Every morning, we jump into our moto taxi and are met by our friendly driver Ignacio, but we call him Nacho for short! He takes us to the parish of Acomayo where our partner organisation, Casas de la Salud, is based. It is a small oasis amidst the hustle and bustle of the streets of Ica and is filled with inspirational and extremely hardworking people.

It's the heartbeat of the community and provides a range of health services, from medical services to holistic treatments. They also run investigations in various development fields such as the environment, education and HIV/AIDS. Our focus here will be on early childcare, specifically for under three year olds, comparing institutionalised and non-institutionalised children.  

We are mid-way through our placement and are finishing our first output, which is to design a research project on the development of children under the age of 3. We are interested in finding out the effectiveness of the government funded Wawa Wasi (early childcare) programme in a region called Salas Guadelope, which is a slum settlement. Many of the people who live here are from Ayacucho and have settled here to work in the agricultural industry. They originally settled here for the prospect of employment and to escape the terrorism that was fierce in that region between 1980 and 2000.

We are working closely with Norlley Munoz, who is overseeing the project. We started by conducting a literature review to find related studies and existing tools that measure children's psychological and physical development. Next, we selected our materials for the investigation and conducted fieldwork for data collection, visiting two Wawa Wasi centres and also children at home. The Wawa Wasis are pre-school centres built by local communities, providing a safe space for children to attend whilst their parents are at work, and where they can be stimulated mentally and receive nutritional meals.

It's been quite a challenge coordinating the investigation, but an invaluable experience, as it has been incredibly insightful to see just how different people live and to see the disparities in access to health and education.

Every day we face the challenge of learning Spanish, we are always determined to improve our language skills and the staff at Casas de la Salud are extremely encouraging and helpful. We even had the opportunity to practise our Spanish when raising awareness of our research project live on tv and radio! 

Since being in Ica, we have experienced an earthquake which was reported to be 6.3 on the Richter scale. This unsettling event opened our eyes to the harsh reality that people are exposed to in developing countries. It was saddening to see the traumatic impact on people's lives, especially as it is a reminder of the devastating earthquake in 2007. This experience has also demonstrated the strength of the local people and their ability to remain positive in the face of adversity. Ica has such a great sense of community and we are really happy to be part of it.

To find out more about Casas de la Salud, check out their blog - the picture at the top of this story is taken from the banner on the blog home page.

Written by ICS volunteers Amy-Jo Lynch and Rachel Rowlings in Ica, Peru.