by Mojdeh Motamendi, PASEO Student, May - June 2016.
¡Que experiencia! ¡Que vida! Wow, what an incredible time it was with PASEO in Peru. I am so extremely grateful for the experiences I had with PASEO. As an Iranian U.S. immigrant, having grown up in Southern California, and having always been surrounded by other recent immigrants, I have always advocated for increasing mental health services among diverse, low resourced communities that struggle with stigma, especially abroad. Thus, it was a no brainer for me to apply to PASEO and I feel so lucky to that PASEO accepted me into the program despite my low-intermediate Spanish speaking abilities.
PASEO provided me with a unique window into a world of things I would have never experienced otherwise. Through PASEO, I had the opportunity to see how mental health is and isn’t addressed first hand from many angles and communities – from the perspectives of migrant, overworked mothers with limited resources; prevention programs delivered in urban schools; youth in new shanty settlement communities on the coast; and abused youth and their service providers with a history of living in the mountainous areas that were recipients of significant terrorism. Across these contexts, I also had the opportunity to think through how to adapt the provision of services to be culturally appropriate and taken in within each subculture.
As my interests are especially in global mental health and I have often travelled abroad, this experience has stood out as one of the most educational; it has allowed me to really get a better sense of services and personally get to know service providers abroad. The classes PASEO offered helped supplement this as I was exposed more to global mental health models. While it is incredibly frustrating that global mental health services are still so limited, it is very exciting to see such admirable programs like PASEO. I am incredibly grateful for my experiences with PASEO as it has helped me better understand the realities of increasing the dissemination of mental health services in a culturally competent manner. Also, as a person who has been lucky enough to volunteer abroad several times, I was very impressed by the ethics and standards of practice that PASEO abided by. This experience has taught me to hold myself to higher standards for what and how to provide appropriate services. Through PASEO, I feel more aware and prepared for what it takes to provide services in low-resourced, culturally diverse communities. Living in a country as diverse as the U.S. and working in a mental health field which desperately needs to spread more into low resource communities around the world, such intensive emersion programs are a must for all mental health providers.
On top of all that, the beauty of PASEO was that not only everything one learns through the program but also, it was set in one of my favorite countries in the world, Peru. The culinary tastes, the amazingly warm-hearted people, the music, and the vibrant colors and diversity of fabrics, artisanal crafts, people and topography made for the perfect environment that excited all of one’s senses while participating in PASEO. It was truly a mix of special, heart touching experiences. Through PASEO and the amazing people I met (Peruvians and other people in the programs), I have grown so much in so many ways. I don’t usually visit countries more than once but this was my second visit to Peru and I fell even more in love with it. There is no question about the fact that I will return to Peru again as it captures my heart every time I visit. Hasta pronto, Peru!