Ana Cecilia Sinchi Usca, a member of the SVH team for nearly 9 years now, lives in the high, agricultural community of Kelccanka with her husband and two young children. Ana Cecilia is one of the most experienced community health workers at SVH; she has been a trainer for new promotoras and has taken part in our Women’s Health Program, both as a participant and a docente.

We wanted to know how she and her community have confronted the COVID-19 pandemic, especially given that the nearest health center is nearly 3 hours away by car (which few in Kelccanka have access to, and there is no public transportation) or an 8-hour journey on foot. This is one of the greatest barriers in access to health care for Kelccanka and its residents.   

Although the virus itself has not yet reached Kelccanka, Ana Cecilia tells us that people’s greatest fears are centered around the economic impact. Before the pandemic struck, many of the men living in Kelccanka worked in tourism – as cooks, guides, and porters on the Inca Trail and other mountain treks in the area. Many of the women weave beautiful textiles which they sold as supplementary income. With Peru under one of the strictest lockdowns in the world, this income disappeared overnight along with the entire tourism industry. In the face of this crisis, Ana Cecilia tells us, the community has returned to the ancient practice of Ayni.  

Ayni has long been a pillar of Andean life. It is a word from the native language of Quechua that represents the idea of reciprocity. To practice Ayni is to practice community collaboration and participation. It might look like someone helping to plant their neighbor’s field, knowing that tomorrow it will be their turn, or women coming together to cook a communal meal. 

Ana Cecilia tells us that in Kelccanka, the practice of Ayni had fallen by the wayside in recent years, but now, without jobs or economic opportunities, it has come back as an effective way to bolster the community. “I have learned a lot of things from this pandemic,” Ana Cecilia tells us. “Before all of this, we were not very united as a community. Now, we are practicing Ayni, helping each other out with work, and sharing the economic burden among all of us. We are a community that is stronger and more united.”  

We asked Ana Cecilia what she imagines post-pandemic life will look like. “I don’t have a lot of clarity about that or how things will change after this,” she says, “but I think because of the education we’re giving as health workers to our community, people are going to be more conscious of their own health as well as the health of their family. I think this will create a shift in what health looks like in the future.” 

You can be part of that shift! Donate to our matching campaign today to support Ana Cecilia and her fellow health workers as they shape the health of their communities. Help us meet our $25,000 goal and double your impact when you give before December 31!