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The inauguration was an emotional moment for everyone. Nataly would finally be able to support her family and care for her children. Her son lost his arm three years ago in an accident with a cane cutting machine (full story here.) Nataly's family went under financially trying to cover the cost of the medical bills from the accident. Nataly told us the best thing for her would be able to work close enough to her home to still care for her kids. One of the pillars of the MEDLIFE ideology is sustainable development and support, therefore, MEDLIFE made it our mission to make this hope of Nataly's a reality. The MEDLIFE summer interns from 2016 fundraised for the project, and last week we delivered the cart to Nataly!
MEDLIFE recently completed our second of two massive staircases in Ecuador, drastically improving access to the community of Llinllin Santa Fe. The path is used by the communities school children to get to school, and now they can safely descend the mountainside to their school.
This Winter clinic season MEDLIFE performed around 300 pap smears in Lima and 270 in Ecuador to screen for cervical cancer.
In Ecuador our nurses deliver the results to community leaders, who hand out the results. In Lima, we used to rely on community leaders to hand out the results of the tests, but we realized the results were not always getting to our patients.
Our nurses decided that the only way to make sure their patients got the results was to deliver them themselves. They go community by community and call each patient to get them their results. They then explain the results to each patient and leave them their phone number so they can get in touch if they have questions.
Pap smears are an important screening for cervical cancer and can catch the disease while it is still treatable. They also test for various kinds of infections. Many of the women in our communities have never gotten a test nor are they aware of why they should get them. When we have a patient with an infection of some kind, we give them a prescription for the medicine they need. If they test positive for cancer, we get them an appointment with an oncologist and accompany them. Luckily, no one has tested positive for cancer yet this season.
Getting the tests in our Mobile Clinics gets them that first test, but it also serves the purpose of teaching patients about cervical cancer and why it is important to get yearly tests.
MEDprograms was initially concerned when they noticed the number of pap smears going down in the communities the more we visited. But after speaking with the women in the community, we learned that they had taken up the habit of getting a yearly test on their own. Medlife’s educational approach is working!
As more women get tested regularly in our Mobile Clinics, we expect to see fewer cases of untreatable cervical cancer and more women getting tested regularly in the future!
Back in November, I passed my first MEDLIFE Chapter up (meaning a school I had been working with fulfilled all the requirements to be an official MEDLIFE Chapter). I had worked with a student who wanted to bring MEDLIFE to their own campus for the past two months. Through emails and phone calls, we were able to figure out how to get students on their campus involved in the MEDLIFE movement. I’m happy to have passed them on. I’m proud of their hard work and the dedication they’ve shown to MEDLIFE. As an Expansion Intern, this is exactly what I’ve been working towards here in Peru. And it’s gotten me thinking about my time in school with my own MEDLIFE Chapter.
My involvement with MEDLIFE started long before I ever stepped on a plane headed to Peru. As a college Freshman, I went to my first MEDLIFE Chapter meeting at the University of Georgia. I sat in the back with a few friends who originally invited me. Initially I was only looking for an opportunity to serve in my local community and at my college, to volunteer with my friends and other people looking to make a difference. During the meeting’s explanation of what MEDLIFE is and what the Chapter did, I realized that MEDLIFE was exactly the type of organization I had been looking for.
I was heavily involved with the UGA MEDLIFE Chapter from that point forward, serving on the Executive Board for three years. I helped spread the MEDLIFE Movement on our campus. I attended meetings where I learned more about Global Health issues. I fundraised with my chapter through concerts, 5Ks, and selling scarves. I volunteered countless hours in my community. I participated on a Mobile Clinic to Lima, Peru (not knowing that I would be returning). All along the way, my passion for serving those in need grew. MEDLIFE provided me the perfect outlet for this passion, as I was able to serve those in my local and global communities.
MEDLIFE serves those who would often otherwise go unnoticed and ignored. We provide essential medical care through our Mobile Clinics and Patient Follow-Up programs. We work closely with communities to plan and produce development projects according to their needs. We work year round to ensure those living in these communities have better access to MEDs: Medicine, Education, and Development. But MEDLIFE couldn’t do all of that without MEDLIFE Chapters and Volunteers.
So I’m here to get people involved. I want MEDLIFE to be more than the organization that provides essential care. I want it to be a movement. I want volunteers to be able to do more than just volunteer abroad. I want them to be able to volunteer at home too. By working to establish new chapters, I’m hoping to bring the core values of MEDLIFE to college campuses and students around the world. I want others to discover the same passion for serving that I found.
Every morning Nicol, a bubbly nine-year old Peruvian girl, descends the hill she lives on alone to get to school. She says goodbye to her mom Rosa, who sits on a rug next to the bed in the middle of their one room home. Nicol will return later with food for both of them, and she knows her mom will still be there when she gets back- because Rosa cannot leave her house on her own.
Rosa has never been able to walk and is barely able to use her right arm. She has had this handicap since she was a child, but has never had a diagnosis.
MEDLIFE met Rosa while working on the water tank project in Laderas. She lives next to where the tank was constructed, and as MEDLIFE staff worked on the tank, they also got to know Rosa and her daughter Nicol.
Nicol has assumed a lot of the responsibility of caring for her when she is not in school. Bringing her mother food from the comedor (government subsidized restaurant) and markets, assisting her with all daily tasks.
Rosa lives high in Lima’s hills and getting to and from her house is extremely difficult. She didn’t leave the hill she lives on for the entire Peruvian winter, because the steep dirt road gets too wet and slick for a car to drive up or to push her wheelchair up. The last time she went down the hill her brother took her to see Nicol’s dance performance.
Rosa cannot afford to live somewhere more accessible, she survives on what her brothers, who live nearby can give her.
Hoping that perhaps some medical procedure could improve her condition, MEDLIFE took her to a doctor in January of 2017. Getting Rosa to and from the hospital was very difficult, even with three people to help push and carry her up and down the steep dirt paths. We couldn’t get a cab to take us that high on the hill after the appointment, so we had to trick cab drivers, knowing they would feel too guilty to abandon us on the hillside with Rosa. It was the only way we could get her home.
When we reached the final steep pitch up to Rosa’s home, the wheels of the taxi spun-out as the driver cursed at us in Spanish. We had to get out and push Rosa up ourselves. Thankfully, the road was dry.
The trip was worth it. After getting an X-ray, Rosa finally learned the cause of her condition. She was a victim of Polio, a virus that in some cases can spread to the nervous system causing irreparable damage and paralysis.
Polio has been eradicated by vaccines in the majority of the world. The last case reported in the United States was in 1979, but cases continued appearing in Peru until 1991. In Rosa’s case, it cost her the use of both her legs and one arm.
While there is no medical procedure that will give Rosa more independence, we can adapt her environment to suit her needs.
MEDLIFE architect, Edinson Aliaga, is working on designing a special house for her that will give her more independence. When her daughter, Nicol, is at school, Rosa is on her own. She can move by crawling on the floor with her one useable arm, but nothing in her home is designed to be used by someone who cannot stand up.
Edinson is designing the home with one key design mantra: “Everything possible needs to be low to the ground.”
For example, Edinson has designed a table in the kitchen so that the Rosa can sit on the floor and Nicol in a chair while they both eat off of the same table together. The entire home is being designed with this concept. Light switches close to the ground, a handicapped bathroom, a sink to wash-up with close to the ground and ramps instead of stairs.
This new home can make a huge difference in the lives of Rosa and Nicole, giving them more freedom, comfort, and independence. Please help us make this dream a reality by donating here.
The past week, MEDLIFE Volunteers and medical professionals from Peru visited neighborhoods around Lima for mobile clinics. Students from Boston College, Claremont College, Mount Saint Mary College, Cornell, Wisconsin, UC Berkley, Modesto Junior College, California State University Long Beach, Iowa, Temple, San Francisco State University, Pomona College, University of Connecticut, University of Maryland at College Park and University of Massachusetts at Amherst participated. Over the week, MEDLIFE Mobile clinics were able to serve over 800 aldults and over 700 children. These photos are from various areas around Lima and highlight some of the services MEDLIFE provides during mobile clinics.
Last friday, the community of Laderas Nueva Esperanza was able to inaugurate a new water reservoir. The project was the result of three years of collaboration between MEDLIFE, leaders from Laderas and the sponsorship of the University of Wisconsin-Madison and University of California-Berkeley MEDLIFE chapters. Through fundraising efforts and donations, the UW-Madison and UC Berkeley chapters were able to contribute to the project and members were present to witness the inauguration.
Laderas, located in the foothills of Lima, is not serviced by SEDAPAL, the city water supply of Lima, and relied on purchasing water from private vendors at a higher price. The water reservoir will help the community by allowing them to store more water in a clean and sanitary facility.
This week we interviewed Spencer Treu, President of the Winona State MEDLIFE chapter, about how the chapter's success. The chapter has been very successful, growing very rapidly, attending several trips, and brining $5000 worth of medical supplies to their recent Mobile Clinic in Cusco.
How did you get involved with MEDLIFE?
It’s actually a funny little story, halfway through my college career I switched from nursing to pre-med. I was at the club fair looking for the pre-med club. I thought well I’m pre-med, I should join the pre-med club. There was this table called MEDLIFE. It was two girls who had just created the club and had recently taken a trip. This was their second year doing it. I had approached them and was like 'is this the Pre-med club?' And they were like 'no this is MEDLIFE, this is way better'. I was like 'alright I’m interested, I’ll hear you out.' They said 'we're planning on going to Ecuador this year.' And I was sold. I went to Tena last year just traveling as a member and it was truly a life changing experience. I think everyone who comes on these trips realizes what it can do for you. And kind of more than anything puts things in perspective and gives you a new world view so then you can take that back home. Whether you’re going into medicine education or whatever, just having that perspective is really important. After that trip we came back, we had a few meetings here and there, and the officers approached me and said “hey you should run for chapter president. We created this club and we’d like to keep it going.”
I said, “Ya sure I’d love too.” I was fortunate enough to get elected by my fellow members, I’m here leading this trip this year and it’s been phenomenal so far.
What has your chapter accomplished since you’ve been working with MEDLIFE?
Well actually, I think we’ve been kicking butt. Tanya and Sam were the two girls who created the club, and within months of creating the club, they were on a trip to Lima, Peru. The following year, when I joined, we did a lot of fundraiser stuff. They got a small amount of money from student senate and took another trip within 12 months of creating the club. So they had two trips underneath their belt within a very short time of creating the club. Then I took over, we got our eboard together, did some fundraising, we actually brought a little over $5000 worth of medical equipment over for this trip to Cusco. Although we are a smaller university around of 8000 students, we have 28 active members, and about 95% of our active members will travel with us. That is my biggest thing that I am most proud of with the club. Not anything that I or any of the officers have done, but just that we have a lot of passionate students an Winona State that not only get involved, but say, 'I see what you guys are doing and I want to get over there and help and not just stay on the fundraising coordination side of things.' That’s pretty inspiring to me.
What did you do to get people so engaged so quickly?
When I took over, I thought, 'what can I do to make sure this club maintains momentum and keeps going?' I thought, if I can get people on these trips, they are going to keep going, and they are going to tell their friends about it. There is nothing better I can do than to get people to go on these trips and actually see these things for themselves, help these people, hand that kid a tooth brush, throw some cement on the floor. That’s what going to get people coming back, that’s what is going to build the organizations. From an E-board perspective we just make sure things are as easy as possible, you know, write out everything on the whiteboard, click this click that, step by step so that things are always taken care of for them. One E-board member actually took care of all the flights, so all the students had to do was show up and pay the money. A lot of these pre-med and education students are super busy in school, and we want them to get overseas with us and come on the trips, and in order to do that we gotta do kind of alot for them just to make their life easier.
What is your most memorable experience working with MEDLIFE?
I’ve been very fortunate to be able to travel throughout my life. Starting in the 4th grade, in Jamaica, I was driving through areas that from the outside you can see like wow this is different than where I’m from. At 4th grade you don't really understand what that means. You can definitely tell that the resources aren’t there. I kept traveling and seeing places like this in Central and South America, but in the first MEDLIFE trip it really hit home. I saw the medical side of things, and on this trip, I really got to be in people’s home’s and community. The most memorable part was on the reality tour this year, actually stepping inside of one of the homes for the first time. You step in, and although you might have thought what it looked like inside, it just confirms it. All of a sudden, you're upset with yourself for every time you’ve been upset about something little. You kind of just step back and think, there is a clay floor, cracked mud walls, a ceiling that is burned from cooking in the kitchen, there is no ventilation. You feel this obligation in a sense, I’m young, I’m able bodied and minded, I have this chance to turn a dream into a reality. You can’t just go home and go back to your normal life and forget about it, because that night I get home from my flight and I get back in my queen size bed, which is super comfy and awesome, they will still be going to bed in the clay house. You can’t forget about that. You have make sure to keep moving forward to grow organizations like this, spread the knowledge, spread the generosity.
Last week, MEDLIFE, helped to host a Chocolatada at the Señor de Muruhuay School in Lima. A Cholotada is traditional Christmas celebration, popular in Peru, where a Hot Cocoa-like drink is passed around with Panetton bread. Through donations, MEDLIFE was also able to give all the Children in the class a present as well.