Toribia Quelcca Mamani is an SVH community health worker, or promotora, and trainer, docente, in the community of Kelccanka. On a recent trip to visit her and deliver more educational resources for COVID-19 prevention, we had the chance to sit down and talk about what life for her, her family, and her community has been like during the pandemic. 

Sitting more than 14,000 feet above sea level, with breathtaking views of the snow-capped mountains, Toribia tells us that the first time she heard about this new coronavirus was over the radio, the only official news outlet for her and her neighbors. Her biggest worry, she tells us, was for her three older children who were living in Cusco at the time. Cusco, a half day’s journey from Kelccanka, is the capital of the region and a booming metropolis compared to this quiet agricultural village. These days, it’s not uncommon for the younger generation from families of high Andean communities to move to Cusco in search of educational or economic opportunities. Because of this, many young people leave home when they are only 15 or 16 years old. 

At first, when Peru’s lockdown was the strictest, Toribia had no news of her children. There is little infrastructure for communication in Kelccanka, and the government regulations prohibited movement throughout the region. After the worst months had passed, with no jobs and no reason to remain in Cusco, her children were finally able to return to Kelccanlka where they were reunited with Toribia. “When they came home,” Toribia says, “it made me think of the days of their childhood, when we were all here together. This pandemic, and the inescapable pause it has created, has also given us the opportunity to spend time together again.” 

Another change the pandemic has brought, Toribia tells us, is more community collaboration. In Kelccanka, there were many plots of land that had gone years without being planted. Now, the community is cultivating a diverse mixture of vegetables like spinach, fava beans, and corn in addition to the many varieties of potatoes they traditionally grow. This has Toribia particularly excited because, as one of SVH’s Advanced Nutrition promotoras, she loves teaching about the benefits of a balanced diet. “Thanks to what I learned in the Nutrition Program,” Toribia tells us, “I know what foods we should be growing in order to have balanced plates and fight malnutrition in the community.” This initiative will give residents of Kelccanka access to a greater variety of healthy foods this year and is a clear example of the transformative power of community involvement. 

There have been unimaginable obstacles brought by this pandemic, but Toribia and her community have also shown incredible resilience in the face of hardships. We are grateful for the work Toribia is doing to help keep her community healthy and thriving during this time.

You can support Toribia and her fellow health workers by donating today to our Resiliency Campaign. All gifts made between now and December 31st will be matched up to $25,000!