Tuesday, February 28, 2012
Sunday the staff at CerviCusco did a campaign in Accha, a small village about 4 hours from Cusco. This involved getting up at 3:45 to get to the clinic by 4:15 to load the bus with all our supplies. We arrived in Accha at 8:30 and there was already a line of women waiting for pap smears. We saw 200 patients that day. Many had walked hours to come. My second patient had gotten up at 3 in the morning (earlier than me) and had walked four hours to get to Accha. I saw several patients who had some kind of tumor growing at their cervix. There were several more with very large prolapses who had no idea they needed surgery.
This is going to sound horrible- but women who have walked four hours smell really horrible. I saw more feet that clearly hadn't been washed in months that I care to think about. The city government had sent up tents in the main square for us, and do to privacy that meant no ventilation all day. I have never loved air freshener as I did that day. It made me really appreciate things like running water for regular showers, hot water, bars of soap, and sinks for washing clothes.
The most disturbing part of the day was when we were leaving. We had brought donations for the kids- pens, notebooks, crayons, coloring books, and stickers. Wendy, one of the nurses, started passing out pens and within seconds there was a swarm of people around us. Not just kids, but adults desperately trying to get their hands on a 5 cent Bic pen. Notebooks started an even bigger frenzy and we had to insist over and over that they were only for the children. At one point Wendy put her foot down and said no one was getting anything if there wasn't an orderly line. That was amazingly effective at calming the crowd.
It was a totally different experience for me. I have seen incredible poverty in India. People who live on pennies a day. I've seen Tibetan refugees who literally walked over the Himalayas with nothing but the clothes on their back. But I have never seen this type of desperation for an item that by no means is life saving. I've heard many people complain about how the campos people are lazy and greedy and just expect handouts. I know they weren't expecting these, but their intensity and cunning and getting more than one thing was startling. It was disturbing for me as well. I just hope that at least some of those supplies went to kids who really need and will enjoy them.