Jessica Mulligan is the Vice President of Sales and Marketing at NeoCell and has been main organizer of the Vitamin Angels campaign for the company. Jessica has the privilege of accompanying the Vitamin Angels charity organization on a trip to Peru earlier this year to meet some of the families that NeoCell has helped over the past few years. Vitamin Angels is a top rated charity that supplies vitamins to undernourished pregnant mothers and children throughout the world. In 2011 and 2012 NeoCell’s contributions through Vitamin Angels has helped over 310,000 children and mothers, and the 2013 campaign has been expanded to try and reach 500,000 additional children.
Below is an account of the trip written by Jessica, along with pictures of the wonderful people she met in Peru:
“I am thankful that I got to spend 5 days working in the field with Vitamin Angels in Peru.
Saturday the group picked me up in the town of Cusco and we traveled on to Pisac, where we would be spending the next 7 nights. Pisac is a small, bustling community at the base of Ancient Inca ruins. We had Saturday and Sunday to get acclimated to the altitude, as we were 11k ft. up and throughout the week we would be traveling to towns as high as 14k ft.
The group that I would be spending the week with was Brittany Andrews, Kim Saam and Matt Dayka from Vitamin Angels, Heather Weiner from Whole Foods Magazine, Joel McCarthy and Charles Chen, two documentary film makers doing a film on VA and DESEA PERU, Vitamin Angel’s in country partner.
Sunday we spent the day hiking and waking around the Pisac market, where women from all over the area come to sell their woven goods. The women in this area are master weavers, and the colors these use are incredible. This is pretty much sole source of any income for most of the families in the communities around Pisac.
Monday, our first day in the field, we climbed to the highest elevation of the week, 14k feet. Most of the team experienced altitude sickness: headaches, nausea and lethargy. I was lucky because I had been in Peru for a week with my mom and had adjusted. A common remedy is to chew on Coco leaves, and it seemed to help the group feel better.
The women and children in Ttio Grande, like the other villages we were to visit, were very shy, yet powerful. We sat with the woman throughout the week and listened to their stories…about their lives, their hopes and dreams, and about how Vitamin Angels’ vitamins have impacted their world. When we in the US take vitamins, they might give us a little more energy but for the most part, the benefits, although there of course, are somewhat unnoticeable. It’s because we have nutrient rich diets for the most part. These communities, The Quechan communities, have the worst malnutrition rates in all of Peru. At these altitudes, because of the rain and the cold, little can be cultivated besides potatoes. Peru has over 2,000 types of potatoes but this vegetable is high in starch and low in nutritional content.
Because of this severe malnutrition, vitamins make a world of difference. I heard story after story of children who were bigger, stronger, had healthier immunes systems than their siblings that hadn’t taken the vitamins. One example stands out vividly…In the village of Chaupimayo, Day 2, I spoke with Isobel Tanya, age 25 and mother of 4. Isobel told the team that after taking Vitamin Angel’s prenatals, her youngest was born 2lbs heavier than her other 3 children…Another mother told me that once she started taking prenatals it was the first time she carried a child the full nine months, her other 4 children had been born prematurely.
I was introduced to another world, and the strength of these women awed me. Most of the families work in farming, but only grow enough potatoes for them and their families to survive on. There is virtually no other income, unless the woman is a weaver and can sell her goods at the market. The mothers have to walk for hours to sell to get to the market and most children walk over an hour just to get to school. Life is hard. All the kids had deep purple scabs on the skin on their cheeks. Since we are so high up in the mountains, the elements are really rough on their baby skin. It hurt my heart to see that!
Vitamin Angels’ in country partners, DESEA PERU install filters for clean drinking water, provide health services and distribute the vitamins. They are godsends to the communities. Since DESEA came in, there has been zero infancy mortality (something that was a problem before) and the illnesses from parasites has pretty much disappeared. It was incredible to be in these communities with people who have made such a difference. For a video on DESEA’s work see http://youtu.be/hg1ZZ0Mx1nA.
I was inspired to say the very least. I am also determined and thankful for us to continue our campaign of supporting Vitamin Angels. Seeing the very real difference that our contributions make in the field was one of the best experiences of my life.
I want to thank Al and NeoCell for all the work we have done for Vitamin Angels. We are TRULY changing lives.
Here are some pics from my week…the first is my little buddy, Nielson. This little guy and I become great friends and spend about 4 hours playing. I fell in love. 🙂