Name: Matthew Sullivan '02

Host: El Consejo de Salud Rural Andino

Location: Bolivia

Term: 2001 Winter

The morning came so quickly, as it always seems to have a habit of doing here in the Altiplano, and at 5:30 am I was rushed out of my cozy sleeping bag and into the windy darkness outside. We were packed like sardines into the back of the all-terrain vehicle I still have a hard time calling an "ambulance" and we headed out. We drove for two hours on the roughest roads I have ever seen, and that's saying quite a bit, because I have dealt with the trials and tribulations of "mud season" in the backwoods of Vermont all my life. So, as we spent more time in the air than in our seats, the doctors were teaching me numbers, parts of the body, and even songs… in Aymaran, the native language here. And I'm the guy that has a hard enough time remembering even a chorus to a song in English!


Soon we left behind the barren rolling hills I knew as the Altiplano, and began an impossibly steep descent down the twisting turning road. The world literally fell away below us as we wound along the road that seemed to try and throw us off the precipice. In the growing morning light I could catch glimpses of the greenest green of lush vegetation on the mountain's steep slope, in stark contrast to the rocky land from which I had just come. The mists and clouds that clung all around us began to lift and I watched as giant waterfalls tumbled by and the strongest tress hung out over the valley, seeming to defy every law of physics I had ever learned. Small adobe huts were scattered along our descent, nestled into the jungle-like mountainside. I had been totally unprepared for this seeming paradise of Inca Katurapi, and could never have imagined a hidden place like this, like a last Wonder of the Ancient World. I was spellbound as we finally arrived at the small building of the Health Center and unloaded the supplies we had brought.


Then I just stood outside and watched as the mist rolled as the tide, up and down this giant valley. We then had a quick breakfast of tea (with the obligatory 3 scoops of sugar) and some fresh bread. Then we waited for the women from the community to arrive for their meeting… which always takes a little while. So I prepared my camera and thought about all the options I had to film for the promotional video. I was pumped. Eventually everybody showed up with their colorful sacks flung over their backs and little kids clinging to their skirts. I filmed as they discussed Basic Reproductive Health. Then they unrolled their sacks we feasted on a variety of potatoes and corn, dipping them into the many strange sauces. The adventure was well worth is as we laughed and joked while stuffing our mouths full.


In the afternoon, I went for a walk and about ten kids followed me. We walked through a bit of the small town and then up the mountain a little way to see the Red River. It was amazing, a giant red waterfall tumbling down the side of the mountain, yet it was really hard to film because all the kids were clamoring to see the viewfinder. Eventually we wandered back to the health post, where I played with the kids some more, flipping the viewfinder around so they could watch themselves in the camera, because I was beginning to realize that a lot of these kids had probably never seen themselves before. The reactions were classical, some kids were absolute hams, while others dove behind their neighbors, but there was always chaos right up front. They followed me around shouting "Mateo, Mateo!" and by the time we had to leave, there were about thirty kids crowded around. I felt like quite the star.


After many long goodbyes, we headed back up the long, dangerous, twisty road, fording waterfalls and spinning through mud on our way home. In the growing twilight, as we stopped to let a herd of Llamas pass in front of us, I couldn't help but think that no one back at Dartmouth College was having an off-term quite like this. Finally, after more songs, and more air-time, we arrived safely back at the hospital in Ancoraimes. I cooked myself a quick dinner and climbed back into my sleeping bag, utterly exhausted. There was no telling what miracles God would throw my way tomorrow in this fantastic country.


El Consejo de Salud Rural Andino is part of an American organization called Curamericas (recently changed from Andian Rural Health Care). It is autonomous but depends largely on the United States (through Curamericas) for funds to keep it going. It is an organization that provides basic health care to economically disadvantaged Bolivians. It's mission statement is as follows: "Andean Rural Health Care, motivated by the Judeo-Christian heritage of compassionate ministry, is dedicated to enabling and empowering the poor in Bolivia to improve their health and reduce the tragically high incidence of unnecessary sickness, suffering and death through sustainable quality programs of preventive and curative health services and supporting activities." CRSA employs a model of community health care known as "census-based, impact-oriented" community health care. They train indigenous health workers to carry out a program of home visits, community education, and gather vital statistics. It allows health care to be available to even the most remote homes and that information is available to diagnose and treat the most prevalent causes of sickness and death. Due to its success, this model is being applied to many other parts of the world including Haiti, Honduras, and Mexico.


Henry Perry came to Bolivia in 1969 on a work-service team and came face to face with many of the unmet health-care need there. So he returned with his family in 1981 and labored for three years to initiate Andean Rural Health Care (CRSA) at it's initial site in Carabuco. He then brought in Dr. John Wyon, Senior Lecturer at the Harvard University School of Public Health to serve as a consultant. Based on his extensive experience in Africa and India, Dr. Wyon developed a model of community public health practice that has become known as the "census-based, impact-oriented" approach. CRSA is now applying this approach in its programs in Bolivia with the aim of reducing the rates of mortality, especially among children, through low-cost programs. As a result of the progress achieved by CRSA in implementing this approach, CRSA is increasingly seen as a leader in the Andes in health care and is recognized as a model for other health programs in developing countries.


Matthew Sullivan '02 is an English major from Northfield, Vermont. While he does love literature, Matt has recently decided to begin the long road of pre-medical studies. Outside the classroom, he is the leader of the Planning Team for the Navigators Christian Fellowship, and Captain of the Dartmouth Rugby Football Club. In the past few years, he has discovered a passion for filmmaking and has traveled to Bolivia and the Dominican Republic working with underprivileged children and making movies. And despite all this, he still finds time to be an ever patient, and ever-suffering Red Sox fan. In the next few years, Matt plans to attend a post-baccalaureate program and eventually apply to medical school.