The city of Villa Rica – population 14,000 – was founded by European settlers in the 19th century. The area is known as La Tierra del Café (the Land of Coffee). Italian migrants, who appreciated a good cup of java, began planting seedlings on the surrounding hillsides soon after they arrived. Today the region boasts the best coffee in Peru and, according to local promoters, some of the finest beans in the world. The most flavorful varieties thrive in rainy areas that are relatively high in elevation. At 1,470 meters (about 4,823 feet) above sea level, Villa Rica’s rain forest haciendas (plantations) provide ideal growing conditions.
Michael and Jared are volunteering at the region’s main hospital. Michael assists the staff in the pediatric section, helping with wellness checks, immunizations and the nutrition program. He has great rapport with the children treated here, putting them at ease as they are measured and receive vaccinations. He also helps the staff with recordkeeping, showing them how to optimize their use of Excel workbooks to calculate public health statistics and generate useful graphs. Most recently, Michael has been invited to assist physicians in the Emergency Room.
Jared works in the hospital admissions area, helping staff locate and update patient histories when they arrive. He sets up records for new patients and, at the end of their visit, puts their paperwork back in order. Jared also accompanies Michael and the staff from the wellness office on public health campaigns in the local schools. They typically put on a skit where a staff member dressed as bacteria, Nena, “attacks” both students. Michael, playing the part of a child who washes his hands regularly, is unaffected by the bacteria. Jared, who plays the part of a child who forgets to wash, soon becomes ill and needs to see a doctor. According to the hospital staff, children are unaccustomed to having North Americans in their school and the skit captures their attention 100%!
Jared and Michael are very active after work as well. Jared lives with the pastor of the Villa Rica Pentecostal Evangelical Church; Michael lives with the pastor’s son. They attend services several evenings each week and spend time with youth from the congregation on the weekends — sharing common interests, playing music and enjoying a new sport introduced by the students soon after they arrived: Ultimate Frisbee.