It is with great joy that we are writing to report our findings and impressions following our family's visit to Arequipa in July. We spent two weeks with the church, and we took the opportunity to observe various aspects of CUDA's work and to discuss matters at length with Alfredo and some of our missionary volunteers.
We believe that God is healing and transforming creation, so part of our mission as a team is to proclaim and participate in God’s reign as it breaks into the city of Arequipa. We work for God’s reign, to produce signs of justice, wellbeing, and joy of God’s saving rule. What does that look like? Through CUDA, we catch glimpses. We plant seeds. We walk the long, slow path of development that leads to transformation. We do it because Jesus was raised from the dead and the world is now a different place.
The year is off to a great start! The new Living Library at an elementary school in the district of Miraflores has been inaugurated and is under way, and we continue working with three other schools. This year we’re working with 38 teachers and 694 kids and their families in four under-resourced schools across the city. Last year, our health team saw 1,000 patients, more than 100 of which were diabetics and 300+ who had a high risk of diabetes. We’re focusing this year on serving those who have joined our care and education for diabetics program—ProCED—as we continue to partner with the Hunter health center. We’re excited to share more developments throughout the year as together we plant kingdom seeds of justice, wellbeing, and joy in the city.
As a part of the Living Libraries program, the teachers are required to attend continuing education training sessions each month. Lucia and Nancy lead these, teaching reading strategies to the teachers. Past years, these training sessions have focused solely on reading strategies, but they decided that this year, since CUDA’s mission is to promote holistic wellbeing, they would try to do just that. Lucia has asked Jeremy to lead a few sessions on ethics and the PuraVida team to teach on health.
About six months ago we had the idea to start an exercise group for the patients we see in the clinic. We discuss the benefits of being physically fit with the majority of our patients and we wanted to give them a free resource to learn and participate in exercises. I wanted to create something that women of any age and fitness level could be a part of. I also wanted to build a space where relationships can be made. Katie has also been a huge part of this exercise group and has co-led with me.
Three years ago this program opened its first library in an all-boys elementary school in a neighborhood called Miraflores. CUDA, through the Living Libraries program, is striving to increase a love for reading while bettering reading comprehension in kids throughout public schools. CUDA provides the books for a library within an elementary school if the school agrees to provide a space to put a library. Also as a part of this program the teachers are required to attend training workshops throughout the year to learn strategies to be able better to teach reading to their students.
Living Libraries is growing by leaps and bounds. This year we have four different schools in four different areas of the city. This is enough to keep everyone busy…yet we keep growing!
CUDA’s health branch, Pura Vida, is launching its newest initiative this month. We’re calling it ProCED (Programa de Cuidado y Educación para Diabéticos), a play on the Spanish word proceder, meaning “to proceed”. We are proceeding from and building on last year’s work done mostly by Andrew and Bethany Gray in the clinic in Arequipa’s district of Hunter. The Grays started doing free Diabetes screenings for patients in this clinic a little over a year ago and have established a great reputation for CUDA there. Finger-stick blood glucose readings allow us to see who has abnormally high blood glucose. We’ve screened over 850 people thus far.
Part of CUDA’s philosophy is to foster programs that are sustainable and holistic in nature and avoid paternalism and dependency. The medical branch of CUDA, called Pura Vida, is still in its beginning stages. We chose the name Pura Vida to communicate that our aim is for people to attain wellbeing in all facets of life: physical, mental and relational (also part of CUDA’s philosophy) and that this way they may be blessed by a pure life. We hope in time to be able to recruit Peruvian volunteers who will partner with us, become passionate with the work, and will continue the work once we have gone. For now, we strive to be culturally contextual and get input from local Arequipeños in all we do.
Living Libraries just started a new year! This year we have TWO new schools, ONE school in its second year, and ONE school in its third year. That is FOUR schools!!! This is obviously more teachers in the program than we have included in the past, and we are excited for the numbers of students we are reaching. Let me tell you about some of the changes this year.