Livia Berg and Cara Barbato prepare a healthy meal for mothers and children at a community center in Peru.

Projects Abroad

Dietetics students make a difference in Peru's Urubamba Valley

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12:53 p.m., April 22, 2013--As dietetics majors at the University of Delaware, Cara Barbato and Livia Berg felt well prepared to provide nutrition education for mothers and children in the Peruvian Andes.

But nothing prepared them for the living conditions they encountered when they made house visits to their clients: families of 10 or 11 people crowded in one-room, dirt-floored shacks with flies buzzing everywhere, no electricity, and open cooking fires.

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The two UD juniors spent the month of January 2013 as interns on the Projects Abroad Nutrition Program, which is aimed at helping families identified as being at risk of malnutrition in the Urubamba Valley.

Their work included delivering workshops on nutritional health to mothers, creating and playing nutrition-related games with children, and conducting dental fluoride campaigns in various towns throughout the valley.

“We worked hard to create bonds with the mothers,” says Barbato. “Many of them are not in healthy marital relationships, so they welcomed the opportunity to have someone to talk to. They really opened up to us.”

Both Berg and Barbato came back to the U.S. profoundly changed by their experience. 

“It made me want to focus more on maternal and child nutrition,” says Berg, who is from Lewes, Del. “I’d also like to start volunteering with WIC [a federally funded health and nutrition program for women, infants, and children].”

Both were shocked at the primitive living conditions in this area that is known as the Sacred Valley of the Incas.

“No one should have to live like that, and seeing it made me want to help people in need,” said Barbato, who is from Miami, Fla. “I know that there are people right here in the United States who don’t have enough food or basic knowledge about nutrition.”

About Projects Abroad

Founded in 1992 to meet requests for gap-year options, Projects Abroad has sent more than 50,000 volunteers on thousands of service initiatives in Africa, Asia, Eastern Europe, and Latin America.

Article by Diane Kukich

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