Community Health in Peru: The Journey Begins

Wilmette resident and Marquette University Nursing Program student Chelsea Keenan embarks on her health care journey in Peru.

Five Marquette University Nursing students are about to begin a much-anticipated journey. We have known about our placement in this Community Health clinical in Piura, Peru since November, and now, it's finally real! Meg, Marianne, Rachael, Maria, and I (Chelsea) will be exploring Cuzco and Machu Picchu before undertaking our month-long clinical. Here's a snapshot of our schedule:

June 19-20: Travel to Cuzco

June 20-23: Galavant around Machu Picchu

June 24: Fly to Piura 

July 24: Home

I can't wait to share our adventures here! Our clinical is six days a week and includes working in the hospice, home visits to nearby villages, and work in the local emergency room. On top of all that wonderful nursing work, we all have put together individual teaching projects to present to the various population groups that we will be working with. But, there are more details to come relating to our clinical endeavors. 

For now, I'm extremely enthralled with the fact that we will be acting as public health nurses in Piura. I traveled to Piura in 2007 with my alma mater, Loyola Academy. Upon leaving, I absolutely knew in my heart that I would be returning again. Fate led me to Marquette's College of Nursing and with a little luck, I was accepted into this program and will see Piura again, but this time, as a future nurse. I, along with my tripmates, are so excited to be serving this beautiful community.

We arrived in Cuzco early this morning and are currently in awe of this place. The culture is rich here, where women still dress in the traditional mountain garb. Babies are carried on the back, swaddled in wraps that are painted in the rich Peruvian pattern of colors. It feels like we have traveled back in time to ancient Incan custom. The streets are lined with hectic markets chock full of meats, fruits and citizens working hard to make a living. For many of us, it is the first time traveling to an impoverished country, and it is quite the spectacle. However, the poverty here is not what catches the eye. It is the unconditional kindness of the Peruvian people, and all five of us have experienced it already in one way or another. Peruvians are never afraid to pass along a smile to a stranger, which can raise the spirit of any weary traveler. They have even been patient with my broken Spanish, which is slowly, but surely getting better.

My tripmates and I are sojourning in a local hostel, close to Cuzco's Plaza De Armas. Tomorrow morning we will scale Machu Picchu, the great world wonder. I am hoping to see a llama tomorrow, and I will certainly post a picture if I should be so lucky! Stay tuned, the adventure has just begun!

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