Katie Campbell-Morrison is one of our on-the-ground delivery agents. She has been serving as a Peace Corps volunteer in a remote mountainous village outside Ica, Peru. In September, 2012 we sent a package of shawls and Peace Pals. Katie has used them in her work with mothers who have lost so many children they can no longer bond with their new-born infants. If they attend Katie's birthing and mothering clinic, they receive a shawl and Peace Pal. Katie's strategy is working! It is beginning to save lives! Here's a recent blog from Katie about the long journey to rekindle HOPE in desperate lives:
Tuesday, July 16, 2013
Throughout Peace Corps service nearly every volunteer suffers from the seemingly perpetual feeling that they are floating upstream without a paddle. So much of your first year and a half is filled with frustration, disappointment and confusion it can seem hard to imagine a day that everything will seem to come together. The day that suddenly you will have too much work to fill in a day rather than too much Game of Thrones. The day where you have to stick to a strict schedule in order to get everything done in a month, instead of having a schedule filled with things like: get out of bed, leave your room, talk to someone and smile. I’m not joking that that was actually my to do list for the first 3 months of my service.
The long months of seemingly accomplishing nothing and going nowhere can get extremely disheartening. Unless you are one of the super lucky volunteers in an awesome site around year one you begin to feel like you have been banging your head at a wall for the last 15 months. It was around this point in my service I started to throw clothes pins against the wall of my room in frustration. I didn’t want to throw anything publically and couldn’t afford to actually purchase something new if I broke it so clothespins became my throwing object of choice.
But somehow in spite of all of this around the last 6 months of your service things seem to suddenly start working. Well start working is a loose term. It is not as if suddenly you are not producing magical things day and night…unless you are constructing things, thin that case you are magically producing things on a daily basis. It is the moment where you realized that someone actually paid attention in the educational sessions. The moment you realize that you have more respect from your community than you initially thought possible. The moment people actually hold you accountable because you are facilitating a project they want to see finished.
This moment I realized I was not just running around like a chicken with my head cut off came for me when I was doing a house visit with a mother who at the start of my service I would have left for a lost cause.
When I arrived the health post had almost entirely given up on this mother. Her youngest daughter was a little over a year when I first got to site. She was a quiet child who only used tear to express herself and had a wanting and dead look in her eyes. Appointment after appointment the nurses had talked to her about the importance of early childhood stimulation and better nutritional habits. Time and time again she came in with her child malnourished and behind on the developmental chart. They seemed to be running up against a brick wall of resistance.
This was a mother of 3 who lived in an abusive household. The abuse created a strained environment of hostility. Father abusing mother, mother yelling at her teen child while feeling exhausted and overwhelmed, her teen child mistreating her younger sister when she was left to babysit her. There were rampant self-esteem issues and a seemingly endless cycle of risky health behaviors. The baby was constantly playing near cow corrals and drinking crude cows milk. For those of you that don’t know crude cows milk although it comes out like body temperature cappuccino milk it is filled with bacteria dangerous to humans. This was a family that from first glance seemed like a worst-case scenario.
Throughout my months of service I began to work with the mother, and with her teenage girl. One I worked with in a healthy homes project and the other in a teen health promoters program. As I began to work with them the seeming dysfunction that shrouded the family began to become clearer.
With every house visit the mother became more honest with me. Eventually she started to ask me questions about what she could do better and proudly tout around her increasingly better nourished and developed child. Although when she attended meetings she looked tired from a long day and as if she was only ½ paying attention, with every house visit she seemed to listen. All of the things she had heard for years about child rearing finally seemed to sink in when someone was willing to sit one on one with her for an hour. Month after month her child began to become better nourished, attentive and observant. What was once a colloquy, disinterested child soon became a curious and chatty child.
In a house visit a little over a month ago the mother commented that her 2 ½ year old was much more awake and attentive than her other children. Her youngest could tell when her mother was sad and comfort her. She could express her emotions and have as intelligent of a dialogue as a three year old can have with anyone. She constantly asked what things were and wanted a through explanation. This mother could see a visible difference in the mental, emotional and physical capacity of this child and her older children.
With her child came a rise in her own self-esteem. She beamed with pride as her child surpassed older, under stimulated and malnourished children. She found the strength within herself to begin to stand up to her husband. She also began to try to open a healthy line of communication between her and her teenage daughter, creating a dialogue and resolving the issues that were bubbling under the circle. During the months of working with her she began to have more confidence in the health post and trust them. Instead of hiding from them she began to use them as a resource to discover how she could create stronger family relationships in order to create a healthy home. She began to trust in herself and believe she was a good mother. She began to hug her children and say I love you every day and expecting a hug in return.
From this mother I realized that the smallest things could have a snowball effect. A mother who I wasn’t even sure was listening to anything we said has began to take steps to transform her life. I cannot take the credit for this because at the end of the day all I think I did was give her a route to find the confidence in herself she had lost. Once she saw that she was a good mother and could raise an intelligent well-nourished child she began to want more. She began to believe in herself and her family. She has hope.
Posted by Katie
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