Finding a New Normal in Peru

Buildings in Peru
Volunteering at a health clinic in Lima, Peru offered Tracy Cherba an opportunity to share her strategies for managing diabetes with the community.

"I'll be away from family, away from the doctors, away from the security of my own surroundings. I truly have to find a way to 'survive' and know that I can do this alone," blogged Tracy Cherba in the time leading up to her departure for Peru, where she would soon be traveling with a group of her professional colleagues to volunteer in a Cross-Cultural Solutions program.

As a person with Type 1 diabetes who uses an insulin pump and meter, Tracy was initially nervous about managing her sugar levels, meals, and insulin supply during the two weeks she would be living in Peru. Yet, the call to serve a community health clinic overshadowed her hesitations.

"I see this opportunity as a true challenge for me as a diabetic, but also a way to prove to myself and other diabetics that I can step out of my comfort zone and do something that truly scares me to death!"

Shortly into her volunteer placement, Tracy received a surprising assignment that would allow her to share her health management tips while putting her developing language skills to the test.

"Tuesday, the clinic director approached me about speaking at a clinic that they decided to pull together. She said this would be a great opportunity to speak to the community about diabetes and start the diabetes support group. But when she said 'speak,' she didn't mean in English...yep, that's right, Spanish! I've had 10 weeks of a crash course in Spanish so I would say my Spanish is pretty poor at best. But today was the big day, and I did it! I not only did my speech, I also danced and showed the group how to do exercises."

Whether climbing Machu Picchu, confronting Lima's poverty and violence, or bonding with the clinic staff and clients, the volunteers experienced the gamut of emotional highs and lows. Tracy claims that her short stay in Peru, including its hardships and blessings, will have a lasting impact on her life, even in the United States.

"I had someone that recently went to Peru on vacation tell me that after a month she was 'back to normal'. I don't want to go back to 'normal' again. I now have a new normal and hope to continue sharing my new normal with those in my life."