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MEDLIFE was introduced to the community of Union Santa Fe in 2012 by the leader of a neighboring community, located in the heart of Pamplona Alta, one of the most impoverished areas of Lima. Union Santa Fe may not have any public spaces, road, electricity nor water access, but they did have one very important thing, the desire to work together to move forward as a community. As soon as Director of Projects Carlos Benavides saw this, he immediately began working with them on a staircase in 2012.
“Before having the staircases, pregnant women, the elderly and children of the community struggled to walk up the dusty hill which became especially dangerous in the rain,” Casani said, a Union Santa Fe community leader. This first project was the beginning of a close and productive relationship between MEDLIFE and Union Santa Fe.
Four years later in September of 2016, we have completed 15 projects with them, and brought two Mobile Clinics and two educational workshops to the community. We are currently planning a project that the community has long needed; road access to the community.
The road will take these sections of road and pathway, turn them into driveable roads, and connect them to another road that leads to the bottom of the hills.
The new road will be connected to the road seen in the bottom of this photo, and allow easy access to main roads nearby.
The benefits of a road go far beyond the obvious; the ability to drive or take public transit to your home. Many of the shanty towns like Union Santa Fe are not recognized as legitimate communities by the local government, and are thus cut out of access to public utilies. If the community is accessible by road, then Luz Sur, the public utility that provides electricity in that area of Lima, will be obligated to install electricity as well as public lighting in the streets of the community. This will also make the electricity in their homes cheaper. Sedepal, another public utility, will also obligated to install a drainage system that will drain excell water runoff and can be used to install plumbing.
In this part of Lima, many communities get their water from privatized water trucks that drive around and sell water. With the new road, the trucks will drive into Union Santa Fe up in the hills, and residents will no longer have to walk down the hill and climb back up with heavy jugs of water.
Like many of Lima’s informal shantytowns, getting and keeping land titles has been extremely difficult for Union Santa Fe. “15 years ago everything was just dirt paths, a few houses and the pig farm,” Carlos said. “The people here built all of this in fainas (community work days.)” As urban areas became increasingly crowded, the people who now live in Union Santa Fe and other settlements like it throughout Lima, decided to climb the hills and stake out a plot of land to build a home of their own on.
However just because someone built a home doesn’t mean they own the land its on. Entire communities sprang up on land for which they lacked land titles. There was a legal process to aquire land titles, but for that the community needed infrastructure.
The staircases had helped move Union Santa Fe closer to their goal of getting land titles, but it wasn’t enough. When Casani, a community leader in Pamplona Alta, asked MEDLIFE founder and CEO Nick Ellis for a road, Ellis quickly agreed because the community signed a document promising to finish construction by the end of the month and because of the dedication and commitment he had seen from Casani and the whole community in the past.
Once the road is constructed community of Union Santa Fe will have land titles, access to electricity, plumbing, and easy access to their homes. Perhaps most importantly, all future projects will be much cheaper and easier to complete because construction materials and equipment can be easily transported to the construction site by motorized vehicles.
Casani and the people of Union Santa Fe were very grateful, “ [MEDLIFE] is the only organization that we have encountered that consistently brings rapid and immediate social help,” said Casani.
Neither Marica Bacillio Lozano nor her Mother have ever lived somewhere they owned. They have always had to rent small homes in poor districts in Lima, Peru. Despite barely scraping by most of the time, Marica said that “we were always moving forward.”
Marica married and had two kids, eventually moving into her own rented home in Manzana A, Via El Salvador. Her family was poor, but they scraped by with the informal work they did as cobradors, collecting fares from people of public transit. Then Marica had her third child, Isaic, and things changed forever; “the way isaic was born. Things are more complicated now,” Marica said.
Isai was born with a cleft palate, webbed feet and hands as well as mental retardation. When Marica first found out, all she could do was cry in the hospital. Fortunately, Isai has developed better than was expected. At age 5 he recently began sitting, walking, and speaking. He has even been able to join a normal kindergarten classroom. “Thank god he started walking,” Marica said. “He can be a little independent now. I can leave him alone for a little and he can play.” Before, someone had to have their eye on him constantly.
Although she still sometimes has to excuse herself and cry in the bathroom while she is on a hospital visit with Isai, she loves her son and has dedicated herself completely to trying to provide a good life for Isai and her other two children.
But it hasn’t been easy, and now her family has been stretched to the breaking point. With Isai came a litany of other expenses; medicine, diapers, trips to the hospital, and of course the huge amount of time required to care for him properly. The families’ budget was always tight, they made money for food day to day, if there was no work avaible one day, the family often could not eat that day.
Isai needs more foods than a normal child, when there is not enough to go around, Marica has to give more to him than her other kids. Sometimes they cry because they don’t get enough food. But even with the extra food, Isai was still diagnosed with Anemia 7.5, a condition caused by malnutrition, specifically a lack of iron. With his webbed hands many tasks are difficult, he cannot pick up small objects well, he has trouble pulling up his pants.
With all of this, the family could not keep up with rent anymore. They had to move into a house with family members, and split the rent. There are now 3 families and a total of 14 people living in the house with 4 rooms. To make matters worse, the landlords of the home are now carrying out a repossession, and everyone has to be out in two weeks. “We don’t know where to go,” Marica said.
Marica has had trouble getting Isai the treatment he needs. “I’m embarrassed I missed an appointment,” Marica said. “But what can I say, I have three kids.” When she managed to get Isai to the hospital, she said she often faces discrimination- even in emergencies. Once she brought Isai to the hospital because had a high fever that was causing convulsions, she was forced to wait much longer than anyone else. When she complained, one nurse told her that “all kids are not the same.”
After struggling for years and making little progress getting Isai treatment in the public health system, she jumped at the opportunity to take her son to a Mobile Clinic in 2015. MEDLIFE is now helping her navigate the hospital system and get Isai the treatment he needs. MEDLIFE is also helping with the costs of caring for Isai, like buying diapers, so Marica does not need to choose between paying for Isai’s expenes and feeding her family. Our nurses will continue visiting and supporting the family until Isai has gotten the treatment he needs.
On Friday 9th September, we held our first PAP smear educational workshop. MEDLIFE has been carrying out PAP smears to test for cervical cancer since some of our earliest clinics. However, recently our nurses have noticed that many women have not been benefiting from these results as they have never been educated on how to read them correctly. Women who were being given normal results were worrying that they had cancer as they didn’t know what a positive or a negative smear looked like on paper.
Therefore, the MEDLIFE nurses have been collaborating with obstetrician Zaida Lara to design a workshop that goes hand in hand with giving out the results of the tests. The first of these workshops took place in the community of Kawashi, Villa María del Triunfo where Zaida, along with MEDLIFE nurses Ruth and Carmen, talked the women present through reading their results. Zaida explained to the group what a positive result would look like compared to a negative result and what the different types of abnormality could be. For example, she explained how a result that showed up as being ‘abnormal’ could be anything from a yeast infection to an early onset cancer.
The woman who attended the workshop were clearly pleased to hear this news; “as soon as I opened my result I began panicking, having someone to talk through it with me and explain every step made it that much easier,” one woman told us. The workshop also meant that the women were able to talk to the nurses about their individual results and what the next steps would be. For the first time, they were able to act immediately if there was something wrong with their results and know the exact course of action to take. Furthermore, it allowed us to quickly and efficiently get the patients who need more help into our follow up program.
So far, MEDLIFE has treated hundreds of patients who have been diagnosed with abnormal PAP results and helped with 20 cancer diagnosis’. Hopefully, with this new way of delivering information, we will be able to help even more patients to get the treatment they need.
According to the World Health Organization, iron deficiency is the most common and widespread nutritional disorder in the world. Anemia, a condition resulting from iron deficiency, and malnutrition in general affects primarily impoverished populations around the world. In Peru, where about 50% of the population lives in poverty, chronic malnutrition is widespread, especially in the rural areas and urban slums where MEDLIFE works. In accord with MEDLIFE’s commitment to working on solutions that are tailored to local realities, MEDLIFE held a cooking workshop designed to help residents fill their iron deficiency using an ingredient cheaply and widely available in local markets but not so easy to cook with- animal blood.
Blood is extremely rich in iron and cheaply available in markets from local livestock, thus it is the perfect local ingredient to increase iron intake and avoid anemia. Anemia is a particularly insidious nutritional deficiency that exerts its effects subtley but in the long run exerts a great toll on populations. Some of the primary symptoms include fatigue, weakness, difficulty concentrating, dizziness, insomnia, muscle cramps, and rapid heartbeat which can lead to heart failure and death. Theresa explained during the workshop that your average anemic child will sleep during school, not want to play, and be very inactive. These children are also more vulnerable to diseases like Tuberculosis. In contrast “A child without anemia runs and jumps, is a happy and active child,” Theresa said.
Over 3 billion people, over 30% of the world’s population, are Anaemic. According to the WHO, “Iron deficiency exacts its heaviest overall toll in terms of ill-health, premature death and lost earnings... and reduce the work capacity of individuals and entire populations, bringing serious economic consequences and obstacles to national development.”
In Peru, 37% of children under 5 with families in the socioeconomic bottom 20% suffer from chronic malnutrition. Union de Santa Fe is a community MEDLIFE has worked with extensively located in the poorest area of one of the poorest districts in Lima, San Juan de Miraflores, where 20% of the population lives in poverty.
The MEDLIFE workshop was a great success, residents of Union De Santa Fe learned how to cook to improve their iron intake and avoid Anemia, as well as learned about general nutricion.
The crowd favourite was chocolate de sangre, or chocolate blood dip. Trust me it tasted a lot better than it sounds. The recipe included: Animal blood, vanilla crackers, vanilla extract, cinamon infused water, cacao and sugar all blended together.
Over the last few decades, Peru has seen mass migration into Lima which has led to huge numbers of people gaining land through squatters rights and setting up unstable, poorly built homes to enable them to live in the country's capital. Since the 1970’s, migration to urban centers has been a huge problem throughout South America and has let to the construction of Brazil’s favelas, Argentina’s villa’s and the pueblos jóvenes that we see in Peru. MEDLIFE’s architecture intern, Edinson Aliaga, explained the effect that this dramatic urbanization had on Lima: “There was an area that was created for urban expansion in Lima, but they didn’t expect just how many immigrants would be coming in.” This extensive migration and the unprecedented number of people moving into the urban centre, led to people grabbing land where they could and constructing quick temporary structures to allow them to gain land titles on unstable terrain. These badly constructed houses left the residents susceptible to illnesses and infections from the poor living conditions and other structural dangers due to the unstable nature of their homes.
In more recent years, there have been many housing projects and design programs developed across South America that attempt to deal with the growing issue of social housing in the slums. Alejandro Aravena is a Chilean architect who this year was awarded the Pritzker prize for a social housing project he developed in Iquique, Chile. The Pritzker is the Architectural equivalent of the Nobel Prize and is generally awarded for design ingenuity and projects that are considered to be ‘momentous’ works. Therefore, the seemingly unimpressive social housing project that Aravena won it for, came as a surprise to many in the Architecture community. However, in reality, Aravena’s project was more than just a social housing scheme, it was a piece of architectural innovation with Aravena’s desire to tackle Chile’s social housing issues at the heart of it.
Aravena’s idea to develop a sustainable housing model, shaped to the needs of the poor, is something MEDLIFE is currently investing in with its own housing projects. MEDLIFE’s new architecture and civil engineering interns, Edinson Aliaga and Raul Huapaya, have been working closely with Carlos Benavides, director of MED Programs Peru, over the last few months to expand MEDLIFE’s work in the field of social housing. Many of the illnesses and health problems we treat come as a result of the poor living conditions and lack of basic resources, caused by the structures built after migrating.
Aravena’s project ‘half of a good house’ was developed after similar issues of migration and centralization had arisen in Chile due to sudden dramatic urbanization. The idea behind the project was Aravena challenging the thought that the public money received to improve the living situation of many impoverished Chileans could either be used to build many low quality houses or a few high quality houses. Aravena instead presented the idea of creating a secure, sturdy structure which could then be expanded on relatively cheaply by families in the future when the time came- essentially half a good house. “Aravena is something of a pioneer in this field of social housing.” Edinson explained, “He was one of the first people to think about social housing as a way for the poor to be able to have stable, comfortable housing at an affordable cost. He came up with the idea of developing a house after it has been built, thus giving people a stable foundation which they can then expand on if they want to. Essentially meaning they could put in more bedrooms, a small shop, anything they need, knowing it’s on a stable structure.”
Creating houses with stable foundations and basic commodities has been a large focus of the work of the MED Programs department over the summer. Edinson and Raul have been working on developing plans that are similar to Aravena’s in the way that they have the option to be expanded on but are also designed with the individual in mind. The department has already undertaken two housing projects for MEDLIFE patients Santusa and Soledad and are looking for ways to further incorporate Aravena’s philosophy of ‘half of a good house’ into future projects. “These houses can really cost anywhere between $7,000 and $10,000.” Raul said when talking about how the housing projects are funded. “So Santusa’s cost one price, Soledad’s will cost a different price. Soledad’s has two floors which obviously will cost a little more but it will be a smaller house.” Both these houses have been constructed with the possibility of expansion either upwards or outwards and both were designed with various structural elements taken into account including location, terrain and ‘cultural elements’ such as the number of people who will be living there. “The houses we build have to be both secure and practical with everything that the person needs thought about. That includes a bathroom, a bedroom, and a living space. All these things have to be done within a structure that has been thought about for Peru and for Lima where we find many earthquakes and other structural issues” Raul explained.
The idea of these houses being built “with everything that the person needs thought about” is the main focus of MEDLIFE’s social housing project. As with Aravena, we want to be able to provide the communities we work with with the same safe quality of housing as the rest of Lima and not just give them something cheap and comfortable because that is the easiest way. However, we also want to make sure that these houses are suitable for the individual both in terms of space and structure, dependant on the location. Previously, the issue of social housing has been addressed with a ‘model home’ approach, essentially designing one practical living space and putting that up wherever a house is needed. However, Edinson explained how this approach is not really feasible. “The problem there is that no one is thinking about the individual. They’re just thinking about making it simple. 20-30% of the terrain around Lima is not recommended to build on in these areas but people don’t know about this. Really, no buildings should be being constructed on this land but if they have to be built, they have to be built well. So that’s the first thing, you have to think about the foundations of the house dependant on where it’s being built. Secondly, you have to think about the actual individual. For example, Santusa had a single floor to her house because she is living alone. Soledad’s house however, had to have two levels so there is room for her and her son. So that’s another thing to think about.” Making a blanket design of a ‘model home’ isn’t feasible because whilst it may serve well for one individual living in one place, it will not be safe or comfortable for a different individual.
Part of the MEDLIFE mission is working together with community members and patients to give them what they need and what they ask for. We are committed to seeing this through with our housing project in constructing sustainable, stable homes for those patients in need. Santusa and Soledad were both one off cases where the individual was in desperate need of a house which we then constructed to according to their personal needs. However, MED Programs have more recently been talking about developing a happy medium between Aravena’s ‘half of a good house’ theory and our own belief that the individual must be taken into account. On a recent visit to Urucancha, a remote community in the uppermost hills, Carlos Benavides began discussing plans with the community leader of designing a ‘model home’ specifically for that community. This would essentially mean that the structural elements could be taken into account as all the houses would be being constructed on the same terrain and the cultural elements could be covered by the possibility of expanding on the solid structure. Raul explained a bit more about how this ‘community model home’ would work. “We would make a plan for a ‘model home’ that would meet the cultural and physical requirements for that community. We would then help with and supervise the construction of two of three homes with the help of community members. So, everyone then knows how to build this ‘model home’. The idea is that it’s an easy and repetitive way of building so we can get enough materials for however many houses the community needs and then after having help with the first few, they can build the rest by themselves. However, this will only work for this community. As Edinson said, when you go to a different community with a different terrain, it’s a completely different world. For example I would never design and build the same house for someone living in Surco as I would for someone in Villa Maria del Triunfo and it works the same way amongst the communities.”
The possibility of creating ‘model homes’ for communities is still very much in the planning stages but in combining what we have learned so far with inspiration from other projects like Aravena’s, the direction for the housing projects is becoming increasingly clearer. We hope to be able to continue to work with Edinson, Raul and Carlos to develop this project even further in the future.
In August 2016 MEDLIFE Ecuador completed two bathroom projects as part of ongoing earthquake relief efforts in Jama, Ecuador, an area that very affected by the earthquake, but that did not receive as much aid or attention as other areas like Pedernales. MEDLIFE has begun working together with the local government on these construction projects, the government is constructing the houses and MEDLIFE is building the bathrooms. Bathrooms are an extremely important of the infrastructure that needs to be rebuilt following the earthquake.
In 2011, The World Health Organization (WHO) declared diarrheal diseases to be the second leading cause of death in low-income countries. The WHO and UNICEF estimate that functional, clean bathrooms can reduce cases of diarrhea by more than 33%. Following the earthquake, maintaining proper hygeine is critical to maintaining healthy populations and water supplies.
Here are some photos from the inaugeration of the project:
Over the next few months, MEDLIFE staff, interns and chapters all over the world will be working to fundraise for Kirua Schoolhouse in Tanzania. MEDLIFE discovered the school in August 2015 when we set up our first mobile clinic in this community. One of the three pillars of MEDLIFE is education and in fundraising for this project we are keen to also raise awareness of the importance of education in underdeveloped communities. The fundraiser is designed to last for the duration of the first four months of the school semester. Each month will focus on a different aspect of the project; education, sanitation, food hygiene and infrastructure. We will also be promoting a different educational day each month to raise awareness of the issues we are trying to help resolve.
In September, we are focusing on the necessity of having a clean, comfortable space to work in and in this way, we hope to provide the school with 29 desks and chairs to allow for easier access to learning. 120 students attend the school every day and the current lack of desks is resulting in many resorting to working on the floor. It may seem like a small thing but not having a desk to work on can do a lot to hinder a child’s ability and willingness to learn. In order to raise awareness of this issue, the education day we are promoting in September will be ‘Day Without A Desk’. The aim is to challenge students from MEDLIFE chapters to spend a day at their own college without access to desk space to work on. This will not only raise awareness of why it is so important for us to fundraise for this cause but will also help students to understand struggles they would otherwise never come into contact with.
In October we will be focusing on sanitation and how it can impact a learning environment as well as why it is important for students to be educated on this issue. In Tanzania, only 3% of schools have access to basic commodities such as electricity, water and sanitary bathrooms. Despite there being 120 students at Kirua School, there is no bathroom and no safe place to get clean water. This lack of sanitation is very dangerous and causes 2900 deaths every day worldwide. We plan to build a bathroom for the school with sanitary facilities for the children to wash their hands, access clean drinking water to fill bottles and even brush their teeth. To raise awareness of this issue in October, MEDLIFE college students will be encouraged to take part in our ‘Tally for Tanzania’ educational day where they will be asked to make a note in a tally every time they use their bathroom facilities around campus. Again, we hope that this will raise awareness for students, friends and family and will demonstrate the importance of raising money for this cause.
November and December will be focusing on food hygiene and infrastructure respectively with the aim of raising money for a new kitchen, the final aspect of the school that needs drastic improvement. We will be keeping our website and social media pages up to date with the progress of the fundraising and stories from different chapters and MEDLIFE offices about how each education day turns out and how the project is going as a whole. Due to the importance of these educational days in the overall success of the fundraiser, we will be really pushing for greater involvement from MEDLIFE chapters around the world and will be hoping to keep our social media updated with information from all different schools about what they are doing to promote the cause.
This is one of the most ambitious fundraising projects we have attempted so far and we are hoping that it will be a chance for many different MEDLIFE chapters to work together for a rewarding end goal. Overall, we are hoping to raise $11,500 over the 4 months to enable the children at this school and the surrounding community to be given the amenities and support they need to learn in a safe and sanitary environment.
To donate towards this project click here.
Two years ago I volunteered at a MEDLIFE mobile clinic, hauling cement with sixty other University of Michigan students, to help build a staircase in the community of 22 de Junio. I never imagined I would be standing on those stairs again, but this time as a MEDprograms intern.
After my experience working with MEDLIFE in 2014, I knew that I wanted to improve my Spanish and continue learning more about health disparities in medically underserved communities. I went back to school and declared as a Spanish major immediately. When I was getting ready to graduate, I was looking for more opportunities to continue to educate myself—to learn more about the world around me, and what I could do to serve others. Once again, MEDLIFE seemed like the perfect fit for me.
However, leaving the country for a week and leaving for a year are two very different experiences. I had been on a mobile clinic, and I had thoroughly researched the values of MEDLIFE, but you don’t really know what you’re getting into until you’re here. We spent our entire first week training (with Nick Ellis himself!): learning about MEDLIFE’s goals, how it is different from medical missions, and what factors contribute to Lima’s health and development disparities. It was such an amazing experience to be surrounded by people passionate about educating themselves on these issues and working to eliminate them.
The next step was to put it all into practice. I was able to spend an entire week in the field with the nurses and Carlos, our director for MEDprograms Peru. I visited communities and got to speak to them about addressing their needs, whether it was water projects, educational workshops, or staircases. I was able to sit down with patients and understand how our processes work to remove the barriers that separate them from accessing quality health care. I even rode in a mototaxi, which was honestly a little terrifying, but I did live to tell the tale.
The first couple weeks in Lima have been a whirlwind, but I keep finding myself thinking about returning to those stairs in 22 de Junio. After two years, I am so thankful for this opportunity to be back in Lima to continue learning about and serving these communities.
How I got involved with MEDLIFE: Initially, a friend invited me to attend one of our university’s chapter meetings. After refusing to go multiple times, I finally attended one and I’m so glad that I did. I fell in love with everyone’s passion to help others and soon started working for our chapter’s founding Executive Board. The following year, I served as the UCF chapter president and on the Student Advisory Board (SAB). In total, I’ve participated on 3 mobile clinics through MEDLIFE in Lima, Riobamba, and Managua.
Tell us a little bit about yourself: I’m a very curious person because I love learning about other cultures and the challenges that people experience. My ideal Saturday is reading a book or enjoying an in-depth conversation at a coffee shop. I also really enjoy traveling; I’ve been to over half of the U.S. states and am hoping to visit the remaining ones within the next few years. Finally, I’m a big fan of strategic games and am an avid Magic: the Gathering player.
Why did you decide to become an intern?: MEDLIFE’s internship program offers a unique lens into the lives of people living in extreme poverty by examining their needs, challenges, and testimonials of daily life. MEDLIFE also works towards identifying root causes of these conditions to build sustainable programs and care that helps people build better lives and futures. I wanted to be a part of this MEDLIFE movement and work to make a difference in others’ lives.
What was your first impression of Lima?: Lima is colder than I remember it, but the city is vast with an immensely rich culture. The people are very kind and are extremely accommodating when I forget how to say phrases in Spanish. Even though Lima’s streets are always active and full of life, I’ve felt at home here and I’m looking forward to exploring more of the city.
What are your goals for this internship?: Personally, I’m hoping to build communication skills and stronger patient rapport. I’m also hoping to gain greater understanding of challenge and inequality in developing communities. For MEDLIFE, I hope to contribute my talents to helping the organization expand and reach more communities and volunteers.
How I got involved with MEDLIFE: My friends invited me to a MEDLIFE chapter meeting at my school in my Freshman year. At the time, I had class, but decided to check it out one week when class had been cancelled. I quickly realized just how much MEDLIFE’s approach to global health and service lined up with my own. I started going to meetings where I learned more about Global Health disparities and issues. I then began volunteering at MEDLIFE service events around my university. As I got more involved with my Chapter, I began to get more involved with MEDLIFE as a whole.
Tell us a little bit about yourself: I’m a recent college graduate experiencing the world outside of school for the first time. It’s a unique transition to make while also transitioning to living in a new country and culture. Like almost every other early-20s aged person, I love watching movies, reading books, playing games, and going for hikes. Peru is a beautiful country, so I’m looking forward to exploring this beautiful place.
Why did you decide to become an intern?: I believed that being a MEDLIFE intern provided a wonderful opportunity to serve others before devoting my time to a permanent career or graduate school. This is an organization that greatly influenced my college career and future goals, and I want to ensure that MEDLIFE as an organization can continue to not only serve the people of the regions it works in, but also provide college students around the world the same, influential opportunities it provided me.
What was your first impression of Lima?: I first came to Lima on a Mobile Clinic my Junior year of college. My first impression was that the city was bigger than I had expected it to be. Everywhere we went was a long drive away, and Peruvian traffic can be quite hectic. I quickly saw just how much character and culture there was squeezed into every square foot of this city, from the unique architecture to the incredible people. It’s a city that should be experienced and not just seen.
What are your goals for this internship?: I may have completed my undergraduate career, but I am still deciding what career path is the best fit for me. While I’m figuring that out, I hope to expand on my knowledge of Global Health systems and disparities. And lastly, I hope to improve on my, admittedly, lackluster Spanish language skills.
How I got involved with MEDLIFE: In my junior year of college, one of my good friends told me that she was planning to attend a MEDLIFE mobile clinic over spring break. After looking into MEDLIFE, I was both intrigued and drawn into its mission and decided to sign up for the trip as well. That week ended up having a much larger impact on me than I could have imagined, and I am excited to be back for the upcoming year.
Tell us a little bit about yourself: I am a 2015 graduate of the University of Michigan. Any close friend of mine would tell you that I’m just a tad bit obsessed with Michigan football. Outside of that, I love traveling and experiencing different cultures. When I’m home, you’ll most likely find me curled up with a good book or binge watching Netflix.
Why did you decide to become an intern?: What stuck with me most after my week long service trip was MEDLIFE’s mission and methodology in attacking poverty and healthcare disparities. It drove my passion to continue working with underserved communities and led to my decision to volunteer in Armenia the following summer. Through these experiences, I found that I wanted to pursue a career in medicine and global health, but I knew I wanted to take some time off before attending graduate school. In coming across the year-long internship program on MEDLIFE’s website, the description seemed like the perfect fit. It gave me the opportunity to travel, work with a diverse group of people, and work within and learn about the healthcare sectors of underserved communities. In the coming year, I look forward to having a more extensive role with MEDLIFE as an intern and am very excited to start working with the program.
What was your first impression of Lima?: Big and filled with crazy traffic! I was surprised to see how much of a bustling city Lima was. Having grown up in the suburbs, I look forward to a year in a big city. I can’t complain about the food either. The menú lunch deals are delicious and hard to turn down at 11 soles (~$3).
What are your goals for this internship?: In having the opportunity to work directly with the communities that MEDLIFE serves, I hope to take the time to get to know the local community members that we work with and learn about their unique stories. It is my hope to gain a better understanding about the cultural and socioeconomic barriers that exist and how they exacerbate current disparities. Just as importantly, I hope to learn how we can play a role in narrowing the gaps of these disparities within these communities. Additionally, I hope to take full advantage of living in Lima and immerse myself within the Peruvian culture and improve my Spanish.
How I got involved with MEDLIFE: I volunteered on a clinic in Lima as a sophomore with the chapter at my university. Up until that point I had thought about a future doing research, but my experience with MEDLIFE made me realize my passion for working with people! It also gave me the push I needed to commit to declaring as a Spanish major.
Tell us a little bit about yourself: The rest of my family followed me to Michigan two years ago, so I am now dealing with my transition into identifying as true Michigander. Outside of school I was a caregiver at a non-profit care program for children and adults with special needs, where we provided quality care for our friends and looked for any reason to celebrate with cake! I love team sports and somehow found my way on to my University’s Club Sailing Team. I spent four years squished in a mini-van with my best friends traveling all over the country to compete at regattas.
Why Did You Decide To Become An Intern?: Where I grew up quality health care was a privilege that not every one had access to. I wanted to work for MEDLIFE because I respect their values as an organization and I want to learn more about breaking down these barriers to equitable health care access.
What was your first impression of Lima?: Pedestrians never have the right of way. Never. After I got past that, I was excited to learn about the culture of Peru and explore all of the amazingly unique neighborhoods of Lima!
What are your goals for this internship?:I want to learn more about providing respectful, quality health care in medically underserved areas! I’m also looking forward to improving my Spanish speaking skills, and possibly becoming an amateur salsa dancer.
How I got involved with MEDLIFE: MEDLIFE was recommended to me by a friend when I was expressing my interest in the field of public health. Through exploration of the website I quickly realized that this organization was a perfect fit for my goals and aspirations.
Tell us a little bit about yourself: Although born and raised in the Midwest, I made my way to Boulder, Colorado as soon as possible in order to enjoy the outdoor lifestyle. Besides skiing and hiking, you can find me reading a good book, eating out with friends, or striking up a conversation with strangers in a coffee shop.
Why did you decide to become an intern?: After studying abroad in Buenos Aires, Argentina, I was determined to find a way to live abroad to improve my Spanish. Additionally, I was hoping to get experience in a the field of public health. At first I wasn't sure if it was possible to accomplish both of these goals at the same time, but then I found the MEDprograms internship, which proved to be perfect solution!
What was your first impression of Lima?: After I clicked my heels three times, I found myself in Lima, Peru! Upon arrival, I was immediately overwhelmed due to the endless streets, cars, and people that make up this city. While this massive metropolis seems daunting at first, it leaves me eager to discover all that Lima has to offer. I guess I'm not in Kansas anymore!
What are your goals for this internship?: I hope this internship not only allows me to improve my Spanish skills, but also provides me with the tools to make a meaningful difference. Additionally, I hope to develop deeper insight into public health and development work. I intend to spend the next year serving those who need it most and gaining experiences that will aid my work in the future.
Tell us a little bit about yourself: I am passionate about politics and social justice, I hope to one day work in the political departments of the charity or public sector. I love sports and will play any sport if someone asks me, I also like to dance, write poetry, watch and discuss arthouse or classic films, art and philosophy. I'm an old soul so you will probably find me either engaging 100% or not at all.
Why did you decide to become an intern?: I had a couple of job offers in other countries which were salaried, however I felt like my traveling and kindred spirit were not spent and thus I wanted to share my love and energy for a little longer!
What was your first impression of Lima?: This place is intense.
What are your goals for this internship?: Help others. Help myself.