Operation Food Basket: Part I

Hi all!  It´s Lauren again, on the mend and back to the blog.  There´s a lot to get through since we missed a post yesterday, so I´m just going to start right in.

Yesterday (Tuesday), the three of us returned to Callao to see the offices of ASPAT for the very first time, and what an adventure that was!  We´ve noticed in the week that we´ve been here that (at least in regards to foreigners), Peruvians seem quick to tell us what they think we want to hear when we ask them questions, rather than the strict truth.  As such, every time we get in a taxi, and the receptionist asks the taxi driver if he knows the location we´re headed to, inevitably he says yes when he means no (you might think he just wants the fare, but we´ve experienced this phenomena in other walks of life – ask for directions, and everyone will tell you that they know where you´re going, and then proceed to point in different directions).  Yesterday was no exception, and we drove for over an hour through Callao as the driver got more and more lost.  Fortunately, we had negotiated a price before entering the taxi, so the longer than anticipated drive didn´t cost us anything extra!  Eventually, we managed to convince the driver just to phone Melecio and have him guide us, and so we arrived unceremoniously (and very late) at the ASPAT office, otherwise known as Judy`s house.

One of our first views of Callao through the window of our taxi. It was very difficult to reconcile this sight with the wealth and prosperity of other neighborhoods of Lima, such as Miraflores, or even the more urbanized portion of Callao where Hospital Carrion is located.

Melecio showing us into the ASPAT offices. Judy lives in the yellow house right next door.

A close-up of ASPAT’s front door.

Once at ASPAT, Melecio took some time to explain the goals of ASPAT and how said goals are implemented.

(1) Their goals –> Education, prevention, raise employment levels, increase citizen participation

(2) In their work with patients, ASPAT emphasizes empowerment and responsibility.  TB patients should know their rights as human beings and as patients, and be confident in securing them for themselves.  At the same time, they must be made aware of their responsibilities to themselves, their families, and their society (for more on ASPAT´s philosophy, see Bonus Post: Melecio´s Life Story).

(3)  ASPAT seeks to educate people through informal charlas, which are essentially free teaching sessions.  These charlas are mostly implemented in middle schools and high schools, so that young people are made aware of the signs & symptoms of TB, and learn how they can prevent the disease.

An example of the educational flyers that can be handed out  through charlas or in the hospital and health clinics.

(4)  To help people who are unemployed as a result of illness, members of ASPAT have been teaching patients and their families the art of craftmaking, providing people with the material for handicrafts and then selling the jewelry that they make to help patients generate income.

A sample of the jewelry ASPAT’s patients have made! We will be bringing back earrings, bracelets, necklaces and rings to sell in the US – be excited.

(5)  ASPAT´s health workers, in addition to ensuring that patients comply with their drug regimens, also try to provide emotional and mental support to the patients (especially patients who have been abandoned by their families).

(6) Finally, ASPAT hopes to encourage the public to champion the cause of TB and put more pressure on their governments (local, municipal, national, or otherwise) to provide better healthcare options and stop denying the existence of a problem. To facilitate such public exposure, ASPAT organized a Latin American forum on the fight against TB – the first meeting of its kind – in November of 2011. Melecio proudly gave us folders, pens, schedules and bags from the forum, tangible evidence of the intangible relationships between government, non-profits and healthcare providers in Latin America that ASPAT has helped to foster.


Briana, Cindy, and I then spoke with Melecio about GlobeMed´s role in ASPAT´s development, providing Melecio with a rundown of what we´d done in the past year and talking about our plans for the future.  Here are some of the suggestions that Melecio and Judy had for us:

(1) Expand beyond the scope of UChicago.  Target companies or wealthy donors who can provide more than college students.

(2)  Don´t get so caught up in fundraising that you forget about education.  Few people in the U.S.  consider TB a problem – try to convince them otherwise (possibly reminding them of the threat that extremely drug resistant TB poses to people in the US should countries such as Peru fail to contain it now).

(3)  Target wide audiences – don´t necessarily limit yourself to audiences with those in the health professions.

In this vein, the lot of us talked about some of ASPAT´s biggest needs in the future, and how GlobeMed could help achieve them (and vice versa).

(1)  ASPAT is currently extremely limited by the fact that no one on the staff can speak English.  In the next few weeks, Briana and I will start translating some of their presentations (outlining their goals, methodology, statistics, etc.) into English, and will hopefully begin to work on an English translation of their website.

(2)  Melecio himself is interested in learning English, but classes in Peru are too expensive for him to afford.  Until he (or another ASPAT member) learns English, their influence is limited to Latin American countries.  They´ve already been invited to several international conferences which they haven´t been able to attend.  Do any GlobeMed members (0r other blog readers) know of a relatively inexpensive way for Melecio to teach himself English?

(3)  ASPAT will make sure that that patients who are making the jewelry step up the pace, so that they can send more of the work to the U.S.  The first batch will be coming back with the three of us.  They will also provide patient testimonials, any statistics we desire, and regular videos/pictures of themselves, their patients, and their progress.  All of these materials will be a great resource, but again, none of the materials ASPAT currently has are in English.  Spanish-speaking GlobeMed members will need to commit more resources to translating ASPAT´s materials in the next year and helping them to reach a wider audience.

With these logistical details out of the way, Melecio took the three of us out for lunch at Judy´s mom´s restaurant.  Judy´s mom is a great cook, and the food was once again very authentically Peruvian.  Briana was particularly intrigued (which is the polite word for horrified, in this instance) by my discovery of a chicken foot floating in my soup!  As for me, that was a sight I´d grown fairly used to when I previously traveled in China, but I never wanted to see it again.  Cindy was happy to take it off my hands.  Thanks, Cindy!


While eating, we met Sebastian, Judy´s young son.  He was really cute and energetic, and quite possibly speaks more English than Cindy does Spanish, showing us how he could count to ten and name all the colors.  Judy was very proud.

(Note from Cindy: My Spanish is improving very quickly, thank you very much. I’m getting very good at negotiating for taxis! Also, I decided everyone needed a play-by-play of Sebastian’s interactions with Melecio and, when she came back in at the end of our lunch, Judy)




After lunch, everyone headed back to the ASPAT office to make up some food baskets, which we will be deliverng to the patients that Judy selects (see Part II).  I have to say, Briana, Cindy, and I make one efficient team when it comes to compiling food baskets.  We were soon done, so the three of us headed back to Miraflores to rest from the day.

Continued in Part II


Posted on June 20, 2012, in GROW Trip 2012 Blog. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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