The nutritionists name was Catalina (Caty) and the woman has many responsibilities. Each family that comes into the clinic must have an updated growth chart on the kids. Caty checks the charts to insure each kid is growing. The families pay 1 sole for both breakfast and lunch for each kid they have, which is about 33 cents per meal. If the kids are not growing well, she calls them out on it and gives them a talking to. I thought I was direct with my patients. This woman is a force to reckon with and has to be given the situation. She gives them nutrition handouts to emphasize variety and the importance of protein and fat, which is often deficient in these kids' diets. There is also this huge push for hand washing. Many of the kids have parasitic infections, which stunts their growth and brain development. This has all been traced back to lack of hand washing so she spends loads of time teaching the kids and parents to wash their hands before they eat, after they change diapers or go to the bathrooms themselves. Once they are checked in, the kids are free to play and we cook. Aside from Caty, there is another woman that comes in as an assistant cook, but takes orders from Caty. There is a very small play area where they also eat.
Here is the kitchen they work out of. NOTE: The kitchen is smaller than it appears here.
There is a four week menu cycle in this clinic. I have been able to order food in restaurants, tell taxis where our home is located and buy tickets to museums, but learning the Spanish words for Peruvian food was a challenge. I had to ask Ana, my Spanish teacher at Maximo Nivel and then did a lot of Googling (when I could find internet access) to figure out what the hell the menu items were. Once I did, I realized the menus were very well balanced.
Before I went to the Monet clinic I envisioned sitting at a desk, asking families to be patient with my Spanish and telling them how to feed their kids so they grow well. That is not what I did. I did do some simple nutrition counseling, especially when I saw a mother force feeding her kids. (THAT DRIVES ME CRAZY IN PERU AND AMERICA!) Here my responsibilities were broader in a larger effort to support the clinics day to day operations, which they desperately needed. And…I was OK with this.
- I cut potatoes, carrots and onions with the dullest knives you could imagine. It took me 25 minutes (no exaggeration) to cut an onion until they told me it was just right for the lunch that day.
- I washed and dried dishes in the coldest water you can imagine in that tiny kitchen.
- I swept and mopped the floor with a broom that had a towel around it that kept falling off. Mopping took twice as long.
- I cleaned the kiddie plastic tables and chairs over and over again and organized the developmental toys for the kids.
- I held and played with some of the cutest babies and kids.
- I sat on the floor talking to mothers in broken Spanish about the differences and similarities between Peru and America. They had a lot of questions for me. We talked about everything from feeding kids to Barack Obama and how horrible they thought guns were.
- I bought wipes and diaper cream for a mom who I saw changing a kids diaper the day before and taught her how to properly clean and change the baby. He had diaper rash (and many other medical issues). I was stunned watching her change him and will spare you intricate details about how she changed and cleaned him. His diaper was a thin washcloth she wrapped around him and then secured a plastic grocery bag (the kind they are trying to phase out in the US) as "rubber pants", similar to the 1970's version some of us may have worn.
- I made grocery lists for the clinic.
- I served food and tried some, when I felt it was safe.
- I read the Peruvian governments goals for a healthier population (more about hand washing and lots about the importance of safety of children from abuse…of all kinds. Violence in homes seems to be a big problem.
MORE PHOTOS POSTED HERE.