San Ramon, gateway to Peru’s central rain forest, is home to 30,000 people. Life at 770 meters (about 2500 feet) above sea level is calm and relaxed; the weather is hot and sunny most of the time, with rain showers every few days to cool down the temperature and bring needed rain to the wide variety of plants and trees that thrive here. The people of San Ramon are mixed as far as ethnicity — some are descended from the native Ashaninka people that have lived in this region for centuries; others trace their ancestry to the Italian migrants who settled here in the 19th century; and many more moved to this area from the Andes in the last generation or two in search of work. San Ramon is located along the Carretera Central (the central highway) that links Lima in the west to the rain forest in the east. This transportation corridor makes it possible for those living in Peru’s capital to consume fresh fruit year round, as well as other products that originate in the jungle, including tropical hardwoods, coffee and freshwater fish.
Kristin is volunteering this term at Clinica Elera, a medical facility established by Dr. Gustavo Elera soon after he finished his residency. The clinic is known throughout the region for its modern technology and the expertise of its staff. Patients arrive here daily for treatment for a variety of illnesses and injuries. Kristin has a keen interest in the medical field and Dr. Elera has given her an opportunity to accompany him and other members of the staff during consultations, treatments and, on occasion, surgical procedures. Kristin is very intelligent and is learning a lot during her time at the clinic. She is finding ways to help the staff in their daily activities as well as interact personally with the patients who find themselves seeking medical treatment here.
Maritza, known affectionately as Mari among the children she works with each day, is volunteering at the Centro de Educación Especial San Manuelito (San Manuelito Special Education Center). She has taken a keen interest in three deaf boys, building on some previous knowledge of American Sign Language to teach the boys how to communicate. At night she studies Peruvian signs from a text published by the government that a teacher lent her. Maritza has an affectionate, yet non-intrusive, demeanor that works very well with developmentally-delayed children. The teacher she works with, Manuela, and the other staff at the school appreciate her support, engagement and genuine interest in the children.