After 15 years as Associate Professor of Child Psychiatry at the Upstate University of New York, and as a volunteer with Vera House in Syracuse and the Oneida Tribe in Upstate NY, Dr. Lleni Pach retired early to volunteer with Doctors for Global Health (DGH). In 2005 she worked for six months at one of their projects in Chiapas, Mexico. In 2006 she decided to volunteer in Peru, explored different sites through contacts with fellow medical students at San Marcos, and decided to coordinate a Volunteer Program at the Belen Clinic in Cuzco.
In 1987, as a result of witnessing high infant mortality in his Santiago Parish, Father Nicanor Acuna Yaya began providing basic health services, with very limited resources, in the parish house. The Santiago Municipality donated a site, a former garbage dump, to the Parish and the Belen Clinic was built. It is located in the Santiago District, the poorest and most populated area of Cuzco, in stark contrast to the tourist area of downtown, just a ten minute walk away. The Santiago Parish also has a farm that trains the young indigenous population in organic and dairy farming, recovery of native plants, honey production, guinea pig breeding and more.
There is a tremendous lack of health services for this impoverished population, with a very high incidence of domestic violence, spousal abandonment, malnutrition, post-traumatic stress disorder, infectious diseases and labor exploitation. The Clinic provides a diversity of services including general medicine, health promotion and education, nursing care, physical therapy, obstetrics, prevention of domestic violence, alternative medicine (used by most of the patients in conjunction to pharmacotherapy), orthopedics (once a week), physical therapy, dentistry, basic laboratory, and a pharmacy.
Dr. Pach assists the clinic with staff training and supervises DGH volunteers who come to assist the Belen Clinic by providing basic healthcare to the immediate community and several rural and isolated communities located up to two hours away in Anta Province. The ambulatory team consists of a physician, a nurse, a dentist, and an obstetrical nurse.
The education of young adults through the Health Promoters Program includes four participants from the rural communities. Volunteers participate in this educational program which takes place weekly at the clinic and during bi-monthly visits to rural communities. The students have formed an organization "Rimasunchis Allin Kausanapaq Pakarisunchis", Quechua for "Will speak so we can progress and have a better life".
Volunteers have initiated and continue to investigate the role that domestic gender-based violence has on the Belen Clinic patients and in the communities, with hopes to evaluate and develop steps that may be taken to improve mental and physical health in the area.
Some volunteers have worked with local physicians at the Lorena Hospital that serves people with scarce resources. Others are involved with Cristo Vive, an agency for victims of domestic violence where Dr. Pach consults, teaches and supervises. There is also volunteer work done with an adolescent group in Yuncaypata, an indigenous community about 15 km from downtown Cuzco; with Fe y Alegria, a school that requested help with families and adolescents in distress; and with an Orphanage in Izcuchaca, a town about 40 minutes from Cuzco.
In these different institutions the volunteers are teaching about alcoholism and its consequences, adolescent development, female identity, sexuality awareness, etc. There is also a developing cooperation in the area of HIV and elderly health rights with Defensoría del Pueblo, an organization that protects people’s human rights.
Volunteers have come from social work programs, community health programs and from some of the best medical schools in England and the US. A minimum stay of one month and a good command of Spanish are required to volunteer. If you are interested in volunteering, please contact Dr. Lleni Pach, the site coordinator, at email@example.com
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to the Cuzco - Belen Clinic.