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. 

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PASEO Program Adventure—Day 24: El Porvenir y Trujillo, Peru

This afternoon (Monday), we had our weekly meeting with a group of local women and family members in El Porvenir that I spoke about in prior posts. Each week, two students from the program are responsible for teaching the group members relaxation and emotional regulation techniques for them to utilize at any given moment and teach others in their community. This week focused on psychoeducation regarding anger and ways that anger can manifest and build up if not properly released.

Due to gender roles and societal expectations, in many cases, women are not “supposed” to experience any other feelings aside from sadness (because of course men can only be angry and women can only be sad). For this reason, it’s so important to discuss and normalize feelings of anger because without doing so, it would likely continue to remain an unspoken topic that women “should not” discuss. Throughout the next week, we’ll place more of a focus on how to release such feelings in a positive and healthy manner, now that these feelings have been normalized and accepted.

After the group, we drove into Trujillo for our Psychology in Peru class. During the class, we each participated in Biodanza, “a system of self-development that uses music, movement and positive feelings to deepen self-awareness. Biodanza seeks to promote the ability to make a holistic link to oneself and one’s emotions and to express them.” Biodanza, originating from the Greek word bio (life) and danza (dance in Spanish), translates to the dance of life. The purpose of Biodanza is to focus on human integration, organic renewal, affective re-education and relearning of the original functions of life. Its methodology is to induce integrative experiences through music, singing, movement, and situations of group encounter.

Biodanza has five main tenants including: 1) Vitality: Increased joy of life, vital momentum (energy available for action), motor integration, neurovegetative balance. 2) Sexuality: Awakening the source of desire, increased pleasure, connection with sexual identity, and decreased sexual repression. 3) Creativity: Ability to express, innovate, and construct. 4) Activity: Ability to make connections with other people through love, friendship, altruism, and empathy. 5) Transcendence: Connection with nature and feeling of belonging to the universe.

Participating in Biodanza was truly an eye-opening and enlightening experience. Seeing as not everyone may be able to verbally express themselves the way they may like, being able to express oneself through natural and fluid movements in a safe and accepting group environment may be a beneficial alternative—especially when “talk” therapy is considered taboo in many cultures.

Running For A Cause: Part 3

As mentioned in my prior posts, this upcoming Sunday, January 24th, I’ll be running in the Miami Half Marathon to raise money and awareness for Misioneros Del Camino—a home for orphaned, abandoned, and malnourished children in Guatemala. Over the course of the next few days, I’ll be writing about Misioneros Del Camino and sharing the incredible background story of one brave woman’s calling from above to make a difference, as well as various success stories of some of the many children who grew up at MDC.

In 2006, a beautiful dream of Mami Leo’s had finally come true; a neurological center was established on site, providing special education, care, and numerous therapies to children with various neurological and developmental disorders such as autism, Down syndrome, intellectual disability, cerebral palsy, learning disorders, attention deficit disorders, and many more. With a great team of certified therapists and psychologists, each year, hundreds of children are able to obtain the necessary treatments that they wouldn’t be able to receive anywhere else. Some of the various therapies include speech, physical, occupational, sensorial, and psychological therapy.

Imagine having a child in need of special care, but not having the funds to give your child the best possible care. On top of that, imagine having to work every day to provide for the rest of your family, all while living in a location with limited resources for your child in need. Misioneros Del Camino offers neurological care to children in need at no cost whatsoever. In addition to the necessary services, the neurological center on site provides the children with meals throughout the day, and offers transportation to pick up the child (and an accompanying parent) all for free. This significantly decreases any burden the family may have previously experienced, all while giving such children the necessary skills to be more independent and be put on a path to receive the bright future they each deserve.

One such child who has benefited immensely from the various therapies he receives at the Neurological Center is Alejandro. Alejandro arrived at the home nearly fifteen years ago at the age of six months old with a presenting history of cerebral palsy and delayed cognitive development. Throughout the years, he has been receiving daily therapies at the Neurological Center, and has shown tremendous progress. His physical, emotional, and neurological development have improved significantly and he is very involved with all of the activities taking place throughout the home. When Alejandro was first evaluated years ago, the staff at Misioneros Del Camino was told that he would never be able to walk or stand on his own. However, since receiving numerous daily therapies at the Neurological Center, he has been able to walk, run, eat, dress, and bathe all on his own. Alejandro loves all types of outdoor activities, especially playing ball! Thanks to the incredible work being done at Misioneros Del Camino, children like Alejandro can receive the medical care they need, while enjoying their childhood to the fullest.

In honor of the work Mami Leo has done, in continuing her legacy, and to help provide a bright future to the current generation of children at Misioneros Del Camino, I am running in this week’s Miami Marathon. If you would like to help contribute to this incredible cause so that we can help fulfill Mami Leo’s mission, please feel free to click on the below link. And if you would like to learn more about Misioneros Del Camino, please feel free to clink on the bottom link.

https://www.gofundme.com/5y82yn78 
www.misionerosdelcamino.org 

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Half Marathon Training Weeks 1 and 2

In case you find yourself confused or worried by the end of this blog post (which I highly doubt), I’ll be putting my travel blogging on hold for a week, so that I could write about another important matter throughout the course of the next few days.

I decided two months ago that I was going to sign myself up for the Miami Half Marathon, with hopes of raising money and awareness for an orphanage in Guatemala during the process. You see, I volunteer on medical missions to Guatemala twice a year (I’ll explain more about the trips in future postings), but during the missions, we stay in an orphanage that houses over one hundred children who have either been abandoned, neglected, abused, or children who have neurological disorders whose parents could not afford to take care of them. There’s a neurological center on the premises, which provides various therapies to over 175 children, both from the home and from neighboring cities. Some of the many therapies include, speech therapy, occupational therapy, psychological therapy, physical therapy, sensorial therapy, and other crucial therapies.

After the last mission trip in November, we were asked to participate in the Miami Half Marathon in an attempt to raise money and awareness for the cause. I signed myself up for the race, and began training immediately after. I stepped onto the treadmill, for what must have been the first time in over three years, and couldn’t wait to step back off. By the middle of my first week training, I came across a half marathon schedule that beginning runners could follow. I started posting about my endeavor and provided a link where friends and family members could donate on my social media accounts. Within minutes, I had friends commenting saying things along the lines of “What are you doing running a half marathon? Or even running at all…” and other such encouraging  statements. I had to put their jokes aside and remember what I was running for. By the end of the first week, I had completed 17 miles, and by the end of the second week, I had run 21 miles. It was stories like the following one that helped get me through these first two weeks of training.

Meet Peter and Paul, two twin brothers pictured below who arrived at the home April 4, 2008. At 6 months of age, both of them suffered from severe malnutrition, pneumonia, and cardio insufficiency. They spent the next 6 months in and out of the local hospital with respiratory infections and in constant need of oxygen. As they began to gain weight and get stronger, their infections began to subside and their hearts grew stronger. Paul recovered much faster than peter and within 3 months, he no longer needed oxygen. Peter however needed oxygen for more than 6 months and would turn blue if kept off for only a few minutes. Today at age 6 and-a-half, they have made full recoveries and show no signs of heart problems. They are very healthy, playful (if not somewhat mischievous), and beyond loving. Throughout the next week, I will be posting miraculous stories that show just how incredible Misioneros Del Camino is. Stories like that of Peter and Paul are what have been motivating me to train for this upcoming Sunday’s Half Marathon, and they are the reason why I continue returning to Guatemala year after year. If you would like to help contribute to this incredible cause so that more children like Peter and Paul can be helped, please feel free to click on the below link. And if you would like to learn more about Misioneros Del Camino, please feel free to clink on the bottom link.

http://www.gofundme.com/h8kjvs
http://www.misionerosdelcamino.org/index.php