Saturday, April 16, 2011

Exercising in Paradise

No more excuses ladies, if this lady can run ALL of you can run!!! (She doesn't know her exact age but were guessing late 50's early 60's)Just had to get a close up of our friend running in her flip flops.
Some of the kids that come with their momsWall squat, I have NO mercy!
Nothing like doing a whole class with a few bands and a couple stability balls!
Daniel who comes every Wednesday with his sister LOVES to play on the equipment
If you haven't noticed yet, Peruvians have short stature. I always feel like a GIANT around them
Yes, this lady is running with her skirt and flip flops. GOTTA LOVE IT!
Doing some cardio and Rebecca is STILL smiling!
Jessica doing a jumping jack
He comes with his mom every week and he is just PRECIOUS!
My mom doing some ab work with the rest of the ladies on her visit last month

Back in October I had the joy of taking two good friends from the US Embassy out to where we work in the shanty town of Villa Maria-Paraiso (translated means paradise.) My two friends Heidi and Brianna fell in love! They had both been looking to volunteer somewhere and when we connected and they found out what we were doing here it was a perfect fit.

Brianna is a physician assistant who's husband works for the embassy and Heidi also worked part time at the embassy. The first day we went up the mountain we went with no plans, no expectations and pretty excited. As I drove up the mountain and as the area began to look worse the mood in the car changed. These two girls had seen a TON in their life but being IN IT was hard. It was hard for me the first time (don't get me wrong, it's hard everytime we go but there is just something about the FIRST time you see such poverty.)

We got out of the car and we just started visiting women I had met and already had a relationship with. Each woman told the girls her story, her struggles and some shed tears. It was the neatest thing to watch Brianna and Heidi just love on these women and not have a care in the world at the smells and the filth of some of the places we went in. They touched them, cared for them and most importantly loved on them. From this day forward we made Wednesday a regular gig.

We are now in our 7th month of going out there and though we had never gone out there with any expectations or plans we saw some great needs. One was that these women needed to talk. So many of them shared their struggles with us but would not share them with each other. They were all dealing with a lot of the same things-marital abuse, bringing up children alone and in extreme poverty, diabetes, mal-nutrition, losing pregnancies, taking care of physically disabled child and so much more. We decided these women needed community. We could give them only so much, they needed some help in coming together. So, for the first time we had a goal.

One idea was brought up about me teaching an exercise class for the women. This would be a way for them to get to know one another, to build relationships, build that community and also get healthy at the same time. That's how "Ejercisios en Paraiso" was birthed. We have been going out every Wednesday morning to teach these ladies an exercise class. We have been able to bring out fun equipment they had never seen before. We have days Brianna talks about different health concerns they might be having and sometimes we talk about nutrition. A couple of weeks ago we gave them food journals to fill out for the week and it was sobering. One of the ladies asked "if we don't eat anything that day, what do we write down?" My heart sank. These women daily make sacrifices so that their children get to eat and some days it means they don't get to eat at all. Fruit is something they GET to only eat on the weekends. Their diets aren't about getting a "well balanced diet" it's about what can I eat that is going to make me feel the fullest and that doesn't cost a lot (mainly potatoes, beans and rice.)

These past few months have been incredible out there with those women. We have recently talked about making bright pink t-shirts for them to wear. If you notice in a lot of the pictures the ladies don't have proper workout attire. Some other women from the embassy that heard about what we were doing donated second-hand tennis shoes and workout clothes for the women. It's been so neat to not only see this growing community of women out in Villa Maria but to also see a group of American women from the embassy come together to help change a group of women in Paradise.

Lastly I want to thank a friend of mine at Power Systems who donated a lot of the equipment we currently use out there. They are an incredible company if you ever need any exercise equipment, I HIGHLY recommend them. (He NEVER asked me to write this I just wanted to give him props!)

***If you are interested in helping support this small yet growing project, please let me know. Some upcoming things we would like to do is- order more equipment, make t-shirts, make fliers to invite more women and a long term project is to make a cookbook of healthy simple recipes that utilizes the food that these women can afford and that's available in their area. I would also love to include healthy tips and daily/exercise log in it as well.
We would love to hear any ideas you might have for recipes, how to write a book, for the t-shirt design, tips on health (in Spanish) or anything you think these ladies could utilize. Even if that is YOU (if you have medical training, exercise background, nutritionist etc...) come down for a week and you can guest teach the class:) As you can see NO dream is too big as far as I'm concerned.


Megan said...

Stephanie, this is AWESOME. WHat an incredible way to use the gifts that God has blessed you with. And I am with you on the embassy ladies. We have multiple ways to grow God's kingdom here that even includes the gringos of Peru. I love this idea, and I know it has served as a blessing to many. We have discussed the need for nutrition classes. I would love to converse about that with you sometime. Also, you may need to lead a class at PMS for those that are large and in charge from just having a baby! Hah!

Holly said...

How awesome to see God using so many of your gifts!!! I knew some small details about this group, but it's so great to see pictures and hear about the bigger picture! I'd love to help out in some way! I can help you teach when I come, but would love to help you with any leg work long distance if I can. I still have all the Ever FIT docs, so let me know if any of those would be helpful. We could use the recipe book template and you could send me recipes to replace the ones in it. Love you!

SHAUN said...


Gary said...

Sounds like a great project. Keep up the ministry to these women. Peace be to you, Lee and the kids.

Kaye said...

Steph, you are truly a gift from God, not only to these women, but to all of us who know you and love you! I truly do miss our workout time and as you would guess, I just need you (or another like you) to "make" me focus... It is crazy!!! May God bless you in every step you take! Love, Kaye

Ann said...

Love this Stephanie! Praying for all of you and for God to continue to bless the relationships and grow the sense of community among the women each week. Loved reading this and loved the pictures! Miss you!

Anonymous said...

What a GREAT ministry idea! We've just arrived in Guatemala and wonder about ways to connect with people where we live who will not necessarily be reached through our ministry! Diabetes is rampant here, and exercise would be a great way to meet women, connect, build relationships and become part of their lives!! Thank you so much for posting! ~kristy