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From the start, MEDLIFE has had a profound effect on my college career. Before traveling on my first mobile clinic to Lima three years ago, I had been struggling with Organic Chemistry and seriously considered giving up on medicine. However, after attending the clinic, my life goals were reaffirmed; I realized that I could not see myself being anything but a doctor who served underserved populations. When I returned home from Lima, I could not forget about the people I had met and those whose work our efforts supported. I wanted to continue supporting MEDLIFE’s mission.
I became involved with MEDLIFE during my freshman year at the University of Georgia. Through the UGA Chapter, I became the Internal Affairs Chair, served as the Co-President for the past two years, and led two more clinics to Esmeraldas, Ecuador, and Cusco, Peru. I also served on the Student Advisory Board this past year and assisted in MEDLIFE's expansion efforts.
Being selected as a Volunteer Affairs Intern this summer has truly been a dream. I vividly remember jumping for joy when I received my acceptance email from Tim Anson, the Director of Volunteer Affairs and Communication. I am honored and blessed to get more involved on the ground level and increase my exposure to global health before starting medical school in the fall. I hope to improve my understanding of cultural competency and learn the essentials of running a successful non-profit organization.
These past few weeks in Lima have flown by, and I know the adventures ahead will be just as impactful. From exploring Miraflores and Barranco to having Disney movie marathons, our apartment now feels like home, as fourteen college students from all over the world (but actually just the USA, Canada, and England) have grown into a well-oiled ‘internos’ squad. Our favorite hangouts have recently become La Lucha (the best sandwich place with delicious dipping sauces), Manolo’s (their churros are to die for), and Burrito Bar (which we all think is better and fresher than Chipotle).
My favorite memory in the field was attending our first community meeting two weeks ago. All the interns had the opportunity to accompany Carlos Benavides, the Director of MEDLIFE Peru, on a community meeting in Villa Maria Del Triunfo, a district located within Lima. Following work on Friday, we all got onto a crowded city bus and made our way to the community. After getting off in Nueva Esperanza, we walked about four blocks to take a moto taxi up the hills of this district. The blaring sirens and fast pace adrenaline made the taxi ride feel like a good ol’ fashioned NASCAR race.
MEDLIFE is hoping to forge a partnership with these local communities in order to raise public health awareness and improve its overall infrastructure. After weeks of planning and discussion of the community’s needs, Carlos was able to set up this meeting with the entire assembly. When our taxis finally reached the top of the hill, we got off and saw Lima at its finest. The entire sky had been taken over by darkness, but the homes settled on the rocky cliff side had shining lights emitting from them. These lights provided a beacon and guided us to the meeting building. We followed Carlos in a single file line and met an enormous assembly of men, women, and children. As we gathered against the wall, everyone stopped their side conversations and stared right at us, ready to hear our case.
The community leader said a few words and introduced Carlos to the assembly. Carlos began the meeting by introducing MEDLIFE and its mission in Peru. Afterwards, he asked the community members to share their stories with the assembly and discuss how MEDLIFE’s future involvement could benefit them. Everyone began their testimonials by expressing gratitude to us for attending their assembly and then described their everyday hardships. Several local women stepped forward and advocated for the construction of a staircase. The first woman testified that the staircase would make a sustainable impact on the community by providing safe passage to everyone traveling to and from the city, especially to mothers carrying groceries in hand and/or children on their backs. Another woman wanted the staircase to allow her children and all future generations to get to school cleanly. In Lima, the local schools will send students home if their uniforms are dirty. The administration does not usually understand that the rocky terrain that the children take to get to school. The community applauded for one other after their stories and the synchronous head nodding showed that everyone was in consensus.
Listening to these stories truly touched my heart and demonstrated how MEDLIFE could truly impact so many lives. Everyone (including myself) has been guilty of taking basic things for granted and not appreciating what they actually have. Yes, we may not all live lavish lives, but it should not take away from what truly matters -- living life to the fullest and enjoying the time we have with friends and family. A staircase, which may not mean much to a typical American, goes a long way here in Peru. It serves as a symbol of hope and delivers a direct and positive change to the community. With a staircase, the elderly can leave their homes safely. Single mothers can bring groceries home faster and pregnant mothers can avoid potential falls.
The future construction of a staircase will be a tremendous triumph, but it’s important that strong relationships are forged with the local community. Several NGOs tend to use the band-aid approach to solving global health problems. They usually donate extravagant schools or provide weeklong mission trips. These events are ineffective because the local communities are not able to sustain themselves after the foreigners leave, aka ripping off a “bandaid.” In order to create a more long-term solution, an NGO needs to provide both the resources and the proper education. This allows the people to learn, think for themselves and lead healthier lives. MEDLIFE strives itself on creating sustainable practices and continues to head in the positive direction towards community development and viability. I am proud to play a role in this global movement and hope to inspire others to get involved and take the first step in making a difference.
How I got involved with MEDLIFE: As a college freshman away from home, I knew I had to get involved on campus. Considering my interest in medicine, I attended a pre-health involvement fair. After an hour of looking at the different booths, I was convinced that all the pre-med clubs were the same. As I walked towards the parking lot I saw one of my old friends at a booth called “MEDLIFE” and that marked the beginning of this romance.
Tell us a little bit about yourself: I’m currently in my last year of college and plan on attending medical school once I graduate. I’m a fitness nutritionist and currently working on a paramedic certification. I enjoy playing sports and dancing (especially salsa), so living in Peru has been like living a dream. Fun fact about myself: I’ve never attempted to crack any of my bones.
Why did you decide to become an intern?: As a MEDLIFE intern, I expected my life to change. Working in a mobile clinic was a great experience, but I felt like there was so much more for my mind to absorb. It felt as if I had read the back cover page of a great novel, only to find out that I couldn’t open it up. Only so much information could be absorbed in a week. So in my mind, the only way to read this book would be through the internship. Being an intern has allowed me to submerge myself deeper into the Peruvian culture and directly work with the little pieces that make MEDLIFE what it is today.
What was your first impression of Lima?: The first time I came to Lima was this past December. I had previously gone to Ecuador and the weather was beautiful with the sun shining everyday. I had assumed that the weather would be the same but boy was I wrong. You’re lucky if you see the sun over the winter. Apart from the sun, the weather was surprisingly relaxing. The constant breeze mixed in with distant car horns isn’t too shabby..
What are your goals for this internship?: I want to better understand the health disparities that Peruvian natives deal with on a daily basis. Seeing what they go through is one thing, but living it is another. There are a lot of socioeconomic factors that take play in determining the quality of care one receives so what better way to be informed than through the publics opinion. Lastly, I hope to find ways to better my chapter and expand MEDLIFE. Many of the other interns have been heavily involved in their respective chapters and each of them brings new ideas to the table.
How I got involved with MEDLIFE: My first year at UC Davis was also the year MEDLIFE at UC Davis became a chapter. My friend Nona Bhatia, now the MEDLIFE at UCD Vice President, thought it would be fun if we went to a meeting. After the first meeting, hearing about the organization's mission statement and goals, both Nona and I were inspired to get more involved. We went on two mobile clinics (Cusco and Tena) and worked on the executive board with an amazing team both in 2014 and 2015. I was fortunate enough to enter UC Davis at the same time MEDLIFE did and be able to grow with this amazing chapter.
Tell us a little bit about yourself: I have a lot of energy. I overcommit to extracurriculars. My best friends in college were made from my involvement in Imani Clinic and MEDLIFE. I'm Iranian. Joining MEDLIFE changed my life.
Why did you decide to become an intern?: After going on two mobile clinics trips and being on the executive board for 2 years, I wanted to be more involved with MEDLIFE, and this internship was the perfect way to do so. (Shout out to my sister for guiding me and to my parents for getting me here!)
What was your first impression of Lima?: "This ceviche is sooo good"
What are your goals for this internship?: I hope to gain a deeper insight on the workings of MEDLIFE International. I hope to learn more about the workings of an NGO. And I hope to leave with enough knowledge about this organization that I can successfully and passionately inspire more of the UC Davis campus to join us on the mobile clinics.
The last season of MEDLIFE Mobile Clinics in Ecuador was amazing. Many students raised funds for their trip through a 50:50 campaign, here are three of their stories. For more information about the 50:50 campaign click here: 50:50 Campaign
My name is Catia Lecchino and I'm from Marianapolis College. I went on a trip to Tena, Ecuador.
How did you hear about the 5050 campaign? I heard about the 50:50 campaign when I got involved with MEDLIFE on campus. I received an email explaining the 50:50 campaign and fundraising opportunity.
Why did you decide to organize a campaign? I thought it was a really great idea since the money I raised could help a lot of people here in Ecuador and it also would educate other people in my community about MEDLIFE and what we do. It´s a good opportunity to get a lot of people involved and engaged at the same time.
How long was your campaign? I started my campaign about 3 months before I left. It was a lot of family and friends who donated and helped move my campaign forward.
How much money did you raise total? I raised $575 total with the MEDLIFE 50:50 campaign.
What did you do to reach that goal? I spoke to people, sent out emails and whatnot. Basically, I reached out to friends and family to tell them about what MEDLIFE is, what we do and how they´re helping people around the world. That encouraged people to donate to my campaign.
Did you experience and obstacles during your campaign? If so, how did you over come them? I didn’t encounter any obstacles really. I think what I would have loved to do if I had more time would be to post it on Facebook or a bigger social media network to reach more people and let them see what MEDLIFE was about.
How was organizing a 50:50 campaign a positive experience? What did you learn from it? I’ve learned how to interact better with people, explain to them things that I was also new to. I also learned how to pace myself.
What did you think of your volunteer trip? I loved my volunteer trip. I thought it was a great experience. We got to help people and experience a new culture at the same time. It was really beautiful.
How do you feel about the impact you have made raising money to support people like the ones you are working with on this trip? I feel good about what I’ve done. I would love to keep doing this in the future.
What advice do you have for students who are organizing a 50:50 campaign? I would tell students organizing a 50:50 campaign to not be scared about getting your message out there. Talk to people about MEDLIFE and what you`re doing because it has a serious impact for people around the world. It’s amazing to see that impact when you go on a mobile clinic after months of fundraising.
My name is Princess Olowu and I arrived on May 16th in Esmeraldas, Ecuador and I´ll be finishing on 31st going to Riobamba.
How did you hear about the 50:50 campaign? I heard about the opportunity through my friend who went on a MEDLIFE trip to Ecuador a few years ago and fundraised for the trip with a 50:50 campaign.
How long was your campaign? I was initially supposed to go to Cusco and Lima, Peru last year. I campaigned for 2 months but towards the end I realized I could no longer go there so I moved over my campaign to Ecuador for another two months.
How much money did you raise? $1,100
How did you fundraise for your campaign? Basically, I spoke to people as naturally as I possibly could, friends, family coworkers, pretty much everyone and just told them about MEDLIFE and what we do.
Did you experience and obstacles during your campaign? If so, how did you over come them? I guess a couple of people were not really sure about MEDLIFE because they hadn’t heard about it, and then a lot of people were just a little bit unwilling to give because they didn’t have the money or resources. So, I just encouraged people to share the link.
Was it a positive experience? What did you learn? It was great! I learned that a lot of people really like transparency when it comes to where they give their money. I also learned that a lot of people want to help out others around the world but didn’t know how to, the 50:50 campaign gave them an opportunity to.
What do you think of your volunteer trip? I have loved every moment of my volunteer trip! From working with doctors, to meeting the patients to just meeting the locals when we go on tours. I really enjoyed the reality check tour that we went on; it was really a reality check.
How do you feel about the impact you have made by raising money to support people in need? Initially coming into this, I thought that the money I would raise was quite a bit and it would be a great impact. But apon working here, just the week I’ve been here, I feel like there’s a lot more that I could do and I’d like to be able to help more.
What advice would you give someone who is doing a 50:50? Transparency is the most important thing for organizing a 50:50 campaign. Speak to people honestly, don´t get upset or angry if they can´t help you out, just keep going no matter how many nos you get!
My name is Matthew Ruby and I'm from the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign. I went on a trip to Riobamba.
How did you hear about the 50:50 campaign? I heard about it though the MEDLIFE website when I first got involved with MEDLIFE. I looked into it and I thought it was a good opportunity.
Why did you decided to organize a campaign? I thought it was a good opportunity to help the local community here in Riobamba in some way and raise some money for things they needed like schools, medical supplies. And I thought it was a good opportunity for me personally to pay for some of my expenses for the trip. I figured that my friends and family would be willing to give a little bit, so I thought it was good idea.
What did you do to raise the money? I reached out to different family members and told them to tell others and took some time to write something for the campaign page that made sense, that would make people feel that this was a good thing to donate to. I thought that people would be engaged
Did you experience and obstacles during your campaign? If so, how did you over come them?I didn’t really encounter any direct obstacles with the campaign. I guess the closest thing I had was with my moms family, some of them were just not really able to give that much, it’s not that they weren’t willing to give. I didn’t want to press anyone into it. It was really just if you feel like you want to you can. It wasn´t really an obstacle. It was more just like you know oh, the moneys going to have to come from somewhere, I’ll have to find someone else to donate. You are just are thankful for what you can get.
How was it a positive experience what did you learn? I thought it was a very positive experience in that I didn’t expect people to give as much. It was mostly my dad’s side of the family that gave. It wasn’t really that they were more willing to give, it was more that they felt like it was something they could spare money for. It was a positive experience because it just shows how generous and willing to help out people are if you just ask them. People really do care about something even though they haven’t been to Ecuador, it becomes something that’s important to them since its important to you. It was nice to see that kind of generosity.
What did you think of your volunteer trip? I´ve enjoyed it a lot. It´s been an extremely beneficial experience in a couple of different ways. Professionally, it’s a good experience if you want to work in public health or medicine. Also it’s a good cultural exchange experience to be able to see a different place, experience a different place and talk to the local people. It was a great experience for me to practice my Spanish and to just learn about how people are living in a place that’s not too far a way but very different.
How do you feel about the impact that you´ve made by fundraising and volunteering on a mobile clinic?I feel very thankful that I have the opportunity to help some people. I´m very happy that some money I raised can be used to directly help people. I think sometimes with bigger NGOs or larger organizations it can be hard to know/see exactly where your money is going. I thought this was a special opportunity because the money that you give/raise- you can directly see where and who it’s going to and interact with the people it’s going to. I thought that it was extremely beneficial for me and those who donated, and I appreciated that it was a two-way thing.
What advice do you have for students who are organizing a 50:50 campaign? Don´t be afraid to ask, you know, especially your family. You might be surprised by how generous people can be, but also don’t pressure people, you´ll figure it out. Make people feel good about what they are doing and giving to. Just be honest.
Water. Such a basic and common thing in my life that I never stopped to think, ‘what my life would be like without easy access to clean water’? Clean, safe water for cleaning, cooking, drinking, and so many other uses is immediately at our fingertips as Americans that it easily becomes taken for granted.
When I went on a MEDLIFE trip nearly three years ago, I must admit that I was much more selfish than I am now. The trip for me was going to be a cool experience-- I could travel and shadow some doctors so that I could get in a fun, international experience while also building my resume. My time in Lima that winter really changed the perspective I had of my world and allowed me to have tremendous personal growth the past three years. (Which ultimately led me to this internship with MEDLIFE) For me, this change came about very clearly during my reality tour on the second day of my volunteer trip.
When walking through the communities and taking photos, we saw many appalling things, including water being distributed in retired chemical barrels. Some of the people who sold these barrels to the communities had not even taken the time to fully peel off the skull-and-crossbones stickers on the side, which were meant to warn the user that the contents were toxic. I kept thinking, ‘people actually drink from these??’
This was the most shocking sight I had ever seen, and it made me kept thinking ‘why’? Why are these people drinking from these barrels? Why are they in such a circumstance that no other option is available? Why are the people not educated enough to know they are probably poisoning themselves by using these barrels? WHY DOESN’T SOMEBODY DO SOMETHING TO HELP??? We kept walking a ways and stopped to talk to a gentleman standing by an outdoor water faucet. He was explaining that the faucet supplied them with clean water, and was recently put in. After talking with the man a while longer, he shared the information that it had cost about $500 US dollars to install this faucet.
This hit me hard. Why? Because previously that month I had bought a pair of boots that I had been eyeing for over a year. These boots were beautiful! Brown leather, handmade, and way too expensive. It made me sick to realize that I had just bought a pair of shoes that cost the same as putting in that water faucet. This is when the self-reflection started. I started to question everything I was doing with my life and why I was doing it. Why do I think it is okay to spend money on unnecessary objects when people here can’t even have water that is safe? What do I expect out of my life? Why do I want to be a doctor? Why am I here? And eventually, what can I do to help? This moment was bittersweet for me because I then knew that I could not go home and get on with my life. I could not forget what I had seen here. It would have been easy to go back and move on without MEDLIFE, but that was not possible for me.
Three years later, here I am! An intern with MEDLIFE and someone who has a passion for public health and helping underserved communities. That moment in Pamplona Alta changed my life because I know I would not be here without it. I have had the most amazing experience here with MEDLIFE so far and I cannot wait to continue working to make a difference.
Graciela Montes Leiva is 45 years old and lives in the community of Ciudad de Dios at San Juan de Miraflores. She was born in Arequipa, lived in La Selva in her first years of life and moved to Lima with her father at the age of 7.
When she turned 12, her father died. She has lived by herself since then. She had nowhere to go, she didn’t have money to eat or a place to sleep. During this hard time living in the streets, people beat her with weapons and physically abused her.
Graciela found a job working at the house of a woman who mistreated her. She went back to La Selva and found another job, and to make her luck worst, she got abused again in that place.
While in La Selva, Graciela met the father of her sons. This man was very aggressive and always kept Graciela trapped in the room they rented . Every time she tried to escape, she was beaten by him. He was extremely jealous and had no hesitation to beat her in front of her neighbors just for talking to other men.
When her son was 11, she decided to leave her husband. Graciela had nowhere to go and until she could afford a place to live, she worked as a prostitute. Time went by, and after getting her feet to the ground, she found a new man to share their lives together, and got married again. The family of her second husband couldn’t handle that she had children from a previous marriage, so Graciela decided to end her second relationship.
Graciela has two older sons and a daughter. Her sons never recognized all the things their mother did for them. They don’t talk to her and are never around to help. She now works as a live-in maid. Although she never gets to see her youngest child, she is willing to work hard to give her a better life. It took Graciela three years to make 1000 soles so she could buy a property that she will to give to her daughter.
Graciela encountered MEDLIFE in august 2014 at a mobile clinic. She went there knowing she had a tumor in her breast and that she needed an operation but didn’t have the money to finance the surgery. All her salary was spent in her daughter’s education.
MEDLIFE made an appointment so she could get a mammogram and a breast ultrasound but Graciela didn’t attended because she thought she didn’t have the lump anymore. MEDLIFE nurses insisted her to take the exams and later, doctors confirmed the tumor got bigger and deeper.
Since the beginning of February 2015, MEDLIFE has been providing medication and vitamins to Graciela so she can treat her illness. The mass of substance in her breast has shrunk and now the tumor is benign. She will be having another appointment in three months and the doctors predicted she will be fine by that time. ‘There should be more organizations like MEDLIFE helping other people,” said Graciela. “Most of people don’t know where to go and the governmental insurance doesn’t give correct guidance. My insurance sent me to a hospital with a bad reputation.” She is a woman who is traumatized from her childhood, and despite her inability to trust others, she found in MEDLIFE people that she can rely upon and will be by her side all the time.
Raul lives around the corner from a primary school in San Juan de Lurigancho with big murals of lush scenes from children’s stories outside it, Little Red Riding Hood and Bambi. Grass, trees, flowers and smiling forest animals flank the entrance to the school and decorate the street leading to Raul’s home.
The murals stand in stark contrast to the surrounding barren landscape that encloses the community- rolling hills of dirt and crumbling rock the color of ash. As you get this far into the hills surrounding Lima it takes over everything, swallowing all normal city infrastructure, even a staircase is a blessing here.
Raul opened the door to the communal gravel courtyard adjacent to his small home in San Juan. It takes him some time to wearily limp from the door to a seat in the center of the courtyard, his step quickly passes over his bulging and discolored right foot. A tella novella can be heard conflicting with cartoons in neighboring houses- a lot of people live in close proximity here.
Raul’s young daughter, one of four children, mills about and watches us with wary eyes as Raul sits down heavily and begins to tell us how he is doing.
Raul is a taxi driver. He spends hours seated, pushing on a gas pedal with his now badly infected right foot. A combination of long days sitting in a taxi, genetics, and obesity all contributed to the development of varicose veins. A vein became blocked in one spot, the vein swelled into an ulcer, which left untreated, then burst leaving the open wounds that are now highly infected.
He only bothers to use one word to describe how his foot feels: “dolor” (pain).
Raul said this problem began more than a year ago and signifies the beginning of it with the same word, pain. He had pain, so he decided to try and get treatment-he went to a doctor.
Raul’s daughter runs off as Janet, the MEDLIFE nurse, gives him an injection.
Raul said the first doctor he visited told him to continue his work normally, bandage the wound and then to release the bandage and elevate it at night. He did this, but it got worse.
Janet slowly pours bottled water on the gauze as she prepares to inspect it. She unravels the gauze partway then gets stuck and sighs when she gets to the open flesh, the centerpoint on his calf where the bulging black and purple flesh begins to radiate outward. The gauze won’t budge without taking some of the wound with it.
Since Raul’s condition was worsening, he went to another doctor, who told him not to bandage it. This was awful advice, and the infection progressed. He continued working as a taxi driver.
After lots of water and careful tugging both Raul and Janet wince as a section of the gauze finally comes free, pulling only a little bit of flesh with it. Then another section comes free, then another, with each one the sour, damp, astringent smell of infected flesh gets stronger, mixing with the dusty air. The sores have gone untreated for a long time and the infection is clearly very severe.
At his wits end, Raul decided to try another doctor recommended by a friend who was supposed to be a specialist. The doctor gave him 5 injections in the wound at a cost of 85 soles each- a huge cost in this community. They did not help him, it is bad practice to inject an open wound and this was not an effective medicine for the condition.
“Every doctor has a different way to work,” Raul said. “Who am I supposed to listen to?”
At this point, it did not take a doctor to see that the situation was becoming dire. Raul went to a hospital. They told him he could get an appointment in a month, but by then, he would likely have to amputate the leg.
It is not unusual for healthcare to be delivered on these time-scales in Peru, and it is often too slow. Had he received proper and timely treatment an infection could have been avoided. Raul went to a Medlife mobile clinic, and is now finally receiving reliable medical care.
Janet cleans the sores and gives him anti-inflammatories, painkillers and antibiotics to fight the infection. It is uncertain whether or not it is too late to save the foot. Janet schedules another appointment in a few days to check on him. MEDLIFE is committed to finally giving Raul the reliable quality healthcare he deserves.
I distinctly remember the first time I was told that MEDLIFE builds staircases.
Why staircases? To me, that seemed odd. Why do we invest so much time and money into building staircases, of all things?
7 months later, I was on my first mobile clinic with MEDLIFE in Lima, Peru. I and dozens of other volunteers were hiking up a mountain in Pamplona, one of many shantytown communities where millions of people experience poverty. Suddenly, my perspective shifted entirely. Up in these mountains, there is very little footing. The ground crumbles under your feet as you walk, and it’s extremely steep. I’ll never forget being up at the top of that mountain, huffing and puffing in exhaustion. I couldn’t see anything but rocky hills and metal shacks. It was desolate poverty, as far as my eyes could see.
Community members who live here- elderly, disabled, children, pregnant mothers- must trek up these mountains multiple times a day. In order to get to work, school, or even to the nearest water source, one has to brave the dangerous terrain. Directly because of these conditions, it’s not uncommon for pregnant mothers to fall and miscarry or deliver prematurely. People fall and sustain multiple injuries such as broken limbs, wounds that become infected, etc. When a MEDLIFE staircase is built, it alleviates many of these issues.
But in my opinion, the most incredible aspect of MEDLIFE’s work with staircases is that the affects don’t end there.
In these shantytowns of Lima, the government owns the land people’s houses are built on until the community establishes “land rights”. This is difficult to do, and requires jumping through many governmental hoops. However, without land rights, people cannot easily establish permanent water sources or electricity, get a bank loan, start a business, or anything that one would need a permanent address for. However, when MEDLIFE builds a staircase, they’re moving an entire community closer to achieving these land rights by providing a “safe exit” from the community, which is one of the government’s stipulations. With a staircase, these amenities are closer to becoming possible. Contrary to my opinion as a college freshman, building a staircase is the most sustainable, root-cause addressing aid MEDLIFE can give to many of these communities.
On Wednesday, I was given the opportunity to go on Project Day to build a staircase in Nueva Esperanza. When we started to work on the staircase, I saw how sincere these people were, and how grateful they were to be having their needs met. One elderly woman, in perhaps her 70s, returned from hiking up the mountain to fetch water as we were working. She immediately started handing buckets up the assembly line with us, throwing herself into the hardest work possible. Later on, Frida, a young woman with epilepsy who has fallen down the hills twice now, badly tweaked her finger in the assembly line. She was in a lot of pain, but kept going despite barely being able to move her finger. We repeatedly asked her to take a break and tried to take over her job, but she refused to stop. We had people of all ages and abilities pouring their blood, sweat and tears into making this staircase.
These people persevere constantly, even in the most trying, stressful circumstances. Many of them sleep 4 hours a night and work all day, and keep going despite being sick, tired, malnourished, or injured. A thing as simple and cheap as a staircase alleviates so much of their needless suffering.
They’re struggling, right now.
And we have the resources to help them.
Congratulations to MEDLIFE chapter at the University of Kansas for winning Best New MEDLIFE Chapter Award 2015! MEDLIFE at KU has made incredible strides within this past semester. Through successful campaigning and hard work, they sent 23 students on a mobile clinic, raised $520 and elected 8 new executive board members. We´re proud to have their president Aly Lange interning with us in Lima this summer. Read the following interview to find out more about this amazing chapter!
When and how did your chapter begin?
The MEDLIFE chapter at the University of Kansas began when their Chapter President, Aly Lange, transferred to the University of Kansas from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln in the Fall of 2014. There is a very strong MEDLIFE chapter at UNL, and after seeing that there wasn't a chapter at KU, Aly started one!
What strategies did you use to promote MEDLIFE on campus?
At KU, social media outreach goes a long way! MedLife KU utilizes Facebook events and groups, e-mail, GroupMe, Twitter and Instagram extensively to keep chapter members engaged and informed. They also do lots of tabling throughout the year as well as chalking the sidewalks of campus!
What process does a new member go through once part of the chapter?
Something that helps MedLife KU stand out against similar organizations on campus is that it has an "open arms" policy for students! It welcomes students of all majors, time constraints and disciplines to join at any point in the year. Once a student expresses interest in joining MedLife KU, we add them to our e-mail list and all social media groups that they can stay in the loop and be invited to meetings!
What activities do you organize to keep your members interested throughout the year?
This year, MedLife KU will implement a within-Chapter competition called the Family Cup. We have 7 members who will act as "Mama"s and "Papa"s to their "Family" of 5-10 students. Each MedLife KU event will be worth a certain number of points for the Family Cup, and the top 3 scoring Families will receive a prize at the end of the year! In addition, individual students that accumulate a certain number of points will be awarded special recognition and prizes.
MedLife KU also hosts a number of annual fundraisers throughout the year. This includes Music For Medicine (a battle of the bands), Sweethears for Staircases (a Valentine's Day candy delivery service), and Serves for Service (a volleyball tournament). MedLife KU will expand upon this to add at least 3 more major fundraisers in the upcoming year. They also are hosting 2 MEDTALK conferences this year, in order to bring University-wide attention to global health issues.
They also plan to host more social events for members to meet fellow students interested in going on MEDLIFE trips over both Winter, Spring and Summer breaks!
What are your goals as a chapter for this academic year (2015-2016)?
This year, MedLife KU is determined to raise at least $1000 for MEDLIFE throughout the course of the school year and to send a total of 50 students on mobile clinic trips. They also want to reach out to at least 3 high schools and colleges to help start new MEDLIFE chapters!
How I got involved with MEDLIFE: I've always been interested in global health and medicine, and stumbled across MEDLIFE through a friend during the first few weeks of college. At first look, it seemed to encompass what I wanted to do at the time-- to have a global health experience abroad. I went to Lima on a mobile clinic with my chapter in January of 2013, and it completely changed my view of the world. After learning about the work of MEDLIFE and its focus on sustainability through local promotion, I began to understand and value the core of its mission. I've been hooked ever since!
Tell us a little bit about yourself: I'm passionate about healthcare, travelling, female empowerment, cultures around the world, and delicious food. Oh, and of course, Beyoncé.
Why did you decide to become an intern?: I've been involved with MEDLIFE for nearly three years as an executive board member and more recently, as a member of the Student Advisory Board this past academic year. Interning for MEDLIFE seemed to be the next step for me.
What was your first impression of Lima?: That it is very busy and large. There are always people traversing through the roads at all times of theday!
What are your goals for this internship?: I really want to learn more about the public health issues in Lima, and the root causes of them. A recent video chat with the CEO of MEDLIFE, Nick Ellis, made me realize this. He said that the success of global health efforts are not measured in weeks or months, but rather, in decades. I hope to truly begin my contributions to this movement during this internship by translating my compassion into learning, listening, and understanding.
How I got involved with MEDLIFE: I heard about MEDLIFE through a friend of mine who encouraged me to come to a meeting my freshman year. After that first meeting I signed up for a trip to Lima that winter and loved it! When I returned I became involved as the Mobile Clinics Coordinator for our chapter and soon after joined the SAB.
Tell us a little bit about yourself: I am going to be starting my senior year at UW-Madison in the fall and am very interested in pursuing a career in Public Health. I love to travel, experience new cultures and learn about the world!
Why did you decide to become an intern?: After being involved on the SAB, I really wanted to gain even more knowledge about MEDLIFE and do as much as I could to help the people in the communities. The summer internship seemed like the next step after that, and is one if the reasons I applied. I also really wanted to learn about the inner workings of an NGO and gain some professional skills that are involved in this type of work.
What was your first impression of Lima?: My first impression of Lima when I came in January 2013 was that it was a different type of city than I had ever experienced. Being from a suburb of Minneapolis, I was used to that type of city, and Lima was very different. Lima struck me as very fast paced in the city with all the traffic and bargaining in the shops, but the further from the city center we got it really seemed to slow down more. The people were extremely friendly and welcoming, and that was wonderful. Overall I really liked the feel of Lima and especially how it seems to "have it all" in a way with the beach, city, food, nightlife, etc.. It was also very important but tough to see that the richest people live right over a wall from the poorest, and that was a very eye opening experience.
What are your goals for this internship?: My goals for this internship are first and foremost to learn more about MEDLIFE and become more involved with helping the communities. I really hope that after having this experience I will be able to go back to the states and articulate MEDLIFE's work better and spread the word about what we do in a more clear and motivational manner than I may have had previously. In addition to that, I hope to gain business and office skills from the office as well as learn about the inner workings of an NGO and understand more fully the roles that are to be filled in the internal of an organization like MEDLIFE.
How I got involved with MEDLIFE: I found the internship listing on the Idealist.org and immediately knew this was the opportunity I had been searching for since graduating. When I got the acceptance email I got so excited I threw my phone at the pavement. Luckily, it was undamaged.
Tell us a little bit about yourself: My favorite things are reporting, rock climbing and travel, or more broadly, adventures. I have a very obsessive personality and am currently managing an addiction to salsa dancing brought on by my time in Latin America.
Why did you decide to become an intern?: When I graduated college, I wanted to live in a different country, find work that constantly put me outside my comfort zone and make a positive impact in the lives of others through story telling. I couldn’t think of a better way to do that than by working with MEDLIFE.
What was your first impression of Lima?: Lima- not an easy city to pigeonhole. As a whole it is gritty and surreal, especially given the constant grey, dreamy lighting. Yet, the city has a great and vibrant energy. It is so vast, I feel like I can find anything I want here if I know where to look. I am so excited to explore and see what it has to offer! Oh and the food is incredible.
What are your goals for this internship?: I want to produce great work in every medium, print, photography and video. I hope I can do justice to the amazing amount of great stories I have access to working with MEDLIFE. I want to improve my Spanish to the point where Spanish interviews are easy. Most importantly, I want to create an impact and further MEDLIFE’s mission.
How I got involved with MEDLIFE: A buddy of mine in a similar career path seemed to be doing something much more meaningful with his skill set and I wanted in. He introduced me to an opening in the internship he was doing with MEDLIFE and next thing I know I found myself in Peru.
Tell us a little bit about yourself: I'd rather tell you someone else's story. There's a lot more interesting things out there than where I grew up and what I like to eat that need to be told, and I guess I like telling them.
Why did you decide to become an intern?: I am interested in photo journalism, travel journalism, and the chance to document not only different cultures, but the positive effects a non-profit can have within a community. An internship with MEDLIFE offers all these things and more, there was no decision needed.
What was your first impression of Lima?: Every city in the world is different. However, Lima is the first I've been to that has its own climate or where I can travel a few hours on either side and find myself in such different places, be it coastline, desert, jungle or mountains. I don't think anyone has ever been bored in Lima.
What are your goals for this internship?: I want to document something that can make a change. If something I can produce can raise any awareness for MEDLIFE or even a single sol towards one of their projects, I've reached my goal. Learning a bit more Spanish would be nice too.
Name: Mariel Fernandez
How I got involved with MEDLIFE: Although there isn´t a MEDLIFE chapter at Dickinson College, some of my friends from other universities were involved in chapters at their schools and had great things to say about MEDLIFE.
Tell us a little bit about yourself: I graduated from Dickinson College just a few weeks ago where I majored in Latin American, Latino and Caribbean Studies and minored in Film and Creative Writing. That being said, I´m an avid writer and film watcher who loves all things Latin America! For my senior thesis, I wrote an ethnography on street art and graffiti in Lima. I spent about two months in Lima interviewing artists, observing, taking photos and even did some painting myself.
Why did you decide to become an intern?: After studying abroad in Peru last spring, I knew that I wanted to work for an NGO in Peru once I graduated. After learning about MEDLIFE, I loved that all of our projects directly involve and uplift communities toward sustainable development. I worked at my college´s media center for three years where I created blogs, websites and social media campaigns for various organizations and departments on campus so when I saw the job posting for MEDLIFE´s social media and journalism internship, it seemed like a perfect fit!
What was your first impression of Lima?: I absolutely LOVE Lima! The city is so big that it seems as if every time I go out I discover a new pocket of the city that I´ve never been to before. Each neighborhood is unique and vibrant in its own way. I love the colorful hustle and bustle of the city.
What are your goals for this internship?: I´d like to gain experience in the non-profit sector to learn and understand how NGOs operate. I´m interested in sustainable development in Latin America so I´d like to see how NGOs work to create lasting, sustainable change within these communities. In addition, I´d like to continue to improve my journalism and social media skills.
Another demonstration of MEDLIFE's depth of commitment to our follow up patients. A huge thanks once again to the Universidad de Puerto Rico - Rio Piedras chapter (Medlife U.P.R.R.P.), for fulfilling this dream for Jimena and Katherine's family and neighbors! Read the interview with the chapter below!
How did you come across Jimena and Katherine and why did you decide to fundraise for this project?
Cómo conocieron el caso de Jimena y Katherine why por qué decidieron recaudar fondos para ese proyecto?
Our president, Vilmarie Vázquez, saw Katherine and Jimena’s case on the MEDLIFE website. We were struck as it was clear that there was a lot of need and especially with so many children, the security in the community is one of the most important factors. Having a safe area prevents accidents and, because of this we decided to sponsor the stairs.
Nuestra presidenta Vilmarie Vázquez vio el caso de Katherine y Jimena a través del website de MEDLIFE. Nos llamó mucho la atención ya que se veia que habia mucha necesidad y más cuando hay tantos niños. La seguridad en la comunidad es una de las cosas más importantes. Tener un área segura evita accidentes y por eso decidimos auspiciar las escaleras.
What was your plan for the fundraising campaign and what did you do to reach your goal?
Cuál fue el planeamiento para la campaña y qué actividades realizaron?
To raise funds we did weekly fundraisers that included pizza sales, cupcake sales, a raffle, lunch sales, amongst others. To reach our goal of $2,500 it took us around 4 months of hard work and we were able to save the money for a special project like this.
Para recaudar los fondos hicimos un fundraiser semanal el cuál incluía ventas de pizza, cupcakes, una rifa, ventas de almuerzo, entre otros. Para lograr recaudar los $2,500 tardamos alrededor de 4 meses de mucho trabajo y ahorramos el dinero para un proyecto especial como este.
What was the most emotional moment of this project?
Cuál fue el momento más emotivo?
Undoubtedly, the most emotional moment was when the girls made us a banner and gave it as a thanks to the university. It was definitely a very beautiful detail and all of us were very emotional. We also loved the video of the inauguration, all of us were very happy to see that the effort was well worth it!!
Sin duda alguna, el momento más emotivo fue cuando las chicas nos hicieron el banner dandole las gracias a nuestra Universidad. Sin duda, fue un detalle muy bonito y a todos nos emociono muchisimo. El video de la inauguración tambien nos encantó, a todos nos dio mucha alegría ver que el esfuerzo valio la pena!!
What kind of obstacles did you face throughout the campaign and project and how did you overcome them?
Qué obstáculos encontraron en el camino y cómo los superaron?
Doing fundraisers is always hard work, the time that we were doing them there were a lot of exams and deadlines for applying to graduate schools so it was a bit difficult to do the fundraisers weekly and bring it all together. However, thanks to the support of our member we always had success in our activities.
Hacer fundraisers siempre es trabajoso. El periodo en el que hacíamos el fundraiser era de muchos exámenes y de "deadlines" para solicitar a escuelas graduadas y fue un poco cuesta arriba hacer los fundraisers semanales y que todo quedara bien, pero gracias al apoyo de nuestros miembros siempre tuvimos éxito en nuestras actividades.
What was the most important thing that you learned from this project?
Qué fue lo más importante que aprendieron de este proyecto?
The most important thing that we learned was how to work in a team with all of our chapter members. This was our first large fundraiser that then helped us do a fundraiser for cancer patients in Puerto Rico, where we raised $10,000 for cancer treatments. Also, it helped us get to know each other as a chapter and to demonstrate that when we propose something and we work for it, anything can be done.
Lo más importante que aprendimos fue a trabajar en equipo con todos los miembros, este fue nuestro primer fundraiser grande, el cual luego nos ayudó a hacer un fundraiser para pacientes con cáncer en Puerto Rico, donde recaudamos $10,000 para tratamientos. Tambien nos ayudó a conocernos más como capítulo, y a demostrar que cuando nos proponemos algo, y trabajamos por ello, cualquier cosa se puede hacer.
What reccomendations do you have for other projects who want to sponsor a project similar to this one?
Qué le recomendarían a los otros chapters que también quisieran hacer sponsor a un proyecto?
We recommend to other chapters who want to do a fundraiser to choose a project, create a work plan for the project and make the members participate in both the planning and the execution of the event. Being creative is the most important thing and trying to sell things that a lot of students like. (food never fails! haha)
Les recomendamos a otros capitulos que quieran hacer un fundraiser, que escogan el proyecto, hagan un plan de trabajo para el proyecto y hagan partícipes a sus miembros tanto en la planificación como para el evento. Ser creativos es lo más importante y tratar de vender cosas que a los estudiantes le llamen la atención (comida nunca falla jaja).
What would you like to say to Katherine and Jimena?
Qué palabras tienen para Katherine y Jimena?
To Katherine and Jimena, we want to say on behalf of the chapter of MEDLIFE UPRRP to always follow your dreams, regardless of obstacles. The important thing is to move forward, no matter what happens. Also we want to thank you so much for the “banner” - it meant alot to us and all of our members were so excited, theyloved it. Thank you so much!!
A Katherine y a Jimena le queremos decir, de parte del capitulo de MEDLIFE UPRRP, que sigan sus sueños siempre, no importa los obstáculos. Lo importante es seguir adelante, no importa lo que pase. También les queremos agradecer profundamente por ese "Banner" que para nosotros significo muchísimo y a todos nuestros miembros les emocionó y les encantó. Mil gracias!!!