January 20, 2015 10:37 AM

50:50 CAMPAIGN SPOTLIGHT: Wesley Tomlinson

Written by Rosali Vela

Read about one of our volunteer's experience organizing a highly successful 50:50 campaign for her trip to Lima, Peru! Find out more about the 50:50 campaign here.

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Name: Wesley Tomlinson

Amount raised: $1300

Are you a MEDLIFE chapter member?

I’m not actually in a MEDLIFE chapter. I decided to come alone with my best friend from med school. We both go into different universities so we thought it would be an amazing experience to meet up half way around the world to partake in a volunteer trip.

How did you hear about the 50:50 campaign and why did you decided to organize one?

It was on the website when i signed up to MEDLIFE. My sister who had previously been on a volunteer trip told me all about it. After reading up the benefits of the campaign on the website I knew thye campaign was for me. It became a clear decision once i knew that half of the money i raised would go towards funding my trip and the other half to helping out the community that I wanted to volunteer for.

How long before your trip did you start and finish?

I only started my campaign in October. I remember only having 60 days left until Lima, only starting the campaign a month or so before my trip. It was at this point that I started posting on social media websites and sending out e-mails. I was very lucky to have friends and family who would share my link to the page.

What did you do to be most successful with your judgment when you fundraised? Did you encounter any obstacles in the process and how did you over come that?

I tried to reach out to as many different people as possible, to see if they would be willing to donate. I was stunned with the feedback that i received, as everyone I reached out to were very supportive, financially and verbally. However, I did encounter a few obstacles. Some people chose not to respond to me, some people just ignored my requests, but you have to take these experiences on the chin and keep up the momentum.

What advice would you give to others who want to start their own campaign?

I would say just go for it! Even if you are worried about not raising any money, it can’t hurt to try. You have to think and stay positive!

January 12, 2015 10:28 AM

CHAPTER SPOTLIGHT: Queen's University

Written by Molly Trerotola

MEDLIFE at Queen's university started small, but, with the dedication of a few motivated students, it grew rapidly. Read this interview with students from one of Canada's very successful chapters and what they do for fundraising events, member recruitment, and their goals for this coming year!

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When and how did your chapter begin?

MEDLIFE Queen’s began in the fall of 2012. Inspired by the success of the McGill chapter, we wanted to provide students at Queen’s University with opportunities to contribute to MEDLIFE’s mission. What started as five friends sitting around a kitchen table has now grown into a major source for student involvement opportunities on campus.

What strategies do you use to promote MEDLIFE on campus? 

To promote MEDLIFE on campus, we strive to maintain visibility, both in person and online via social media. Whenever possible, we try to establish a face-to-face connection with students – whether that be through clubs fairs, class talks, or simply by setting up at a table in the student center, we do our best to ensure MEDLIFE Queen’s remains an available and approachable organization. In addition, we work to maintain a strong social media presence, focusing on eye-catching images and graphics. We post these not only on our own page, but also within various Facebook groups to maximize our reach. By ensuring our online presence remains professional and visually impactful, we feel we set ourselves apart from other groups on campus.

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What system do you use to recruit new members? What process does a new member go through once part of the chapter?

To recruit new members, we rely a great deal on clubs fairs and events – this makes September a very busy month for us!  We also send information through department email lists periodically throughout the year to promote new opportunities for involvement.  Our chapter is organized into a number of committees, namely Mobile Clinics, Fundraising, Outreach & Education, Conference, and Expansion. These committees plan and execute various initiatives and require an application and interview to sit on. For students wishing to join the chapter in a more casual way, there are many ways to get involved, including volunteering, socials, outreach events, and talks.

What activities do you organize to keep your members interested throughout the year? 

Throughout the year, our chapter hosts a number of fundraisers and other events.  This past semester we have held a Western-themed fundraising event at a downtown bar, volunteered at a local soup kitchen, set up a “MEDMail” booth to allow students to send postcards to MEDLIFE staff and volunteers, and have held a number of general meetings. Next semester, we are looking forward to a benefit concert, 5k run, global development conference, and much more!

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What are your goals as a chapter for this academic year (2014-2015)?

For this academic year, our goals include running three successful mobile clinic trips in addition to a development corps trip. We are also looking forward to new initiatives, such as our benefit concert and conference, as well as continuing annual events such as our 5k. In addition, we have placed a greater focus this year on outreach and education activities, with the aim of increasing on-campus engagement with health and human rights issues, both locally and globally.

December 31, 2014 11:32 AM

Meet the patient: Claudia Pinto

Written by Molly Trerotola

Claudia Pinto never worried about her health. She has a resilient immune system, she says; she has never become sick enough to merit a visit to the doctor. Claudia’s priority is not her own well-being, anyway. She became a mother when she was 23 years old, and since then, has always put her children’s needs before her own.

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Claudia’s children never had a father figure; she supports her small family single-handedly. To accomplish this challenging task, Claudia works unforgivingly long hours as a housemaid in order to feed her children and afford very basic living expenses.  Without a moment of free time to assess her own physical condition, let alone manage time off from work to visit the doctor, Claudia never had the resources to even consider the possibility of developing a serious health problem.

When a MEDLIFE mobile clinic came through Claudia’s neighborhood in San Juan de Miraflores in August of 2014, she initially hesitated, assuming it would conflict with work. Before the clinic, however, Claudia managed a few free hours from her commitments, and found it too convenient to pass up. She join her neighbors and attended the clinic with her son, his health being her priority, of course.

Claudia visited the OB/GYN station to take advantage of the free breast exam and pap smear, of which she has only had five or six in her life—a number incredibly low for a woman in her forties. During her check-up, the OB/GYN informed her of two discoveries Claudia would need to attend to. Claudia was first told she had a urinary tract infection, something easily remedied. The doctor’s second piece of news caught her off guard a bit. Claudia was informed of a small lump in her breast. The doctor at the mobile clinic expressed her concern, and she told Claudia to follow-up as soon as possible.

“Well, this simply won’t work,” Claudia thought while her mind immediately skimmed over a whole host of reasons for why a growth in her breast was an utter inconvenience: lack of finances, the need to constantly work, responsibility to care for her children, etc. Claudia left the mobile clinic in a hurry, attempting  to run away from the new discovery, though she did acknowledge her breast had been in pain for a while. Regardless, Claudia wanted it to disappear, so she started by ridding it from her mind and went about her routine as usual.

Though Claudia tried to escape her new reality, she somewhat confronted it by confiding in a friend, one who could lend her some guidance. Claudia’s friend had suffered from breast cancer for ten years and felt very strongly about Claudia’s new discovery. “Please take care of yourself,” pleaded Claudia’s friend. “Don’t suffer if you don’t have to. I don’t want what happened to me to happen to you.” And with that, Claudia was convinced to visit a nearby medical “post” to ask for medical advice.  

At the small community clinic, Claudia found out the cost to remove the Fibroadenoma, a non-cancerous tumor, from her breast would be 210 Peruvian soles, or 70 USD, which Claudia simply did not have. She makes enough money to feed her family and pay for household expenses, but is never able to save that large of an amount.

Feeling trapped in her situation, Claudia began to panic. She was frightened for her health and for her children’s well-being.  Most of all, Claudia was afraid of the possibility of not finding a resolution. She thought there was no way out.

Her luck changed in October 2014. Claudia reconnected with MEDLIFE at a community meeting in her neighborhood that was held to discuss upcoming projects and winter mobile clinics. During the meeting, Claudia approached MEDLIFE staff explaining her situation— and she was immediately recognized. She was a patient who they tried to contact after the August mobile clinic but were unable to reach her. Claudia and MEDLIFE realized it was a misunderstanding, and moved forward to solve the problem.

After a few preliminary appointments with Claudia, MEDLIFE scheduled her operation and she had her tumor removed on November 5, 2014. The organization covered all related expenses including medical appointments, the operation and medications. Claudia said, for the first time in years, she felt fully supported, not only financially, but also emotionally. At first, Claudia could not believe that someone outside of her family cared enough about her health to help. She feels extremely grateful to MEDLIFE for discovering her ailments, because otherwise she would have continued living her life without knowledge that she was ill.

Since her experience with MEDLIFE, Claudia is determined to spread the word to her neighbors about how important it is to care for their health. She recognizes that for people living in the hills of Lima, proper medical care is neglected for many reasons, including lack of access, time, and money. Though she has been lucky with good health up until this point, she knows the situation is far different for many of her neighbors. She wants to encourage others to not only be vigilant of their health, but also take advantage of help when it comes along. 

December 29, 2014 10:25 AM

50:50 CAMPAIGN SPOTLIGHT: Aubrey Kuester

Written by Rosali Vela

Read about one of our volunteer's experience organizing a highly successful 50:50 campaign for her trip to Cusco, Peru! Find out more about the 50:50 campaign here.

AubreyKuester2Name: Aubrey Kuester

Amount raised: $1285

What are you studying? I study at Florida State University and I’m studying exercise science. 

How did you hear about the 50:50 campaign? I heard about the 50:50 campaign when I signed up through the MEDLIFE website. The campaign is advertised on the first page, and it seemed like the easiest and most effective way to raise money.

Why did you decided to organize a 50:50 campaign? I decided to organize a 50:50 campaign to not only raise money for my own trip but I also wanted to help the communities in any way that I could, and I know it would be easier for my relatives donate.

How many weeks did your campaign last? I started my 50:50 campaign roughly a month before my trip and I reached out to all my relatives and friends in my community to help me make this trip possible.

What did you do to make your campaign most successful? What I did specifically to raise money was send emails to most of my friends and relatives, also my old coaches and teachers that I’ve had in the past. I wrote a personal email, not just a generic one they provided on the website, and I sent it personally to all my relatives with their name and my own link to my personal page. I think it was really effective because half the money was donated to Cusco. People were more willing to donate rather than the money just going to me. It ended up being a great advantage for my campaign and I ended raising a lot of money that way.

Did you encounter any obstacles in the process? How did you overcome them? It was a little difficult getting people to donate online, some people were skeptical about putting their credit card through an Internet system, but I think the 50:50 campaign is a really secure and easy way to donate.

How was organizing a 50:50 campaign a positive experience? The 50:50 campaign was extremely rewarding, specially after I came here to Cusco and witnessed it first hand how little the people here are working with and the conditions that they have to deal with. Knowing that I personally raised a significant amount of money, enough for medicine for 90 people and supplies so they can use in a daily basis, just made it extremely rewarding.

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What do you think of your volunteer trip? Its been extremely rewarding so far, especially seeing the smiles on the kids faces and actually been hands on and experiencing the culture here. It has been extremely worth it.

How do you feel about the impact you have made by raising money to support a local community? Before I came to Cusco, I didn’t know what to expect. Personally, witnessing the conditions that people have to deal with here, and how little medical attention they have, what little access they have to proper medicine and education makes an organization like MEDLIFE really important. It has such a positive effect on the community since we are not asking for any money, we are giving free medical attention to people that truly need it, that they might have to drive or walk hours to get just basic health care. It is something that is very close to my heart and I couldn’t be happier about being here.

 

 

Women of all ages are encouraged to conduct self-breast exams at least once a month. Despite the age-inclusive recommendation, however, pre-teen girls are not usually expected to monitor their breast health as closely as, say, middle-aged women. Generally speaking, girls on the brink of puberty seldom have to worry about finding lumps in their newly emerging bumps; younger women are at a much lower risk of developing breast-related health complications. Therefore, when 13-year-old Maricielo Garcia felt soreness and a small growth in her right breast, she thought nothing of it.

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She thought, “maybe it will go away with time,” but the pain persisted and the lump grew, as did Maricielo’s concern.

The pain Maricielo started experiencing in early 2014 caused her mild discomfort, but she was not sure what to make of the occasional soreness and small bouts of unfamiliar nipple discharge. She thought, “maybe it will go away with time,” but the pain persisted and the lump grew, as did Maricielo’s concern.

Maricielo’s fears were confirmed in the spring of 2014 when her aunt brought her to a MEDLIFE mobile clinic in their district of Villa Maria del Triunfo near their home in Lima. After passing through the general medicine station at the clinic, Maricielo was directed to visit the obstetrician/gynecologist. She placed herself in line alongside her older female neighbors who were waiting their turn for pap smears and breast cancer screenings. Needless to say Maricielo felt out of place.

When it was Maricielo’s turn, the gynecologist investigated the area in pain and identified the existence of a lump. For Maricielo, the situation became all too real when the gynecologist said she would need a follow-up appointment at a nearby hospital.

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MEDLIFE enrolled Maricielo in the follow-up patient program and scheduled her a visit with a specialist at a hospital. Young Maricielo maintained a mature composer as she patiently endured ultrasounds, mammograms, and long hours through meetings with doctors, all to arrive at a diagnosis. Maricielo was told she had a fibroadenoma in her right breast; it was a large, benign tumor composed of connective tissue, liquid and fat that continued to grow and cause her pain. The tumor would need to be removed with a surgery.

Although the tumor was not causing any internal damage to Maricielo’s body—it was simply an annoyance—the pain she was in merited a surgery on its own, let alone the side effects being extremely embarrassing for a girl of her age. The nipple discharge constantly stained her shirts and the pain from the tumor inhibited her from partaking in physical activity with other children. 

Developing a breast tumor was certainly not something Maricielo expected when she moved ten hours away to Lima from her home in Trujillo, Peru in 2013. Maricielo was relocated to Peru’s capital for access to a better education and more lucrative job opportunities.  Maricielo’s father back in Trujillo struggled to provide for all of his children after his wife past away five years ago. His sisters in Lima, Maricielo’s aunts, sympathized with his situation and offered to lessen his financial burden by caring for his eldest daughter. So, Maricielo moved to Lima.

When MEDLIFE met with the aunt Maricielo currently lives with, she explained that she wanted to support her brother in any way she could afford to; in this case, that meant being a mother figure for her niece. Maricielo’s aunt has four children of her own, so she and her sister share the financial responsibility of taking care of Maricielo. They are splitting expenses for food and school until Maricielo is old enough to support herself and start sending money back to her family in Trujillo. Although more financially stable than Maricielo’s father, her aunts certainly could not afford this unexpected medical expense related to their niece’s health, so they were grateful for MEDLIFE’s support.

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Maricielo, her aunts, and all involved parties hoped for a swift and painless process— a meeting with the doctor, the diagnosis, a surgery, and speedy recovery. Unfortunately, a series of external factors overthrew the projected timeline.

The hospital that was initially in charge of Maricielo’s case entered into months of widespread and tiring employee protests, which essentially barred access to any medical care that was not an emergency. Not wanting to reopen Maricielo’s case at a new hospital, everyone waited hoping the strikes would subside after a few weeks. Unfortunately, the strikes dragged on, the hospital remained closed, and Maricielo’s case could not proceed for several months.

The delay not only diminished Maricielo’s spirits, but also incited a feeling of mistrust in MEDLIFE. Maricielo and her aunt’s inherent skepticism of aid organizations in general began to shape their opinion of MEDLIFE. People in these communities are all too used to other NGO’s and political organizations that often promise support for new beginnings, but seldom deliver. In their minds, MEDLIFE was just another organization getting their hopes up only to disappoint. 

Despite the obstacle, MEDLIFE would never abandon Maricielo’s case. When it became apparent that the strike would not be resolved anytime soon, and impatience levels continued to rise, MEDLIFE pulled Maricielo’s case from the idle hospital and started it anew at a fully functional one. Doctors at this hospital treated Maricielo’s as they would any new patient and started her case from scratch. After a stretch of repetitive exams, Maricielo’s new doctors boiled their findings down to the all-too-familiar diagnosis. This time, however, no hospital strike would inhibit Maricielo from finally getting the benign but obtrusive tumor removed.

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After months of anticipation, the wait was finally over; Maricielo went under the knife in December of 2014 to shed the undesirable fibroadenoma. In this case, MEDLIFE covered all related expenses including the operation, appointments and transportation, and coordinated all hospital visits to ensure Maricielo received the best care.

As doctors predicted, the operation went smoothly, and within a week Maricielo was going about her life as a normal 13-year-old girl again. Though residual soreness from the operation incision still lingered during recovery, no pain lessened Maricielo’s excitement to have overcome this obstacle. 

December 16, 2014 10:04 AM

Julie MacKinnon's Intern Journal

Written by Julie MacKinnon

I became involved with MEDLIFE during my senior year of college, at McGill University, in Montreal, Canada after going on a Mobile Clinic trip with MEDLIFE in December 2013, to Riobamba, Ecuador. Although I was already passionate about MEDLIFE and its mission, my experience in Ecuador really sparked my interest to become more involved, so I applied to be a year-long intern at the MEDLIFE National Office in Lima, Peru. After my acceptance in the spring, I was avidly waiting to get here, learn some Spanish, and start working with such a great organization.

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I finally landed in Lima after a long, 14-hour day of flying, first from Montreal to Miami, and then from Miami to Lima. After such a long day, I was excited  to settle into the new apartment with the other interns. While waiting for my bags, I fervently hoped that Tim, the Student Affairs Director, would be waiting outside to pick me up, as I had left my cell phone back in Canada. Thankfully he was, and we headed out into the foggy night to drive back to the apartment. As we passed the streetlights and traffic lights in the cab, it was hard to get a sense of what the city was really like, but I was excited to be here nonetheless.

I’ve been very blessed throughout my life to have traveled and lived in many countries across the globe – visiting places in North America, Europe, Asia and Australia. Besides Antarctica, South America was the one part of the world that I wanted to explore but had never had the chance. After living  in Lima for just over three months, I’ve had a wonderful time learning about and experiencing the city, which can be both charming and chaotic.

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One of my first times out in the field was in September, when I went on a patient care follow-up visit in a district called Villa Maria del Triunfo. The “slums” we work in are located right outside of Lima - only a 30 minute bus ride away from the office. There are a large number of shanty houses built up into the hills, all of which usually lack running water, electricity and flooring. Because these houses are located high up in the hills, one of MEDLIFE's main goals is to build staircases throughout  these communities. These staircases will prevent injuries from falling, which has become a serious concern for these people.

The patient we saw on that Tuesday had just received a surgery sponsored by MEDLIFE to remove a lump from her breast. We were interviewing her about her experience with MEDLIFE, and asked her about the follow-up medication that she would need. Hearing this patient talk about how much she appreciated MEDLIFE was an eye-opening experience.. I could really tell how happy she was that we were there to help and her genuine gratitude was very touching.

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Since that first field day in September, I’ve learned so much about MEDLIFE, the people we work with, and living in Lima. It has definitely been an unforgettable experience! These past three months have been filled with new experiences for which I am very grateful. Among them, working in the field with our MEDLIFE nurses, helping a community through the building of  staircase, and having the opportunity to build relationships in Lima both in and out of MEDLIFE.  Though varied and unique, each of these experiences makes me more certain about my goal to continue serving communities in need and doing humanitarian aid work during my career.  Although three months have already passed, I’m looking forward to spending another six months here, and learning everything that MEDLIFE has to offer. 

December 11, 2014 12:26 PM

Charlie Hartley's Intern Journal

Written by Charlie Hartley

Hello from Lima! My name is Charlie and I am a Student Affairs intern here at MEDLIFE in Peru. I’m going to launch straight into a story about a trip the interns made into the field the night of Wednesday, October 1st, 2014:

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My ears were still pounding from the whirlwind ride we had taken as I began to hike up the steep gravel path. We (the interns) had just been whisked by a fleet of three-wheeled micro taxis through a labyrinthine neighborhood towards one of the dark hills looming above Nueva Esperanza – a community waiting for us at its summit. A wailing megaphone siren blared from the micro at the head of our procession, mixed with the 90’s techno ballad—“No Limit” by 2 Unlimited—that our driver pumped from his speakers. Combined with the stop motion effect of the strobe light above our windshield as we dodged street mutts and swerved around sharp corners, the trip felt more like a bizarre street race than a convoy en route to a humanitarian outreach meeting. I was beginning to wonder what I had gotten myself into.

We had heard about the community assembly with Ampliación Unión from Carlos Benavides the day before. Carlos is the director of MEDLIFE Peru and it’s most crucial activist in Lima. He works tirelessly at a breakneck pace for the communities we serve and has accumulated an encyclopedic memory of names, faces, and places along the way. By the end of a day with Carlos your mind is full of the stories he has shared about the people you met and places you went. For many in Pamplona, Villa Maria, and Villa El Salvador, Carlos is the face of MEDLIFE.

MEDLIFE is in the process of forming a new partnership with Ampliación Unión, the community waiting on the rocky hill summit. Carlos had had several weeks of correspondence and small meetings with their elected leaders that all led up to this community assembly. They had discussed the needs of the community and what MEDLIFE is prepared to help with. Ampliación Unión is plagued by a lack of critical infrastructure, especially staircases. They also lack access to basic healthcare and preventative diagnostic tests like pap smears. MEDLIFE is prepared to help and Carlos was making it happen. The meeting we zipped to in the micro taxis was an introduction between the greater community and MEDLIFE staff.

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"As we crossed over a ridge the illuminated valley emerged below us —a thousand lights laid out in a rough grid along the valley floor."

The navigable roadway ended at the base of a long set of crude steps cut from the packed dirt and rock of the hill. We tumbled out of the micros grinning at our unorthodox approach, however as we began the ascent into darkness the sounds of the city dwindled behind us and we fell silent. The smell of dust mingled with the odor of waste found strewn about in haphazard piles.

Our route wound its way up and around the crest of a hill past rows of makeshift houses, each one more sparsely built than the one below it. As we crossed over a ridge the illuminated valley emerged below us —a thousand lights laid out in a rough grid along the valley floor. The light emanated upwards in hazy halos from each post – given shape by the low clouds that cling to the Lima coastline. Despite the warm glow, a breeze on the ridge-top sent chill, damp air searching through our jackets. We turned our heads uphill and continued along the spine of the ridge.

Off in the distance shone a lone circle of light. As we approached, the figures of the community came into focus and the gravity of the assembly hit me. Men, women, and children, every type and age from the community, surrounded the largest communal space, awaiting our arrival. No moment in this internship has had such an impact on my outlook towards MEDLIFE, its mission, and the people it serves. Devotion and determination was set into each of their faces. It was humbling to behold.

A hush fell over the community as we approached and filed into a single line, forming a half circle opposite the crowd. We could feel their eyes sweep over each of us as the community leader began his opening speech. The people of Ampliación Unión have every reason to be skeptical of MEDLIFE and our mission. The national government and other non-profit organizations have made many empty promises, leaving behind a population wary of outside support. The leader concluded his introduction and presented Carlos, who launched into an in-depth description of MEDLIFE and its purpose.

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The meeting continued uninterrupted for two hours and involved a dialogue between MEDLIFE (mostly Carlos) and the community members. Carlos alternated between explaining matters of importance to the community, like public health concerns and infrastructure projects, to fielding questions from them. The people from Ampliación Unión expressed gratitude for us being there and shared stories of their hardships living in such conditions.

When Carlos asked people to come forward to explain what the potential projects would do for them, a young girl named Nicole stood up. Nicole is ten years old and lives in a house along the route where one of the staircases is going to be built. The path by her house is very steep and when it rains it becomes very slick, she told us. Her concern for the safety of her neighbors and her mother brought a tremor into her voice. Her mother had fallen twice, once while she was pregnant, and though she was not injured, Nicole’s younger brother was born prematurely. Her grief became too much and she swept her crying sister into her arms and sat down in tears as everyone nodded their heads in appreciation and respect.

MEDLIFE’s purpose has never been clearer or more purposeful in my eyes. In that moment I felt the true impact that MEDLIFE has on the people it serves. From an outside perspective, a set of stairs seems like a minor project. But when you visit the communities and see the circumstances of where they live, a staircase can be a monumental change. It means each trip outside of the house won’t be a gamble. Children going to school won’t have to worry about leaving an hour early to get to class on time safely. Mothers carrying children in swollen bellies and swaddling clothes will be able to go about their daily routine without endangering their own lives or the ones they care for. Those returning home at night, in the dark, will have a sure path home. A staircase is not a solution by itself, but it is a signification of progress and development in the community. It is a step – several steps – towards a better, more prosperous life for Ampliación Unión, as it is for each of the numerous other communities MEDLIFE serves.

The meeting wound down and the community leader handed over a signed contract, signifying that the whole of Ampliación Unión’s commitment to MEDLIFE. We are jointly going to be building two staircases and will host a mobile medical clinic with long-term follow up care for those who need it. The clinic will provide access to a general practitioner, a dentist, and a woman’s health specialist, including health education workshops and diagnostic testing for cervical and breast cancer.

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With many of their fears dispelled and the promise of change on the horizon, the atmosphere at the meeting was almost jovial as it wound down. Handfuls of panetone and warm tea were passed around and thanks exchanged. There are still significant obstacles to living a secure existence in Ampliación Unión, but proof that change can happen is now underway. As we filed off into the darkness from where we had come, I reflected on what we had just witnessed. Community organization and planning has succeeded in changing the fate of Ampliación Unión. Little by little, MEDLIFE is making a difference in the way communities interact within themselves and with each other, and there is no plan to stop soon.

A trip downhill has never felt more uplifting.

December 11, 2014 9:18 AM

CHAPTER SPOTLIGHT: UW-Madison

Written by Molly Trerotola

MEDLIFE at the University of Wisconsin-Madison has a big presence on campus with their effective recruitment efforts and dynamic events. Though part of the MEDLIFE community since 2010, the upcoming year is bound to be an exciting one for this Big Ten chapter. Along with growth in membership, UW-Madison is looking forward to working on a large-scale water project for which they are partnered with MEDLIFE and an international corporation.

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When and how did your chapter begin?

Wisconsin MEDLIFE began five years ago when Chris McCarthy heard about MEDLIFE from a friend at another school. Since then, we are proud to have grown our chapter to over 70 members strong!

What strategies did you use to promote MEDLIFE on campus? 

We promote MEDLIFE on campus through tabling in high traffic areas on campus, and manning those tables with exec members who can provide students with information about MEDLIFE. Other publicity events include fundraisers and events. Some past fundraisers include an event called “Bucky’s Got Talent”, a campus-wide showcase talent show, our 5k, “Active For Agua” where both students and Madison community members participated in a fundraising event. Other events usually include collaboration with other student orgs. Wisconsin MEDLIFE is part of the Global Health Coalition on campus. This coalition sponsors many health related conferences like Wisconsin “Public Health Week”, where MEDLIFE exec members help plan out the week’s events, bringing in keynote speakers and speaking themselves about the work MEDLIFE does. Next semester, we are hosting either a date auction or fashion show, which will require collaboration across campus.

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What system do you use to recruit new members? What process does a new member go through once part of the chapter?

The first three weeks of each semester is a prime time for recruitment. We table heavily in dining halls, high traffic buildings, and at the student org fair by having exec members man the tables and provide info about MEDLIFE! One other strategy that we use is an email blast to the whole campus of 42,000 students through an email listserv we obtain from the office of the Registrar. We have also found it effective for members to spread MEDLIFE awareness through word-of-mouth. Many new chapter members are gained by others sharing their experiences they’ve had with the organization. New members are required to do the same things as every other member. Each semester, we ask members to complete seven “points” and pay dues to be in “good standing”. Points are acquired by attending meetings, participating in volunteering events, fundraisers, marketing events, and socials. Dues are either $25 for the academic year, or $15 per semester and both options include a Wisconsin MEDLIFE t-shirt.

What activities do you organize to keep your members interested throughout the year? 

Wisconsin MEDLIFE organizes chapter socials and volunteering events to keep members engaged throughout the year. Past social events have included campfires at Picnic Point off of Lake Mendota, dinners and ice-skating. Volunteer events have include making food for a soup kitchen, campus clean ups, nature preservation projects, and volunteering at food pantries in the Madison area. We also have made toothbrush packages for donation to MEDLIFE that member bring with them on MEDLIFE trips.

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What are your goals as a chapter for this academic year (2014-2015)?

Our goals for the 2014 and 2015 year include running successful winter and summer clinics, as well as finalizing a partnership with the Coca-Cola Company in developing a clean water project for those in need in Lima. Executive board members Jeremy O’Brien and Aaron Anderson, along with MEDLIFE staff Tim Anson met with Julia Sobrevilla from Coca-Cola Perú this past summer. She explained that Coca-Cola has the funds to cover the project we proposed. She threw some more logistics back at us to figure out, and exec members Jeremy O’Brien, Mari Sandoval, and Lauren Gladowski are meeting with her again this January in Lima for the second time. The project calls for purchasing tanques de aguas with filters, and distributing them to communities in need. Since the first meeting with Coca-Cola Perú this past summer, Wisconsin MEDLIFE has organized a “Water Project” committee with our members. Tori Charpentier, Development Corps Director at Wisconsin MEDLIFE has been running the committee, and been in contact with MEDLIFE in Lima, fostering grassroots organizing on the community end with Carlos Benavides, MEDLIFE in Peru’s Director. Hopefully this January with the hard work Wisconsin MEDLIFE and staff in Lima has been putting forward, we will finalize the plan and partnership with Coca-Cola.

December 9, 2014 2:52 PM

Elena's Breast Cancer Scare

Written by Molly Trerotola

At MEDLIFE, we believe in preventative medical care. We promote preventative medicine by educating communities on how to lead a healthy life, and by creating healthier environments with our development projects—for example building safe staircases.

Another important aspect of MEDLIFE’s approach to preventative care is being vigilant to catch serious health problems early, so as to prevent their progression. For example, the breast exams and pap smears mobile clinic attendees receive are conducted to catch potential health complications at their start, so they can be addressed as soon as possible. People whose exams return positive or show signs of potentially serious illnesses are enrolled in our follow-up patient program to further investigate the issue.

elena1-3The additional medical attention for follow-up patients either reveals a legitimate health concern requiring further care, or it turns out to have been only precautionary. Regardless of the likelihood of the medical issue progressing, MEDLIFE always follows up with ‘red flag’ cases because of our strong belief in the power of preventative medicine and catching issues early.

MEDLIFE took exactly this level of precaution when they met 46-year-old Elena Huacatoca at a mobile clinic, near her home in Parroquia Cotundo del Canton Archidona, Ecuador.

A doctor working with MEDLIFE at the mobile clinic reviewed Elena’s general health. As a mother of two and a farm hand who helps cultivate yucca and plantains, Elena appeared mostly healthy at first, but her weakened state was revealed with further examination. The doctor noticed Elena’s frail appearance and low energy level, and that she was burning up with a fever. Elena lamented about not being able to lift her left hand without pain along the left side of her torso, a comment that directed the doctor to skip ahead and conduct the routine breast exam.

Elena presented signs of inflamed auxiliary glands and significant discharge from her left breast. Worried that she could be showing preliminary signs of breast cancer, the doctor ordered Elena to visit a specialty hospital where her case could be further reviewed.

Elena was very shy and apprehensive as she went for her appointment at a hospital in the nearest large city, Riobamba, Ecuador. She admitted being nervous, tense, and worried for the outcome—she feared having cancer. Elena’s young children depend on her dearly as she is their only constant caregiver. Although Elena is married, her husband works on a farm that is a great distance from their village and returns home only every four days. Despite Elena’s fear and hesitation, she agreed to have an ultrasound, mammogram, and cytology on the discharge to aid a diagnosis.

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It turns out Elena and MEDLIFE had nothing to worry about; her results returned negative for breast cancer! Doctors at the hospital in Riobamba attributed her weakened physical state and abnormal breast presentation to a diagnosis of chronically inflamed cells and a benign abscess formation in her left breast. The doctor gave Elena the go-ahead to return home along with two prescriptions: a medication to treat the abscess, and strict orders to care for and monitor her health closely in the coming weeks. Equipped with the doctor’s orders and an encouraging prognosis, Elena left the hospital and returned home to care for her children and continue her work as a farm hand.

MEDLIFE staff in Ecuador supported Elena by accompanying her to the appointments and covering all of the related expenses along the way. Cases like Elena’s, where fears are put to rest and discouraging diagnoses disproved, are always what MEDLIFE hopes for. Regardless, MEDLIFE always takes the necessary precautions to ensure that more serious issues do not go unaddressed.  

December 3, 2014 3:17 PM

A New Home For Julio

Written by Molly Trerotola

One person’s efforts and generosity resulted in a new home and better quality of life for follow-up patient Julio Mendez Tica. Lisa Pace, a student from the United States, heard Julio's story and how his accident has caused his family immense pain and suffering. Moved by their situation, she set her goal to raise enough money to afford Julio and his family a new home. After 10 days of hard work, the new home is finally complete and ready for Julio’s family to start their new life. See some photos from the project's progression below.

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Images of Julio's house before the project show the mold ridden walls, a mangled dirt floor and a deteriorating roof with many holes. The home was in terrible condition, especially for a large family with many small children like Julio's.

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Construction began with tearing the old house's walls down, laying a concrete foundation and rebuilding the house with sturdy materials. 

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Julio's entire family was part of the process, helping with the construction and working alongside MEDLIFE staff.

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After the house was rebuilt, the last step was to fill it with new, clean furniture for Julio's refurbished room. MEDLIFE interns carried dressers up a long flight of stairs up the hill the house sits on.

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The new house is complete and decorated for the official inauguration! The bright yellow color represents "alegria"—happiness, and illuminates its surrounding area.

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Julio's family gathered together to celebrate the beginning of their new life in a safe and clean environment. After so much hardship and sadness caused by Julio's accident, his family sees a happier future ahead, beginning with a positive home environment. 

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Julio, his family and MEDLIFE are extremely grateful for Lisa Pace's generosity and devotion to this project. Without her, none of this would have been possible. It is truly amazing the impact one person can make on others' lives.

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