The view of Machu Picchu, the culmination of the WSU students’ Peru experience.

By Kenzie McNeel, WSU College of Nursing student 

Machu Picchu 

Today was the day that many of us have been waiting for, the highlight of our trip. It was an early start at 5 a.m. The bus ride up was a little bit scary with winding switchbacks up a steep mountainside. Some parts of the roads were so narrow that the large buses couldn’t pass each other. We came face to face with another bus, forcing them to back up until the road was wide enough to pass by them.  

When we finally made it to the entrance, we were met with a short hike up big stone steps. This led us to the first viewing point where we were able to take pictures with the breathtaking Machu Picchu in the background. For many of us this was our first Wonder of the World. The view was unreal. You would think that pictures and paintings would prepare you for what you would see, but pictures do the view no justice.  

The first thing most of us did was hike up to Sun Gate. The hike was about 45 minutes uphill. The path was rocky and the sun was blazing by the time we were five minutes in. Back home in Washington this hike wouldn’t seem so bad, but the high altitude and lack of oxygen really takes a toll when you are exerting yourself in the heat. Nonetheless, the lack of oxygen and sweaty backs were worth the view from the top.  

WSU College of Nursing student Kenzie McNeel at Sun Gate, once the main entrance to Machu Picchu. 

After we made it back down from Sun Gate our group split up to take guided tours through the town area with all of the buildings. One of the first things our guide taught us was about the chakana, or the Inca cross. This symbol is seen all over Peru and is a representation of the past, present and celestial lives. These are represented by the puma (present), the snake (past), and the condor (celestial). The Inca cross is erected in Machu Picchu as well as a representation of the condor made of stone. 

We toured lots of other structures such as the sun room, royal and lower-class housing, and the storehouses. I was very surprised how much of the town we were able to walk through.  

Machu Picchu’s real name was actually lost in time, the name Machu Picchu comes from the mountain peak named Machu Picchu. The tall rock that you see in all of the pictures is named Huayna Picchu. Machu Picchu mountain is taller and not actually pictured in most of the pictures of Machu Picchu. 

One of WSU nursing’s core values is maximizing health potential. One thing that I have learned since being in Peru is that the people here are incredibly good at using what they have.

The Inca from Machu Picchu were very resourceful, and this helped to maximize their living standards and health conditions. Our health is directly correlated to our environment and out diet. We learned about how the Inca people built the terraces to grow vegetables and other crops that would normally not survive at this altitude. The sunken terraces created a warmer environment where crops like coca leaves could thrive. This terrace technology allowed the Inca people to have a better variety in their diet and also grow herbs like the coca leaves used for energy and healing.  

Another example of the Inca’s ingenuity is their plaza, the big open grassy area. The grass is planted on top of 15 feet of rock chips. This acts as a filter to drain all of the rainwater from Machu Picchu and to help avoid erosion. This drainage system helped keep the living conditions dry and healthy. The guide told us that the llamas can only carry 20 lbs on their back, so there was a lot of manual labor in building structures. The manual labor and farming in the terraces was a lot of physical exertion, which keeps people fit.  

Our WSU students even participated in maximizing their health potential today. All in all we walked about five miles, and over 244 flights of stairs. It’s safe to say that we will all sleep well tonight.  

Peru, the Sacred Valley

Peru’s Sacred Valley.

By Nikita Fisenko, WSU College of Nursing student  

Sacred Valley, Cusco, Peru

Looking back at the last two weeks in Iquitos I have to say, “I wish this medical mission journey was longer.” I am so happy to be here, helping the people of Peru all around the country, jungle and the city while working with WSU nursing and pharmacy students. These last two weeks have been so remarkable, I am so blessed for the support of College of Nursing and my scholarship sponsors who have provided me this opportunity to come and fulfill my heart’s desire to serve in Peru.

Now that our WSU group left Iquitos and arrived in Cusco, Peru, I am excited about the learning opportunities here. I am so overjoyed to see the amazing scenery and the community that lives here. The city of Cusco is very touristy, thus evaluating community health and the lives of the local people is more challenging than Iquitos. This is the reason our group went on an exploration trip to analyze the history and the current living conditions of the people in the Sacred Valley of Cusco.  

Sacred Valley is called by this name because during the Inca Empire the Sacred River was protected and utilized by the Incas for their everyday water supply. Sacred Valley has a beautiful overview of the Urubamba River. The valley stretches from Pisac to Ollantaytambo, connecting thousands of acres of fertile land that’s irrigated by the river.

As our community assessment and historical analysis continued, I learned about the rich and abundant agriculture this Sacred Valley yields each year, but more importantlythis valley was the main source of food to the Inca Empire. Incas deeply cared about their environment and about the health of their people. Incas invested time, energy and strategic planning in growing the crops such as corn, potatoes, beans, etc. Today their systems and techniques of farming are used in many parts of Peru and even protected for further studies.

I believe the Incas main goal with advanced agriculture was to maximize the health potential of the people and the society in a holistic way. The College of Nursing shares this core value, which I believe is crucial in providing health care for any community around the world but more importantly in the state of Washington.    

WSU nursing student Nikita Fisenko with Peruvian artist Pablo Seminario.

This Sacred Valley is a home to thousands of people, one of whom is Pablo Seminario. At the beginning of 1980s, when a guerrilla uprising in Peru was at its peak, there was no peace in the countryAt this time, Pablo Seminario began a lifelong goal of studying diverse cultures and Peruvian arts from the Inca Empire and other civilizations. As he learned, he began to work the culture into ceramic pieces made from clay and developed a new style of art that’s now flourishing around the world. After seeing his art and touring the facility, where I met Pablo Seminario, I reflected on the core value that I hold: caring. 

The best highlight of the day was when everyone had the opportunity to feed alpacas. Alpaca is one of the most connected and naturally accepted animals during the Inca Empire. Alpaca was a domesticated animal since Incas did not have cows, sheep or chickens. Thus, alpacas were used to provide food, clothing and act as driving force of transportation during the Inca Empire.

Now alpacas are protected and well cared for by the people. As we fed the alpacas, everyone was so caring to each other, joyful and respectful of the nature of those marvelous creatures. I believe everyone from the WSU group was extremely satisfied with today’s learning opportunities and I would like to personally thank all the students and WSU staff for creating such an amazing environment to grow and learn.  

Feeding an alpaca in Peru’s Sacred Valley.

Peru, Day 13

Plaza de armas, Cusco, Peru. Photo: Adobe Stock

By Rachel Ryskamp, WSU College of Nursing student 

Cusco Market, Saqsaywaman Hike 

After spending two sweaty, exhausting, but extremely rewarding weeks in Iquitos our time came to an end. Saying goodbye to the people we had met and the strong bonds we had created (even with language barriers) was incredibly difficult. We had struggled with the translators through five clinics, tours in the hot Iquitos sun, and a grueling adventure and night in a small village in the Amazon Jungle.

Our goodbye party was a great reminder for me to never be afraid to step out of my comfort zone and to strive to create connections with people from different cultures. Although there were differences in culture and language, we were able to create lasting friendships with Peruvians we would have never met without the opportunity WSU gave us to go on this positively impactful journey.  

When we arrived at Cusco, our next destination, we were met with nothing but hospitality. The locals offered us tea and oxygen for altitude sickness (mind you it was about 11,000 feet difference in altitude). We all got to take hot showers for the first time in two weeks, which was a blessing in itself.

Later in the day we took tours around the market with the help of four lovely translators. The market was beautiful, large, organized, and mostly indoors. The aisles were narrow and full of people. There was so much to look at, taste, and smell that my senses were overwhelmed.

We noticed they aren’t as stingy about the “perfect fruit” as we are in America; we could find the same fruit in many different shapes, sizes, and ripeness. They categorized sections of goods: floral, meats, produce, dried fruits and nuts, clothes, smoothies and juices, and even a place to eat freshly prepared food.

Grains and seeds on sale on a stall in Mercado San Pedro market. Photo: Adobe Stock

We stopped and chatted with a lady who was working at a smoothie shop as we sipped our delightful smoothie. She talked to us about how she wanted to become a travel agent, but she had quit school to help her mother work the shop so her mother didn’t have to work as many hours. This made me think of one of the core values that nursing students hold: caring. This woman had given up one of her goals to help her mother live a better life, which is such a kind and selfless act. She was hoping to get back into the business, but she was afraid she was getting too old. This is a great example of the type of mindset most nurses have; we care from the heart.  

Of course, the students also have shown caring in multiple different situations along this trip. From helping each other through exhaustion, homesickness, or actual sickness, the students have pulled through. 

The most recent event was today when a group of students hiked up a ginormous hill to see a statue called “Saqsaywaman”, or a white statue of Jesus that overlooks Cusco. We probably hiked up thousands of steps to get to the top of the hill while battling lack of oxygenation from altitude and from being out of shape (for me at least). 

The whole time we encouraged each other, helped each other, and literally held each other’s hands. I had multiple other students grab my hand when I needed a big step up and Nikita helped me when I thought I might fall down when walking on slippery rocks. Bless Nicole for being the “mom” and trying to catch everyone from falling. 

WSU is creating talented, compassionate, and caring individuals who are ready to tackle difficult feats and pull through as a powerful and invaluable team. We watch out for each other, care for each other, and learn from each other. Thank you WSU for the opportunities you have given me to better myself as a future nurse. I look forward to the next week in Cusco, and while I’ll be excited to see my family again, I’ll be sad to leave the people of Peru. 



Peru Day 11-12

The first stop on the trip into the jungle was the Monkey Island preserve, where feeding monkeys is allowed. Photo by Adobe Stock. 

By Nathan Perri, WSU College of Nursing student  

The Welcome to the Jungle Clinic  

Our jungle excursion started with some fear and mostly excitement as we woke up bright and early at 7 am. We all packed our luggage, food, drinking water, portable kitchen, and clinic equipment into our trusty white truck and were off to the boat.

The boat for me was very interesting. It was your stereotypical river boat, but with a twist. It was long and skinny and made of wood, but it also had a second floor with about ten hammocks! We were able to load all 25 of us and our equipment onto the boat with room to spare. The hammocks were a godsend during our five-hour trip upriver. We had a system where we all got to use the hammocks which gave our butts a much needed rest from the hard wood benches. 

During our excursion upriver, we stopped at two different places before we reached our destination. The first stop was a place commonly called “monkey Island” which I believe is appropriately named as when we arrived there were monkeys climbing all around the buildings. Its real name is Centro De Rescate El Paraiso Del Amazonas and it is a petting zoo/conservatory for not only monkeys but sloths, snakes, birds and turtles as well. That being said, we each were able to hold and interact with all of these animals and for some it was the “happiest day of their life.” 

Our second stop was the ceremonial grounds of the Bora Tribe. In this tribe they incorporate their customs, cultural ceremonies, and crafting skills into their educational programs for their new generation so they can keep their culture alive. We were able to learn about their culture and not only witness a few of their ceremonial dances but participate as well.  

When we arrived at the village where we would hold a clinic, we were all surprised by a 300-meter walking bridge from the river to the clinic site. Everyone was amazing and rallied together to bring all of our very heavy supplies to the clinic site. We set up our tents and it was time for our night time jungle walk. We had one of the local farmers as a guide and we were able to see many different nocturnal wildlife. We all very much enjoyed the walk, not only for the beautiful jungle but for the night sky as well.  

The Jungle clinic was very different from the previous clinics we had experienced. Instead of the usual about 130 patients we see during a clinic, we only saw 35 in the jungle. Because of the difference in the amount of people, we were able to spend a little more time with each patient and provide more education on health habits to them as well.

I believe that the nursing core value that was most represented here was maximizing health potential. In the village, the closest Posta or hospital was in Iquitos, which is a 2-hour motorboat ride away. Their access to healthcare was slim to none. Though there were not many people to provide health care to, the education and knowledge of basic health care we were able to provide will continue to maximize their personal healthcare potential and of those with whom they share this knowledge.  


Peru Day 10

Sign outside a private residential facility for patients who have chronic medical conditions.

By Sarah Miller, WSU College of Nursing student

HIV Outreach 

Rolling out of bed at 6:30 this morning and a bit sluggish, a small group of us saunter into the office living room to listen to Paul (Opp, founder of the People of Peru Project) share another one of his heartwarming stories that related to a story from the BibleEvery morning our little group chooses to get up a bit earlier than the rest of our classmates to share some spiritual time together. This morning, we prayed together for our group to share a kind, loving experience with the people we were going to meet later in the day. We did not have our regular morning group meeting to go over our day, so we headed off to breakfast after we finished with prayer.

Our breakfast was light, consisting of a mandarin orange, a hard-boiled egg, and a ball of smashed plantains that I later learned was called tacacho. The cooks also serve every meal with pitchers of fresh, delicious juice, and today was no different. I did not feel as rushed this morning as many of the mornings we have spent here so far, so we were able to sit and chat a bit before heading out for the morning’s planned adventure. During the 10 days since we first arrived in Iquitos, many friendships have blossomed throughout our group.  

We piled onto the bus, excited and dressed to impress. On the way to Casa Hogar, we talked eagerly about our trip into the jungle tomorrow. It wasn’t long before we came to a halt in front of our destination, which our travel itinerary stated was an HIV outreach. A placard hung by the door reading CASA HOGAR ALGO BELLO PARA DIOS, which translates in English to “Home House Something Beautiful for God.” 

We were greeted enthusiastically by a man named Simón. He had traveled from Malta to Peru to volunteer for this organization. He was passionate about his love for the people who live in Casa Hogar, claiming them as family. During his welcome and introduction, a man walked in and introduced himself as Padre Raymundo. He explained that he was the founder of Casa Hogar and was also from Malta. We learned that the program was not just for HIV patients, but was a home for any patient with any chronic condition.  Residents there have cancer, HIV or AIDS, and tuberculosis. Some have been there as long as four years, while others have only been there for a few months. Both Simón and Padre Raymundo showed a selfless love and care for the residents, and the patients showed love for them.  

Unfortunately, there is a stigma surrounding HIV and AIDS. We often hear about the stereotypical fears of individuals thinking that if they come near or touch a person infected with these conditions they will catch the disease themselves. Of course we have known for many years now that this is false. However, due to these fears many people with HIV or AIDS are shunned, discriminated against, and shamed. We heard from many of the residents that they no longer had any family or were alone.

It’s amazing what a kind, caring touch can mean to someone who feels outcast and secluded, whether it be a firm handshake, a gentle touch of hand, or an embrace. Things were no different during our experience at Casa Hogar. As we toured the facility in small groups, we visited one man who was infected with HIV and was very sick. Though in severe pain, he was happy to have visitors. Through our interpreter, we asked if there was anything that we could do for him such as praying with him or singing him a song. He asked for prayer, so our little group all bowed our head and prayed with him.

The prayer was led by our interpreter, and the man weakly repeated each sentence she spoke with tears in his eyes and a quiver to his voice. Tears came to my own eyes, seeing how profoundly affected the man was with this prayer. Once we ended the prayer, he asked us to sing him a song as well. Since we were visiting a Christian facility, we thought it fitting to sing him “Jesus Loves Me This I Know,” though some of our group stumbled through the words. Thankfully our wonderful interpreter knew the whole song in Spanish. The resident expressed his appreciation and we thanked him for allowing us to visit him.

It just goes to show how important altruism (which is one of WSU College of Nursing’s core values) is when caring for people who are sick. 

group shot
WSU nursing and pharmacy students visit a private residential facility for patients with chronic illnesses.

Peru, Day 9

Two people in masks holding extracted tooth in pliers
Savanah and Benji display a tooth extraction.

By Savanah Hyde, WSU College of Nursing student

Clinic Number 4 

After the last few days being cloudy with off and on downpours, it was a welcoming sight to wake up to sunshine. At the same time a feeling of doom because you already know it is going to be a sweaty day.

We had our usual morning meeting with everyone looking a little drowsier than usual but after breakfast everyone looked a bit more rejuvenated when loading onto the bus. Our ride was like a slow motion roller coaster and as one student put it, “Who needs Disneyland when you have Peruvian dirt roads.”

We set up in a neon yellow community building that gave us plenty of room to spread out. We put pharmacy and dental up on the stage and everything else out on the floor. Little did we know just being up on the stage would be a completely different temperature than the rest of the building. Luckily stand-up fans arrived with lunch.   

group inside clinic
Setting up for the clinic.

I was originally supposed to start my day in dental, but I started a little late because Benji (from the People of Peru Project) forgot the syringes for administering anesthetic. So, instead I helped out in an assessment group until he returned and was ready to go.

We had quite a few extractions from the start, so Cody (Damman, a pharmacy student) and I were able to each pull a tooth. The second patient had two teeth that needed extracting; Cody got the first one out but the top broke off the second one and it took Benji quite a long time to get the root out. It turned out the root was hooked like a cat claw, so it was curved under the bone making it very difficult to wiggle out. Poor Benji was worn out after all the work he put into that one root, so he said he was going to take a break and ask for kids who wanted fluoride treatment, which Cody and I could do. In no time we had a line of 20-25 kids ready for their fluoride treatment and each one got a new toothbrush afterwards. Their sweet little smiles and pure joy and excitement over getting a new toothbrush was enough to make anybody’s day a thousand times better.  

After lunch I spent the rest of my time in an assessment group where we helped many women and children. All the men must have come in earlier. We treated everything from headaches to parasites to skin infections. We gave out multivitamins and did a lot of teaching about the importance of drinking water. We had many cases that when we asked how much water they consumed in a day they responded with one or two cups. A mother of a 1-year-old said her child didn’t drink any water, only milk. 

We did a lot of education on hydration, diet, and the importance of rest and how to lift heavy objects properly. The people were so thankful for our willingness to listen to them and would leave with huge smiles on their faces even if all we did for them is lots of education and sent them off with a few multivitamins.  

One of the nursing core values is altruism, or the act of selflessness and sacrifice for others. Our group has consistently and relentlessly shown selflessness during this trip, but I think today was more than ever before. It was a very hot, humid and sunny day and we were in a closed building with not a lot of airflow. We have also reached the point in our trip where a lot of us are getting worn out and dehydrated, but no matter how miserable we felt everyone still showed genuine care and interest in every patient.

Everyone kept working hard and by the end of the day we had seen more patients than we had at previous clinics. We still improved our efficiency making it one of our best clinics yet. The organization was stellar and the flow of getting patients where they needed to go was amazing. Everyone sacrificed their comfort for the people of the community we served today. Never complaining or slowing their efforts, powering through, making sure every patient knew they were cared for and we genuinely wanted to work towards a solution that was in their best interest. I am so proud to be a part of such a self-sacrificing group that continually represents what it means to be a Coug Nurse!   

nursing student holding a baby
Nursing student Savanah Hyde at Clinic 4 in Peru.


Peru Day 8

young man signing with students
Cade Sanchez signs with students at a school for deaf students in Iquitos, Peru.

By Cade Sanchez, WSU College of Nursing student 

Today we went to one of the main public hospitals in Iquitos. The hospital has 400 beds and is used by most of the Iquitos locals. We were given a quick tour of the main floor of the hospital, visiting the emergency room, post-op surgery center, same-day procedure room, pediatric observation room, radiology, pharmacy, and a tele-medicine room.

In the pharmacy, the staff’s devotion to their patients was evident. We talked with the pharmacist who shared with us how he and his co-workers are devoted to providing the best outcome for their patients. He said that caring for patients in the hospital was “a work of the heart.” Despite the language barrier, his passion and devotion were evident.  

After a lunch of authentic Peruvian ceviche, we drove to a local deaf school. We were greeted by 25-30 deaf students ranging from 6-20 years old. This trip was very close to my heart because of my connection to the deaf community in the United States. My two younger sisters are both deaf and use American Sign Language (ASL) and I am also pretty fluent in ASL.

I was very eager to see what type of sign language they use and if I would be able to understand it. All the children were very friendly and greeted us with smiles and waves. There were several teachers and several volunteers present as well.

Each group of students (American and Peruvian) went around and introduced themselves. We have grown accustomed to using translators during our week here in Peru, but the students being deaf presented an additional challenge. When we spoke to the students in English, our translators would translate our English into Spanish and speak it to the school teachers. The teachers would then translate the Spanish that they had just heard into Peruvian sign language. The sign language that they were using was a mix of ASL and Peruvian sign language. Upon seeing them sign, I was delighted to discover that I could understand some of what they were saying.  

Through questions we found out that many children live at the school permanently, some because all or most of their family members have died. The teachers told us that it was common for children to come to the school at various ages without any language at all. The children who do live with their families often do so deprived of language, as their family members rarely speak the sign language that the children have learned in school. Before coming to the school, most of these deaf children live their lives without any language at all.  

This deaf school serves as a beacon of hope to these children. Not only are they taught sign language, but they also are taught traditional school subjects such as math, reading, and writing. The organization is Christian and so the children are also provided with weekly church services and other religious support and teaching.

When asked what life looked like post-school, the teachers emphasized that their main goal of providing this school was to prepare the children for either work in the “real world” or further education at a college or university. It is obvious that these children are a minority within society, but the teachers at the school strive to give their students the resources that are necessary to function in and contribute to their society. 

 A theme that stood out to me many times throughout the day was the theme of justice — specifically social justice. This is a core value of WSU Nursing and it is one that our instructors strive to both model for us and instill in us.

This was evident at the hospital when interacting with the pharmacist. His passion to provide healthcare — specifically medications — to all of his patients displays justice. When asked about the role of a pharmacist, he stated that his devotion was to the patients above anything else — not to money, recognition, or hospital leadership.

Justice was also displayed by the teachers at the deaf school. These amazing individuals are striving to uphold justice for these students regardless of any limitations or difficulties they experience. Children who would normally be left to the wayside in this society because of their deafness are being given the opportunities and resources to succeed and thus, reenter the community as unique and diverse individuals. Justice is seen in the teachers’ goal — teaching the students just as hearing children would be taught in schools, and preparing the students for their future endeavors. 

My time spent in the deaf school was an absolutely beautiful experience and it was one that touched my heart unlike any other experience I have had in Peru.  

group shot
WSU students and students at a school for deaf students in Iquitos, Peru.


Peru Day 7

group in scrubs and mud
A downpour resulted in an impromptu mudfight.

By Ashley Jones, WSU College of Nursing student

Clinic Day 3 

These last 24 hours have been exciting, terrifying, heartwarming, tiring and fulfilling. Last night ended with a torrential downpour. A large group of us had just gotten home from ice cream in the plaza and were settling down for bed when we heard the rain pounding on the roof. A few brave individuals ran out in the rain and began playing volleyball. Before I knew it a large group of us were soaked from head to toe playing volleyball in the flooding sandpit. And then someone threw a handful of mud and this started a full-on mud fight. We had so much fun being miserable and muddy together, but it was so worth it to make memories with my classmates that will last for a lifetime.  

A good night’s sleep is imperative the night before a clinic but at about 2:45 a.m. we were all awakened by strong rumbling. There were things falling off of our shelves and the power went out. We found out in the morning that there had been a magnitude 8 earthquake in northern Peru. For most of us this was our first time experiencing an earthquake. It was a scary experience and most of us woke up to text messages from worried loved ones. We were safe and sound but I couldn’t help but feel sadness for all of the people past and present who have been affected by natural disasters.  

At 7:15 a.m. our day started with coffee and a breakfast of egg and fried rice and then we were off to our clinic. We set up at a small church called “Iglesia Adventista Del Septimo Dia.There were two groups for triage, six nursing assessment groups, pharmacy and dental. We served over 100 patients today providing parasite treatments, antibiotics, pain medication, gastrointestinal medications, oral rehydration and of course health education.

group standing in front of church
The site of the group’s third medical clinic in the Iquitos area.

I started my day in triage taking vitals and histories of our patients and then was transitioned into a nursing assessment group halfway through the day. One of my favorite things is seeing the smiles of the patients who are able to see clearly again with the reading glasses we are able to provide for them. I also enjoy being able to provide health education and advice for things like sun protection, parasite prevention, clean drinking water and balanced diets. Many people are not aware of the basic lifestyle changes they can make to better their health and it is so rewarding that we are able to provide this for them.  

The people of Peru are loving, friendly and welcoming. One of the core values of the WSU College of Nursing is caring and I believe we have demonstrated this every day so far in Peru.

In the clinics we care for our patients with as much passion as we would provide back at home regardless of the fact that there is a language difference. It’s heartwarming to see the smiles of the children and their families when they are listened to and heard about their concerns. Even if we aren’t able to provide the medications or treatments they are requesting, just being able to give them health education and a smile is worth all of the tired, hot and sweaty days we have spent here in Peru.  

kids standing on a rock
Children in the neighborhood near the third medical clinic.

Peru, Day 6

portrait of girls in masks
Ashley Jones and Riley Joyce, both WSU College of Nursing students.

By Riley Joyce, WSU College of Nursing student  

The Second Clinic  

Through the downpour of rain and the muddy puddles, we drove to our second clinic. Once we got there, despite the weather, there was a radio playing upbeat music blasting throughout the shelter. Before I could even get my phone out to take a video, the translators were dancing.  

As a group, we decided that if we used an interdisciplinary team during our healthcare assessment, we could provide more tailored care. Today I was put in a healthcare team that included a nursing student who is fluent in Spanish, and a third-year pharmacy student. Each of these traits collectively helped make our assessment of our patients more tailored to their culture and needs.  We were able to make a collective decision about the meds and treatments needed.    

One of the families that stood out to me today was a 5-year-old boy with his mother. The boy complained of upset stomach and no appetite. Twenty minutes in, we were told that this child had been fed gum whenever he started to cry since he was 1 year old. Unfortunately, this child would also swallow the gum. This might explain his upset stomach, but on top of that, while he was waiting in line, I observed him dip his toothbrush in the sand and then put it in his mouth. Therefore, I proceeded to explain that putting objects in his mouth and swallowing them can make him very sick. When we provided patient education, the mother was very thankful for the helpful tips. Even though we can provide medication to our patients, I believe that providing education can provide more positive health outcomes. Thus maximizing the patients’ health potential. 

In just five days, I have been putting my classroom knowledge into actual practice with hands-on assessments and nursing diagnosis. With the sheer volume of 100+ patients a day lined up to receive free healthcare, I have learned to adapt quickly, and triage more efficiently. This experience has surely been good for my soul:  helping relieve patient’s stress, both emotionally and financially. As I looked around, I saw our group showing compassion and integrity to their patients. And with the help of our amazing translators, we have not only been able to understand the patients’ concerns but also gain a colorful relationship.  

Peru Day 5

A child at Poppy’s House

By Promise Mourar, WSU pre-health student

Teaching and learning

Today we were provided with various opportunities around Iquitos which allowed us to dig deeper into the culture and gain more knowledge.

We started the day by attending the special needs school where we got the opportunity to tour classrooms as well as provide education regarding teeth brushing and disease prevention.  In order to educate all the students, we all gathered into the auditorium and presented the two lessons that we believed were most beneficial for our audience. 

When presenting the information regarding disease prevention, the group created a picture book that explained the most common diseases as well as the potential signs and symptoms and various ways one can try and protect themselves. The next group that taught about dental health used a game in which they organized various foods into paper bags based on if they were good for your teeth or not. This activity was very interactive with the students and teachers and allowed for us to properly educate on the importance of dental health.

After we completed our presentations, we had the opportunity to step into classrooms and experience first-hand how the teachers care so deeply for their students. What stuck out to me the most about this experience was being able to see the passion on every teacher’s face and their ability to remain so calm and patient with all their students. These teachers represented our core value of caring, in that they showed an abundant amount of kindness to every student they came into contact with.  

After we finished at the special needs school we had the opportunity to go tour the Nursing and Medical School. During this tour, we were able to step into their labs and classrooms and gather a deeper understanding as to how their nursing and medical school may function as compared to ours. As a pre-nursing student, this experience was very interesting to me because I have never had the opportunity to see how a nursing/medical school is set up.

During our time we were able to ask various questions in order to determine similarities and differences between their nursing/medical school and ours. The biggest difference that stood out to me was the length of their nursing/medical school. Here in Iquitos, students attend the nursing/medical school for five years compared to us where we do two years of prerequisites and then another two years in the nursing school.

When looking at how much schooling one must go through here in Peru to become a nurse, it allows us to see just how passionate they all are about wanting to help others and serve those in their community. Overall, I truly enjoyed the opportunity we were given to step into their school and observe how their nursing and medical school was similar and different compared to our own.  

To end our evening, we got to take a trip back to Poppy’s House (a crisis foster care facility run by the People of Peru Project) and educate the children on various topics such as sex education, dental health, disease prevention, hand-washing and nutrition. I believe all of these topics were extremely important and most children even seemed to enjoy the fun activities that went along with the lessons.

Out of all the opportunities we have had over the week, my favorites have been when we are able to spend time with the girls at Poppy’s House. These girls allow me to see things in this world in a new perspective and have shown me the various ways in which those in this culture show their love. I’m very thankful for the opportunities we were provided with today and cannot wait for the many more to come.  

University of Nursing in Iquitos, Peru

Peru Day 4


group shot in classroom
WSU nursing and pharmacy students visit a nursing vocational school in Iquitos, Peru.

By Rachel Person, WSU College of Nursing student

Botanical Gardens and Vocational Nurse’s College 

For the first half of our day, we visited a botanical garden where various plants were being grown for traditional medicinal purposes. We were greeted by a guide who took us around the garden and showed us samples of the plants to either smell or taste.

Some of the plants and trees were familiar such as cilantro, mint, vanilla, and rubber. Others were not. We were introduced to Guianensis, which is known to stimulate the immune system and is therefore used to treat diseases like cancer. Achiote was a round fruit with a spiky outer shell that is used for makeup and skin problems. Copaiba is used to treat ulcers and gastritis.

There were many other foreign species but perhaps the most interesting was a flower that when chewed would produce a numbing/tingling sensation on the tongue. When people experience tooth pain, they use this flower. 

We were fascinated by all that grew in the garden as well as the research going into furthering and maximizing health potential. As nurses, it is important to recognize alternative methods to improve health outcomes and understand that certain cultures may have their own traditional remedies or practices that work just as well for them.  

For the second half of our day, we went to a vocational nurse’s college. In groups of five with one translator per group, we moved from classroom to classroom, introducing ourselves, asking questions, and answering questions. Through talking to students, we discovered that this school was more of a technical school; students were studying to take on a role similar to what we know as a certified nursing assistant. 

In one of the classrooms we went into, the students were learning about anatomy. The pictures that decorated the walls were hand drawings of various body parts and diseases that may occur with them. In another area, they were having a blood drive. The director of the program was so excited for us to see this practical part of the program.

Wherever we went, students would follow, smile, wave, take pictures and stare into the windows of the rooms we were in. It seemed like everyone was eager to share their stories with us and hear ours in return.  

It was interesting to hear about their curriculum and the questions they had about our experiences going to school in America. They had a lot to ask about our program, hospitals, and our reasons for becoming nurses. We asked them the same questions and found that our responses were mostly the same!

They demonstrated the drive to maximize health potential by sharing their desire to help sick populations, as well as further their careers as nurses to better serve their communities. One young gentlemen told us that he would like to go out in the streets and find people that needed healthcare. Another expressed her appreciation for us coming to help her people and for caring about Peru. 

I was touched by all their responses and am proud to know that healthcare workers, regardless of the country, share many of the same values – those that relate to and revolve around helping others.  

map of garden
A botanical garden features plants used in traditional medicine in Peru.

Peru, Day 3


nursing student with a child
Haley Ricketts with a child in New Belen, outside of Iquitos, Peru.

By Haley Ricketts, WSU College of Nursing student

The First Clinic

Today, we had our first clinic in an area called New Belen. This is a planned community by the Peruvian government in hopes of moving the people out of the Belen Market area due to health concerns and crime.

In New Belen, the living conditions are much better than the conditions in the Belen Market, however, the people who live here still have health concerns. These include fungal infections, parasite infections, and other various illnesses.

We set up our clinic in a covered outdoor area with several triage stations, assessment teams, a dentist station, and a pharmacy. Our team worked together to direct patients to the appropriate stations and because of that, our clinic was very successful.  

One of the touching moments many of us experienced was the gratefulness expressed by the patients who came to this clinic. One woman came to our clinic in hopes of getting medications and vitamins to help her and her two young daughters. We were not able to prescribe all of the medications that she was seeking, but she was grateful that we were able to spend time with her family. When I walked her over to the pharmacy so she could pick up the medications she was prescribed, she and her daughters thanked me and another nursing student for our time and then bid us adieu with a Peruvian hug and kiss on the cheek (their way of saying goodbye). This moment showed me how caring is such a huge part of this community.  

Caring, in fact, was an important aspect of the clinic today. Our team cared for the patients by lending a listening ear and doing what we could to encourage health within the New Belen community. We did this by giving them medications to treat their diseases and by educating the patients on a variety of health topics, such as the importance of drinking plenty of water each day.

The patients showed caring in two ways: First and foremost, they cared for their families. Many of them brought their children to the clinic and did not ask to be seen themselves because they were more concerned for their children. The second way in which the patients demonstrated their caring nature was by the gratitude and patience they showed us. There wasn’t a patient who left without a thanks and a smile. The caring nature of this clinic made the entire event so special and uplifting.

group shot
WSU students and children from New Belen in Iquitos, Peru.


Peru, Day 2


market view
The Belen Market in Iquitos, Peru

By Irina Jamolod, WSU College of Nursing student

The Belen Market  

We started with a “motorkar” ride to the Belen Market, the major shopping area of Iquitos where almost all of the residents get items from groceries to clothing.

The translators introduced us to different types of foods and, consequently, to the different aspects of Peruvian culture because of how it’s so closely intertwined in their everyday life and health.

The first group of foods were the fruits and vegetables of the region. One of the most popular fruits of the region, aguaje, has a local reputation of being a superfood and is credited with sustaining the health of most of the citizens in the area. Another popular food item in the market is juane, a dish of rice and chicken that is wrapped in a specific type of leaf and steamed. It is widely consumed on the feast of St. John the Baptist, hence the name, and is connected to the arrival of the Spanish people to the Incan lands. A cultural norm that the translator emphasized was to finish all of the dish so as not to offend the seller. It is the perfect working person’s dish and is inexpensive enough that anyone can afford a meal.  

food in a market stall
Aguaje sold in the Belen Market in Iquitos, Peru.

The people of Iquitos have different views on healthcare. The older generations relied more on homeopathic remedies while the younger population relied more on western medicine (i.e. pharmaceutical solutions to ailments). We were led to an alley where different roots, plants, and elixirs from the Amazon Rainforest were sold. It varied from home remedies for aches and pains to drinks that increase libido and sexual performance. It seemed like every illness under the sun could be cured by the hardy plants that seemed to proliferate in the Amazon jungle. 

market stall
Juane, a dish of rice and chicken wrapped in leaves, is sold in the Belen Market in Iquitos, Peru

One of the core values that is exemplified by the Peruvian people is the maximization of health potential through the utilization of modern medicine as well as respecting culture and traditions by trusting age-old remedies that have served their people for generations. Though there is a large movement towards western medicine, there is still a lot of respect for the power of the plants that are naturally found within the jungle.  

The different wares and products available in Belen Market really highlighted the resourcefulness, resilience, and entrepreneurship of the Peruvian people. They found whatever means necessary to provide for their families and did so with grace and pride.

They accommodated our inquisitiveness and informed us of their struggles as well as their successes. One family has owned a stall for a couple of generations and has been harvesting their crops for years, waking up before sunrise every morning to gather the day’s products. The people take pride in their culture and in their connectedness with nature and how the health of the Amazon affects their everyday lives.

It was an honor to get a glimpse of their lives and be a part of it even if it was only for a moment.  


Peru, Day 1


group shot in College of Nursing
Students from the WSU College of Nursing and WSU College of Pharmacy & Pharmaceutical Sciences, plus three faculty, will be blogging from Peru.

By Sarah Griffith, Instructor, WSU College of Nursing

Please join us this year as 22 students, accompanied by three faculty members, partner with People of Peru Project (POPP) in Iquitos, Peru, to fulfill the POPP mission of “Relief of human suffering, caring for children, education for self-help and planting the seeds of hope.”

This marks the 14th year of this powerful partnership between POPP and the WSU College of Nursing and WSU College of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences.

The 22 students are from a spectrum of health sciences. Nursing students are from both the BSN program and the RN-BSN program. Four of the students are graduate Pharmacy students. In the group, as well, is a pre-health student from Pullman.

The students arrive tired from 36 hours of flying, sprinting through airports, and wandering in the Lima airport.

After food and a short nap at the POPP compound, they have the privilege of spending the afternoon at Poppy’s House. Poppy’s House is an orphanage for young girls who have had a rough start in life. They can now thrive in an atmosphere of love. The girls are enrolled in school and working hard to create a new life for themselves.

The POPP compound becomes a home for two weeks as the students bring to life the five core values of the College of Nursing. Not only will they look for examples of integrity, caring, altruism, social justice and maximizing health potential, they will strive to live those values in their three weeks in Peru.

The nursing students will be blogging daily about their adventures, their challenges and their joys. Each day they hope to bring the core values to this blog in thought, word and deed.

Stay tuned!