GROW Post Four: The Minga

GROW team's friend Bruno expressing himself

By Humma Sheikh

The alarm went off promptly at 4:30 am. Time to get up. After hastily getting ready and having a quick breakfast, we met Frida, who was waiting outside with a motocar and her own moto. We made our way to Pampachica around 5:15 am for the Minga, which is known as a collective effort to work towards a cleaner, safer, and healthier community. Eight out of nine neighborhoods in Pampachica participated, and were judged based on their efforts and improvement. This collective effort would take place every Sunday until the 21st, at which time a neighborhood would be selected as the winner based on their performance and overall improvement.

We arrived just outside of Pampachica, where we met with Manuel and some regional government officials who would be helping to judge the competition (Maddy was also a judge). Frida opened up the storage space under her moto’s seat and took out white t-shirts to distribute to all of the judges, and to the GROW team. They each had an embroidered logo on the front which said “Concurso – Mi Barrio Saludable”, and on the back, there were logos of sponsors and supporters of the contest.  Among these logos was the new GlobeMed logo. Flattered and excited, the GROW team thanked Frida and Manuel for their generosity. Needless to say, we are beyond stoked.

The judging began with Santa Maria, the smallest neighborhood in Pampachica. Unfortunately, we didn’t see many kids out working. Sr. Clever, an artist who paints fantastic murals for the neighborhood, explained that in the past, Santa Maria was visited last by the judges, and they were expecting the same this year. Even so, we were delighted to see some greenery and a couple of gardens planted. We moved on to Villa Primero de Mayo, where we could see the river rush right in the middle of the neighborhood. Manuel explained that it is very hard for people in Pampachica to deal with the pollution in the river. Despite their efforts to keep it clean it, once it rains, the polluted, garbage filled waters run from the city of Iquitos into Pampachica. It was amazing to see that despite this frustration, members of the neighborhood were out cleaning and working together.

The next neighborhood we went to was Santa Lucia, where I met an adorable girl named Brittney who had tiny little pigtails at the top of her head. Brittney decided to accompany us for a majority of the rest of the Minga; she had become part of our team. There is even an adorable picture of her walking with Maddy and Anisha from on neighborhood to the next.

Next was Aguas Blancas, where Manuel showed us how the rain brings trash under the raised houses in that neighborhood. After that, we saw Paisaje Ivan, where we were greeted at the front of the neighborhood by a crowd of excited and hard working kids. The next neighborhood was El Aguaje. We were happy to see the kids restoring the paintings on their brick walls, each of which were encouraging people to work towards a cleaner, safer neighborhood. I ended up talking to Luis, who is the secretary general of the neighborhood, and Jackie, a caring mother. They were both so friendly and interested in GlobeMed, and really wanted to get to know me. They were so sweet and welcoming. On our way out of the neighborhood, a few kids, including Bruno, walked us out and accompanied us to the next one. At Balneario, we saw a huge pot full of arroz con leche heating over a grate with coals underneath. Silvia, whose house we are staying at, once made us arroz con leche, and I can safely say that it is one of my favorite desserts now. It is kind of like rice pudding, but has cinnamon in it and tastes fantastic when it is warm. On the way out of balneario, we saw an adorable little boy with a white and purple toy guitar, playing his heart out. So adorable.

On my way to El Porvenir, the last neighborhood to visit, I found Bruno and his friends again. They were really interested in my camera, so I gave it to them to look at pictures and try to take some on their own. I asked them if I could take a picture of them, but instead, a girl named Kayla insisted that I get a picture with the rest of the kids. After getting a picture with them, I got a picture of all the kids I was talking to. They were all so sweet. I caught up with the rest of the team at El Porvenir, where we reached the end of the judging for the Minga.

After staying for an hour to observe a recycling workshop in the cultural center, we went back home to rest for a bit, and headed over to Manuel’s house for lunch around 1pm. We met his fiancĂ© Patti, who is super adorable and sweet and made us a delicious lunch. Whenever we talk to Manuel, we learn something new. More importantly, we always learn something more about how much Manuel loves dancing and going to Discotecs. He always has a new story for us.

After lunch, we went to the market to get materials for dinner – pollo a la braza was getting a bit old. After doing some work, Cam and I made tomato basil pasta for dinner. And trust me, it was much better than the food we had at that awful Texas restaurant we went to.

Every day I spend here, I fall more and more in love with the kids. And with each passing day, I dread the day that I have to leave. I wish I could stay here longer. I am so excited about the work we are doing here and the impact that we could have on our partnership with Kallpa, and more importantly, on the lives of the people of Pampachica. I feel so grateful to have the opportunity to work here, and to work with such an amazing GROW team. Seriously guys, you are the best. 

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