Field Notes

Wednesday, July 25th, 2018

Medical Mission team member, Rosemary Russell, reports about a recent trip to José Galvez, Peru…

On our exploratory trip to Peru last year, we investigated two potential sites for a medical mission – José Galvez and Piura. We chose José Galvez because we knew there were people there who would be well served by a medical mission and because it had a strong Carmelite presence. Recently, three of us—fr. Dan, Vincent Ty and myself—journeyed back to José Galvez to cement logistics and support for the mission. In a busy three days, our initial reasons for selecting José Galvez were validated many times over.

José Galvez is about ninety minutes from the Lima airport. It is an extremely dusty area dominated by the largest cement factory in Latin America. While this may provide some jobs, the majority of José Galvez inhabitants seem to scramble for their livelihood. Health care is available but out of reach of many of them; only those few with private insurance see doctors regularly. Like many other countries, the clinic doctor might be available but the cost of medicine is untouchable. Bringing a medical mission to these people is a great opportunity.

The Carmelite presence in José Galvez is multi-tiered and the Carmelite community is ready to support our mission in whatever way is necessary. Fr. Jerry Payea, director of the novitiate in Lurín, had scouted sites that would provide geographic diversity and reach as many people as possible. In addition to Our Lady of Mount Carmel, where we will be stationed for one day, we visited three other sites.

At Santa Teresita Chapel, we met with two Carmelite sisters who had wonderful ideas on how to publicize the mission as well as how to deal with the bureaucracy. “Just tell them that the people need this!” Unfortunately, I think their methods work only if one wears a habit. Instead, we had an hours long visit to the Ministry of Health, accompanied by Monica, the secretary to the Carmelite novitiate program, to discuss proper filings to obtain temporary medical licenses and tax free status for our shipment of donated goods. Monica is a saint in my book!

Our visit to the San José rehab facility, which provides life-changing therapy to addicts from several countries as well as local citizens, left us overwhelmed by the extent of their program and the dedication of their program director. They are happy to host our mission for at least a day and will canvas the surrounding neighborhoods to publicize it. It was clearly a case of not knowing what to expect when we entered their wooden doors. Beyond the chapel, the kitchen and dining rooms and the dormitory lay an entire barnyard of animals used for therapy and food supply, a computer lab and classroom and an enormous shop where they manufacture iron crosses and other items. We were sent off by a rousing rendition of a Marian hymn.

The fourth proposed site is a small elementary school at the edges of the parish. Trinity School was started by a young man who strongly believes learning English is necessary for the children to succeed in life. With donated monies and grants, he has begun a program to prepare graduates for life outside of the isolated villages in which many of them live. The children insisted we visit their classrooms where we were hugged and high fived and greeted with their “Good morning. How are you?”

Everyone we spoke with was enthused and supportive of our mission. We left with renewed commitment and cannot wait to return in October.

Rosemary Russell

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