before having to leave Huanchaco later that evening. After enjoying the sunset, some of the other students and I went for dinner, and returned back to our house to pack, before leaving for the airport. Since I won’t be returning to the States until Tuesday, I took a cab to San Isidro (where I will be staying for the next few days) once I arrived in Lima at around midnight. 

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One Child’s Misconstrued Story

Over the summer, I attended a medical mission trip to Guatemala where our team of doctors and volunteers treated well over a thousand individuals in only a few short days. I worked in a triage station, and had the primary task of asking the people needing medical attention what was wrong, taking their blood sugar levels, blood pressure, weight, and temperature. From there, myself and the other triage team members would write down which doctor the person needed to see, and someone from the logistics team would walk him or her over to the required doctor.

A mother and her young son sat down at my table, and the mother explained that her son was very quiet and did not like talking to many people beside for her. She mentioned that the boy’s teacher believed him to have Autism Spectrum Disorder and recommended that he stop by the medical mission to inquire testing. I spent some time with the child and tried to engage in conversation with him. Although he was shy and  seemed afraid to talk at first, little by little, he began opening up.

While I still recommended he receive testing by a trained psychologist as his teacher had recommended, it turns out, the child was being bullied at school. For this reason, he had become increasingly quiet and preferred not to engage in conversations with individuals other than his mother. Because he was being bullied at school, he was carrying around a significant fear on his shoulders, and no one seemed to know about his bullying.

Bullying occurs across the globe, and for us to ignore such terrible actions committed against others is an injustice to those afraid to speak up and ask for help. No one should have to endure bullying, and we should be doing everything we can to make sure that no child, young adult, or even adult faces mistreatment by others. It is up to us to make a difference.

For a child who was believed to have had Autism and who was believed to avoid individuals and not smile at all costs, I would say that after explaining his story and having someone to talk to, his smile was pretty big if you ask me.

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