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“I can’t wait to go again. I can’t compare that experience to anything else I have done. It was worth every penny.”
In its 12-year history, Bountiful Children, a nonprofit focused on eliminating child malnutrition, has conducted a number of Nutritours. These trips allow participants to serve Bountiful Children communities worldwide and at the same time to experience the history and culture of a distant land and its people.
Country coordinators and local volunteers arrange the itinerary and service activities for Nutritours. Volunteers assist with screenings and in distributing nutritional supplements to children and pregnant or nursing mothers.
Tamara Bahr, of Orem, Utah, and her two teenaged daughters, Tamma and Harmony, prepared for nearly a year to see Cusco, the surrounding sites rich in Inca history, and to make a difference in the lives of those receiving nutrition and educational help from Bountiful Children in Peru.
“I started learning Spanish on Duo Lingo so that I wasn’t completely lost,” said Tamma of her pre-trip preparations. “I also researched the nurturing-care framework, read some articles, and reviewed a rough draft of the new lesson on cognitive development.”
“I saved money,” said Harmony. “I looked up pictures of Inca ruins, and since I knew what I was going to focus on—handwashing—I found a song in Spanish to help teach the kids.”
Also in the group were Bountiful Children president Tim Heaton, Bountiful staffer Hank McIntire, and his son Kory, who was providing photo documentation of the trip as part of an internship for his Art and Design degree at Utah Valley University.
The first order of business for the travelers was to acclimate to the 12,000-foot elevation of Cusco, situated high in the Andes mountains. The name Andes is derived from antisuyu, a Quechua word meaning east region.
The next few days they visited other regions: Ollantaytambo, Marasal, Chincheros, Moray in the Sacred Valley, and Puka Pukara .
Macchu Picchu was literally a breath of fresh air being only at 7,900 feet above sea level.
The aligning of human-built structures at Machu Picchu with surrounding mountain peaks to catch the rays of the sun on precise days of the year—the equinoxes and solstices—was impressive.
“The Inca put everything into their sacred sites,” said Tamara Bahr. “They put in so much meaning and significance to carve them so precisely.”
Putting the Nutri- in NutriTour
With the bulk of the -tour part of the trip completed, the focus turned to the nutri- portion with screenings in Urubamba and Cusco, Peru.
Mother Tamara helped receive the mothers and children, welcome them, and teach parents some simple activities to promote cognitive stimulation in their little ones.
Daughters Tamma and Harmony filled an educational role by presenting a song in Spanish to the tune of “La Bamba” that taught proper handwashing techniques. They also helped the children using crayons to draw dogs and cats with them.
Kory and Hank McIntire documented the activities with photo and video, working to capture key moments in the experience for both the families and the volunteers.
The girls also learned the techniques for weighing and measuring each child to be screened. These data points are critical for assessing the progress of girls and boys in the program.
Tamma would place the children on the scale and announce the weight to a coordinator standing by to record the numbers. Harmony used a carpenter’s speed square to measure the height of each child.
“We communicated a lot through facial expressions,” said Harmony of the language barrier as she worked with mothers and children. “You smile and they trust you. Through gestures I would beckon them, and I would find something to compliment about their outfit.”
Helping with Coordinator Training
The Nutritour coincided with a scheduled training event for Bountiful Children coordinators serving throughout South America. The purpose of the gathering in Cusco was to provide instruction on learning activities, nutrition, disease prevention, lactation, communication, and administration.
More than 60 coordinators from Bolivia, Colombia, Ecuador, Paraguay, and Peru attended the training. Each serves a local community, organizes and schedules screenings, distributes the nutritional supplement monthly, and either teaches or arranges for other presenters to teach the health lessons.
The lessons taught to families who receive the supplement from Bountiful Children cover topics such as nutrition, food preparation, clean water, breastfeeding, handwashing, and human-waste disposal. Students and faculty from Brigham Young University developed these lessons and were on hand at the training event to introduce a new lesson on cognitive stimulation to coordinators.
The three Bahrs were not just passive observers at the training. They worked behind the scenes on many administrative details to make sure the event functioned smoothly, picked up needed supplies, and handled setup and takedown.
As part of the round-robin that demonstrated several learning activities connected with the new lesson, Tamara and her daughters ran the touch-cube station. They showed coordinators how to make and use a fabric device that stimulates a child’s visual and tactile senses.
“I attempted to explain a touch cube and worked on making one while we were doing the training,” said Tamma.
Tamara’s mother, Tammy Heaton, along with members of the Relief Society in their local ward made several touch cubes and sent them with Tamara to use at her learning station.
Organizers of the training event were very appreciative, not only for the Bahrs’ help at the training but also the impact it had afterward.
“The Nutritour participants were a huge boost during the training event,” added Tim Heaton. “They helped with presentations and gave logistic support. They also helped to convey our love and concern for the coordinators.”
“We saw coordinators using their material at home to make touch cubes during the period of COVID-19 quarantine,” Samochuallpa said. “We appreciate Tamara and her mother for their work in teaching us how to make these.”
At the conclusion of the training event, coordinators showcased for their peers the culture, food, and traditional dances from their respective regions. Then coordinators took to the floor in an impromptu dancefest of unity in the Bountiful Children cause.
Tamara, Tamma, and Harmony all joined their newfound friends in that celebration, feeling like they had made friends for life.
“The thing that stuck with me is those amazing coordinators whom we visited with and learned to love,” said Tamara. “They give so much of themselves to help children have what they need nutritionally. That’s what made this experience meaningful to me.”
“I learned that women in Latin America greet each other with a kiss on the cheek. That made me feel welcome at the training,” said Tamma. “And I enjoyed watching the presentations at the end and joining in on the dancing with the karaoke.”
“They were all so nice,” said Harmony. “I admired someone’s earrings and she actually gave them to me. They are so giving.”
On the trip Tamma and Harmony were observed taking careful notes, gathering information, and taking pictures during site visits and other activities. These proactive measures came in handy when they both presented reports on their trip at Maeser Preparatory Academy after returning home.
“I wrote a paper and made a chart on the activities that you could do for kids, based on the new cognitive-stimulation lesson,” said Tamma.
“I shared my report with the students from my school and their parents,” explained Harmony. “I made a trifold board and put on it some pictures and things we did in Peru. And I had a section on the new lesson on cognitive development.”
For Tamara, many of her takeaways had to do with her counterparts in Peru.
“It was brought home to me that moms really are doing their best to care for their children,” she said. “Even though they are dealing with trying to make sure their kids have enough to eat every day, there is still a lot of happiness in their lives. All of us have challenges, and we have to decide how we deal with them. Sometimes we forget we’re all happy, too.”
“It was a great experience. You get to see so much culture and people and help them,” said Tamma.
“Seeing the humility of the children really changed me,” recalled Harmony. “We’re so blessed in the United States. Seeing those children with nothing, they are so humble and giving and happy. It’s taught me that no matter my circumstances, I can be like Christ.”
Each volunteer had a message for those considering a similar trip with Bountiful Children for themselves or for their loved ones.
Definitely go; it’s so much fun,” said Harmony. “You get to try the different foods, which were delicious. You see all these children and how happy you make them and how happy they can make you.”
It was really cool learning about the historical places,” said Tamma. “I loved that everything was green. I want to continue to be involved with good organizations like Bountiful.”
“There are people in my life who are there to bless me, and I’m there to bless them; it’s a reciprocal agreement,” said Tamara. “The relationships that I formed even briefly with these women, they impacted my life in a positive way.”
“I can’t wait to go again,” she added. “I can’t compare that experience to anything else I have done. It was worth every penny.”