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Well, Casa Mosqoy has some happy news! Thanks to the LUSH funding we just received, we are able to provide professional psychologists to our students! In February, Cara and I began the process of interviewing potential candidates in Cusco. This past month, we were proud to announce to the students the availability of four incredible professionals. The students are now able to decide (based on personal preference) which psychologist they would like to meet with. Three of the four psychologists have already visited the house and have presented their experiences, both personal and professional. The most intriguing attribute of these professionals is that they come from completely different backgrounds. One of the female psychologists grew up in a small town in Puno and now lives in the city of Cusco, which is a story that many of the students who live in the house can relate to. Another male psychologist grew up in the city of Cusco, but has extensive experience working with adolescents who have found themselves in high-risk situations, or are simply struggling with complexities that arise during the teenage years. All four psychologists have expressed their interest in providing workshops for our students. The workshop themes would include, for example, personal development and future life planning. With the extra professional support, our students will be better able to focus on their studies and on planning the futures they hope to have.

While on the topic of workshops, my nutrition workshop has been quite a success thus far. Although the workshop is originally written in English by the United States Department of Health and Human Services, I spent countless hours translating the information and have really enjoyed presenting it to the students. The entire project is composed of six different workshops, all with different themes that are meant to give the audience a new perspective on the food they eat. The themes are: Enjoy Healthy Food That Tastes Great; Quick and Healthy Meals and Snacks; Eating Healthy on a Budget; Tips for Losing Weight and Keeping It Off; Making Healthy Eating Part of Your Total Lifestyle; and Physical Activity is Key to Living Well.These workshops are meant to make the students more aware of the type of food they put into their bodies and what physical consequences might result due to overconsumption of certain elements or types of foods. Some of the activities in the workshops include creating and organizing a personal grocery list, counting how many spoonfuls of sugar are in a can of soda, and mixing different herbs and spices in olive oil (taste-tested with bread) to learn how to avoid salt and to cook instead with a variety of flavors. There are only three workshops left in the series, so we’ve still got a few more weeks of nutritional fun!

Although I am trying to spread nutritional consciousness throughout the house, I must admit that in February, we held two different activity nights that were a bit less than healthy. First, I planned a Valentine’s Day activity. We spent one night making an Oreo truffle version of a Hersey’s Kiss. The idea was to encourage family unity within the house by creating an assembly line process with an end product of Kiss-shaped truffles. Nataly was in charge of crushing the Oreos while Clayda, Cristian, Orlinda and Fernando mixed the crushed Oreos with cream cheese. With this mixture, everyone, including volunteers, helped to make the special treat to celebrate Valentine's Day. The next week, Katie organized a pancake night in honor of Pancake Day in the United Kingdom. We all had a blast teaching the students how to flip pancakes, which was the most challenging part of the whole process. All pancakes were served with bananas and maple syrup - something that the students tried for the first time that night.

While there has been a lot of positive activity in the house, Carmen unfortunately experienced an unlucky occurrence. While working on her family’s chakra (farm), she fell from a ladder and broke her wrist. Cara and I spent several hours in several hospitals trying to find her the best care possible. Thanks to some personal contacts, we were able to schedule her for an emergency surgery with one of the best trauma doctors here in Cusco. Carmen then decided to continue her recovery treatment with an herbal doctor in Urubamba. She still has a bit of limited movement in her wrist, but it seems to be recuperating well. Her broken wrist has given me and the other volunteers the opportunity to help out with cooking a bit. Katie, who lived in Italy for ten years, has been a great help in terms of creativity in the kitchen. Thanks to her, we have made really incredible, yet healthy meals that tie in well to the nutrition workshop themes I have been presenting. While Carmen recuperates, I hope to continue learning from Katie’s Italian-inspired cooking techniques. Everyone in the house knows that my cooking skills could use some help!

- Stephanie Smallshaw

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