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Norma Evas lives in a small, remote village about two-and-a-half hours outside of Riobamba, Ecuador. Young Norma is only seven years old and is now in her third year of primary school. We first met her and her family at a MEDLIFE mobile clinic held in Pachamama, where she had her first check up with a MEDLIFE doctor. Norma was very shy, as many people are from her community; they are sometimes hesitant to receive medical care from people outside of their culture.
During Norma’s check-up at the MEDLIFE mobile clinic, one of the doctors discovered she had a potentially serious heart condition and would need to be seen by a cardiologist. However, Norma’s parents were reluctant to have her receive modern medical care because of their belief in alternative, spiritual kinds of medicine; they were concerned the doctors would do her harm. Norma seemed scared and did not understand what was going on.
Despite their initial objections, Norma’s parents were ultimately convinced to accept our help, and MEDLIFE brought her to the local hospital in Alausí. When her situation proved more intensive than what the local hospital had resources for, they transferred Norma to a larger one in Riobamba. There, Norma underwent several additional medical exams to assess her heart condition. However, her case proved so complex that she had to be transferred—yet again—to a hospital in Ecuador’s capital, Quito. It was there that she received her final diagnosis: Tricuspid regurgitation and patent ductus arteriosus.
Her disorders, congenital defects she had from birth, prevented her heart’s valves from closing properly, allowing blood to leak backwards against the direction it is supposed to flow. Left unattended, Norma’s conditions could have been severely damaging. A doctor told Martha, the MEDLIFE representative on Norma’s case that without the surgery Norma may one day go to bed and not wake up. She needed surgery to survive.
Norma’s family did not have any financial resources to fall back on when her condition was discovered. Coming from a large family, Norma is the seventh of eight children and money is very tight. An even greater obstacle was Norma’s parents’ lack of understanding the serious consequences of her disorder. It is important to note that Norma’s culture does not typically place importance on medical conditions that are not visibly pressing. Additionally, in their culture priority is given to tending to the agricultural work and to the sons of the family.
As a result of this, her parents provided very little support during the process; her mother accompanied Norma only to the first medical appointment, and her father stayed home to work and make money. Though it was difficult to garner the support of her parents, Norma’s saving grace was her twenty-four year old brother, Luis, who stayed by her side the entire time and took two weeks off from work to support his sister.
During their interactions with Norma’s family, MEDLIFE’s staff also discovered a history of fatal cardiac conditions. A check-up with Norma’s older cousin at a MEDLIFE mobile clinic had revealed an irregularity similar to Norma’s. Additionally, another cousin had passed away at eighteen years old; she died in her sleep, similar to what the doctors said could happen to Norma without an operation. Her family explained that they attribute Norma’s cousin’s death to spiritual reasons—that the mountains took her life.
Despite these hardships, Norma had her surgery the first week in September. During the operation doctors discovered an additional defect—a severe one, which was damaging Norma’s lungs. Both issues were addressed, and it was a successful surgery; her heart is now healthy and strong!
MEDLIFE helped Norma receive the medical care she needed from start to finish: her initial check up, the surgery, and other critical support like medicine and transportation to the hospitals. Norma is currently safe at home in her rural community, and will be returning to Quito for a follow-up appointment in six months, to which MEDLIFE will accompany her. We will be following Norma’s case and look forward to watching her continue to live a happy and healthy life.
After riding three different buses, we finally arrived at one of Lima’s children’s hospitals to meet four-year-old Diego. On comparing journey experiences with his mom, suddenly ours didn’t seem so bad- she comes to the hospital three times a week, and for her and Diego the journey is two hours each way. Despite the long journey, Diego had the largest smile on his face and was in high spirits.
We found a table to sit at outside the hospital, where Diego’s mom began telling us her son’s story. When Diego was born, he showed no symptoms of the disease that would soon take over his life. Shortly thereafter, he started developing symptoms of Marfan’s Syndrome, a disease that affects connective tissue, resulting in weak joints, stooped posture, poor vision, and potentially even fatal heart complications. Concerned about his condition, the family visited a doctor who told them Diego desperately needed an operation on his heart, and that without it, he wouldn’t live past his second birthday.
Devastated, Diego’s family was left in an impossible position- living in extreme poverty, the parents simply couldn’t afford the operation. Though the family moved to Lima seven years ago in search of better job opportunities, Diego’s condition means he requires full time care from his mom, so they rely solely on the father’s factory job salary. Diego’s mom explained how, although she contacted a number of organizations she hoped would help with the funding of the operation, her calls were never returned; it seemed there was nothing they could do to help their baby.
However, despite expectations, Diego’s second birthday came and went. The family’s hope was starting to be restored. It was because Diego contracted a common cold that his mom brought him to a MEDLIFE mobile clinic set up in the area. Once there, a MEDLIFE doctor did a full check up and gave the family the news that meant they could truly start to see the light at the end of the tunnel.
The doctor told them that Diego’s condition was not fatal and that MEDLIFE was going to help him get better. Medlife started by giving him medicine to overcome his cold, and then began providing the long-term support he needed.
Diego’s mom then explained what having Marfan’s Syndrome means for Diego’s daily life, and she listed Diego’s symptoms: ‘Before, he couldn’t walk at all. He wasn’t able to use his hands or feet because they were curled up; he had no muscle tone in his legs, and his posture was curled over because his spine is bent. He has really bad eyesight, and he also has fragile skin so he bleeds easily. When he’s most in pain he can go for two to three nights with very little sleep.’
With MEDLIFE’s help, Diego now sees a physical therapist three times a week. The advancement he’s made due to the therapy means he is now able to walk alone for brief periods of time. MEDLIFE is also providing him with medications that will help improve his condition and pain, a full upper body corset he must wear all the time, and the milk and calcium he needs to strengthen his bones.
While his mom told us all of this, Diego continued to have the biggest smile on his face, he was so well behaved. After taking in everything his mom had told us, we turned our questions to Diego. First, we asked what he wanted to be when he grew up: ‘a doctor’, he grinned! Just like the ones who are helping him get better. And when we asked him what he likes to eat to make him stronger he was quick to tell us ‘Chaufa (Peruvian Chinese food)!’
Although Diego is making huge improvements, there is still some way to go. His eyesight is drastically affected by his sickness, but he does not have glasses because the doctors who could prescribe him some are on strike. Also, he has outgrown his orthopedic shoes as his feet grew so fast. He also needs to continue with therapy, medications, and large quantities of calcium.
Soon, it was time for Diego to go for his physical therapy appointment. A young boy with so much love to give, he gave us all a kiss goodbye and one last grin! Diego’s condition has certainly improved, and we look forward to him having a happier and healthier life!
At the beginning of this school year, The University of Puerto Rico organized a meeting for all those interested in volunteering with MEDLIFE at their university. They had an incredibly impressive turnout; over 300 students turned up to learn more about the work MEDLIFE does! The UPRM MEDLIFE chapter’s hard work and great organizational skills make them our New Chapter of the Year award winners! A big congratulations and thank you goes to them for their dedication to MEDLIFE. Here is an interview with the presidents of the chapter which includes advice on how to recruit lots of members and run a successful MEDLIFE chapter.
When and how did your chapter begin?
The MEDLIFE-UPRM Chapter was founded by Eduard H. Valdes and Paola C. Diaz last year, after attending a Mobile Clinic in Tena, Ecuador. Most of the 2014-2015 Executive Board members met in January 2014, at our first Mobile Clinic in Riobamba, Ecuador. Up to date, the UPR-MAYAGÜEZ MEDLIFE Chapter counts with 93 active members from all faculties and has officially participated in two Mobile Clinics: one in Riobamba, Ecuador and the other one in Lima, Perú. Our main mission is to provide activities that enhance students' skills in leadership, teamwork and community service. For this year, our next destination is Tena, Ecuador.
What strategies did you use to promote MEDLIFE on campus?
We love to incorporate technology in everything we do. So, we have mainly promoted our activities through social networks. We sent mass-email recruitment, and used our official Facebook and Instagram pages to our advantage. The Facebook Pages App is really useful; it allows us to share information and photos easily. Also, the page makes use of statistics algorithms that let us know how many people have seen the posts. In addition, our Social Media and Advertising Officer is also a member of Her Campus- UPR Mayaguez, so she has written various articles about MEDLIFE UPRM. We also participated in student fairs, posted flyers around the campus, and even made brochures.
What system do you use to recruit new members? What process does a new member go through once part of the chapter?
As part of our technological innovations we introduced online attendance lists. Instead of going through the hassle of passing a list through a classroom that has more than 300 people, we made a live form on our Google drive. The form is similar to the ones used for surveys but more accessible. The students are able to access the form from their smartphones by scanning a QR code displayed on our power point presentation. As the students submit the form the results are posted on a spreadsheet on our drive. This reduces the margin of error and allows us to save time as we can now skip the process of copying all the names and emails to a computer. Not to mention that we are also saving trees in the process by not having to print a bunch of papers to be used as lists for every meeting.
On the topic of saving trees, once the students are done submitting their responses the list can be organized in alphabetical order, field of study or how they became aware of the chapter’s meeting. By doing this we were reassured that we could concentrate more on online promotions since most of the students replied that they were informed of the meeting by a social network. Rather than going through campus posting flyers or any type of advertisement that requires the use of paper, we put our efforts into spreading the word in the social networks and email newsletters.
Effortlessly sending emails is just another advantage of our attendance list form. Emails can be copied directly from the spreadsheet into the newsletter mailing list. This eliminates the process of adding email addresses one by one to the mailing list.
What activities do you organize to keep your members interested throughout the year?
FUNDRAISERS: Our team has ramped up fundraising efforts organizing activities, such as cake and pizza sales.
CHAPTER FUND: We decided to create the “Chapter Fund” to help relieve the cost for the students who have actively participated in 90% of our activities and cannot afford the trip. This fund has rewarded the dedicated students who have put in the hard work towards our MEDLIFE chapter.
COMMUNITY SERVICE: As community service, we created the “Patch Adams” activity. Members from our chapter volunteer and dress as clowns in an effort to bring humor to orphans, patients and other people. We also created an event called “Vísteme para mi fiesta”, where we collect donated prom dresses and deliver them to selected girls who cannot afford the expenses.
EDUCATION: We also added “Triage Training” to our list of activities. The students learn basic medical techniques. They practice how to measure vital signs, such as blood pressure and temperature; the students also learn how to use the stethoscope and perform a heart auscultation.
MEDLIFE WEEK: A whole week dedicated to MED’s activities: Medicine, Education and Development. We end the week with a White Coat Ceremony to formally initiate all our new members.
What are your goals as a chapter for this academic year (2014-2015)?
We will continue with our previous activities, but we would also like to accomplish these new goals:
I’m a summer intern for MEDLIFE, a nonprofit organization that aims to support the poor in three ways: Medicine, Education, and Development (M.E.D.–life). They carry out their name by organizing medical clinics staffed by local health professionals and building stairs in impoverished communities. The outskirts of Lima climb into the rocky hillsides and provide homes for the many immigrants that move to the capital city in search of work. Last Thursday I was able to follow around Carlos, the Director of MEDLIFE Peru, who liaises with the communities we serve.
We started the day by delivering medical supplies to a geriatrics ward a doctor was running out of her house. She explained that 20 patients lived there because they had no one else to help them with their daily lives, which had become impossible for them to complete on their own in their old age. I couldn’t understand every word of her Spanish, but I could tell this physician was fulfilling her life’s work from the passion with which she spoke. She told us that the government only provides elderly citizens an equivalent of 100 US dollars a month to live on, which is far from sufficient living standards, even for Peru. The home offered a peaceful bubble for the elderly in an otherwise chaotic city.
After a brief ride in a small cart of a bus, we visited Nueva Esperanza. We arrived on a dusty road and walked through side streets until they turned into dirt paths. We climbed until we came to a group of local people who greeted us, and then turned to Carlos.
This was his second time visiting Nueva Esperanza, and he seemed excited that the people had cleared many large rocks from 100-meter stretch of hill that led up to an enormous white cross. Carlos was here to assess the people’s willingness to work with MEDLIFE to build a staircase. The people explained that they had worked in the evenings and on the weekends to clear the path for the stairs, but that they could not continue to work and do manual labor in their spare time. Carlos never hesitated. He explained that volunteer students in America and England would come to help build the stairs with them, and that it was to be a combined effort of the volunteers and local community.
A silver haired woman sat up from a large rock she had been resting on and walked to Carlos. I noticed the tears that were streaming down her face as she explained that she had lived in Nueva Esperanza for many years. She climbed the hill to pray at the cross time and time again, despite enduring the occasional fall. She explained that she wanted nothing more than to be able to walk up the hill safely to pray. Between the woman’s passion and Carlos’s inspiration, the community agreed they would work with MEDLIFE to build the staircases. The people provided us with a yellow soda called Inca Kola to celebrate the occasion, and everyone thanked each other as we headed down the slope back towards home.
I asked Carlos if what the old lady had said, that she fell often, was common in the hills of Lima. As I was speaking, a mother with her five-year-old daughter walked past on their way back from school. Carlos greeted them and turned my question onto the mother. She said she had fallen three times while she was pregnant with her daughter, and she still falls from time to time. I had helped build stairs with MEDLIFE two years ago. Back then I could tell the local people were excited and appreciative of our help at the time, but I hadn’t really understood how much a safe walk way can truly mean. The mother and her daughter reaffirmed that social infrastructure is just as necessary as healthcare and education.
Finishing the first steps in ‘Santísima Cruz’ community was not an easy job, especially for Yolanda Perez. As the community leader, Yolanda never stopped chasing after MEDLIFE to build a staircase, while also motivating all the members of the community to work together. Yolanda, now 32 years old, came to ‘Santísima Cruz’ with just a suitcase and many dreams. There she met her husband and soon her two sons were born, but Yolanda always wanted something more.
"Santísima Cruz had already existed for more than 15 years, but the neighbors had never worked together. 15 years and there were no steps built” Yolanda tells us.
Thus, after many meetings and discussions, Yolanda took over as a leader of the community. She focused on completing the legal procedures for getting basic services such as electricity and construction projects.
It was Gladys Huahua, community leader of the community ‘7 de junio’, who told Yolanda about MEDLIFE and how she had lead the construction of more than 10 staircases in the area.
"Gladys told me MEDLIFE would help us with the materials, but the construction had to be a joint effort with the community. There began my first problem- to try to convince the neighbors who previously would not help each other, to work together and make the staircase a reality" says Yolanda.
The mobile clinics that were held here gave MEDLIFE a good idea of the number of people living in the community, who were in desperate need of staircases for their own safety and that of their families.
"People are always afraid. There have been many institutions that have come and promised us things, and in the end the promises were never met, even those made by the mayors and the government. We were offered many gifts in exchange for our votes, they even took pictures [of the site as if they were going to help], but in the end they never came back. The mobile clinics were the best incentive for all my neighbors. I remember there were more than 3 [clinics], and everyone was treated well, the doctors and the staff even remembered who we were each time we returned” Yolanda recounted.
It took about 7 meetings for the neighbors to agree to work together. Many claimed that they had no time, that it would never happen and it was another empty promise. But Yolanda never gave up. She kept insisting until everyone agreed upon a schedule that they could fulfill.
Once she contacted and coordinated with MEDLIFE, a new problem arose. The blueprint of the staircase they had designed was wrong, and the staircase was angled slightly into the neighboring community, entering an area saved for another construction project.
"The framework had to be constructed and deconstructed twice before it could be filled with cement. The neighbors were not happy, but since the decision was made to go ahead with the project, we would not give up "
Yolanda couldn’t be happier with the completed staircase, and is excited that now all of the residents who won’t hesitate to work together again to build two additional staircases that they need. A little work and sweat was enough to unite this community who were previously living their own separate lives.
Though the hills of Lima are scattered with abandoned houses, Yolanda told us all the houses in her community are inhabited. She laughed when telling us that Carlos, the MEDLIFE Peru director, even went knocking on all of the surrounding homes at night to make sure! Only one house is now uninhabited, where a very elderly gentleman formerly lived but was forced to move in with his son due to not being able to climb the hill. However, now the staircases make it possible for him to return home safely.
Yolanda currently combines her role as a community leader with selling second-hand clothing and raising quail that she can then sell. She tries to spend as much time as possible with her children, but being at home also brings some problems. "Often in the afternoons when I’m with my kids, I get knocks on the door from neighbors seeking help and advice. I do my best and I do really want to continue in this role, but being the community leader has become a 24/7 job" she tells us smiling.
Yolanda says that there are not enough words to thank all of the volunteers and MEDLIFE. The experience has been rewarding for everyone, and her dreams do not stop here. There are still many goals Yolanda wants to accomplish.
"The first thing I think of when I think of the future is my children. I always pray to have a job and for my children to have everything I have not had." Yolanda says, "then I think of the community. I've seen how much ‘Santísima Cruz’ has grown. From having nothing, we have been turning this piece of land into a livable place, where we have now used our own strength to complete this project of a lifetime with MEDLIFE."
There are over 300 people in the ‘Santísima Cruz’ community who will benefit from the staircase. Now, we are just waiting for the next group to finish the remaining staircases. Although challenges always exist, Yolanda remains hopeful that good things will continue to happen.
‘We have learned from MEDLIFE that unity is strength’ says Yolanda.
One of the reasons why I elected to pursue this internship can be credited to the communities MEDLIFE reaches out to aid. Working in these communities 2-3 years ago taught me about the value of opportunities that I have back at home. I learned that what we take for granted, someone somewhere else is yearning for it. Through this internship, I hoped to further discover about myself and what kind of individual I wish to become in couple of years down the road.
Through this internship, I discovered that despite our best intentions and efforts, we cannot help everyone that are struggling. My first field visit was to a small shelter, which housed around 20 elderly people. I recall there was an article about this on MEDLIFE’s Facebook page few weeks ago. It had “old people’s home” as part of its description, and I clearly remember one of the commenters asking for clarification on the description: “Is it a nursing home or assisted living?” We were not sure how to answer this, because it is neither. I learned that it was a house for the elderly, who have families and relatives yet were abandoned because of their mere age and illness. I also learned that there is a long wait-list, extending to nearly 50-60 (homeless) elderly people, for this shelter.
When I inquired if there is any form of government support for the elderly home, I learned that there is little to none. I was afraid to hear that answer, but I was not surprised. From my journey in Lima, I discovered parks and recreation that attract tourists are further developed while the slums are further ignored in this city. This is precisely why I find MEDLIFE’s work to be crucial. MEDLIFE is not just present in Lima to hand out “free” medical, educational, and developmental care; they are present to bring awareness to the concerning issues of severely underserved areas in Lima to its government. This is their goal in Peru as well in Ecuador and in Tanzania, where there is potential for development but lacks resources and efforts.
Nonetheless, not every one receives help from MEDLIFE. What sets MEDLIFE apart from other organizations with “similar” goals is that MEDLIFE focuses on helping community individuals that seek out and work for their assistance. As I followed Carlos Benavides, the Director of MEDLIFE Peru, on field, I noticed that some community individuals initially wanted student volunteers and local medical practitioners to just provide their aid and leave. But MEDLIFE’s goal is to provide and continue their sustainable assistance in the underserved communities, and Carlos assured the individuals in these communities that their conditions will only improve and will only be sustained if they too take part in MEDLIFE’s efforts.
As a result of engaging community individuals in MEDLIFE projects, I also learned that both the community individuals and the student volunteers benefit from their interactions. The community individuals are indeed appalled by how our volunteers travel hundreds of miles just to help a random community of strangers. As a result, they are awed and inspired by the great efforts and help of those from abroad. Likewise, our student volunteers are awed and inspired by the perseverance of the community individuals to continue to support themselves and their families even during poorest conditions.
As a MEDLIFE student volunteer and intern, I have had the opportunity to help with nearly 5 mobile clinics. Although mobile clinics were unique in their own respective ways, they all shared few commonalities. They all were life-changing to most students. I encountered students on mobile clinics and my members at The Ohio State University chapter who changed their professional track, because they recognized the value of opportunities at home and strived to use these opportunities to better the lives of those struggling to put food on table; I personally know individuals who would eventually go onto attending well renowned medical schools, dental schools, and graduate schools for Public Health because of their experiences on mobile clinics. Then, at the inauguration of MEDLIFE Projects, I realized the type of impact our student volunteers were making on these communities. Just past week, MEDLIFE inaugurated its 107th staircase in Lima, and for this specific inauguration, there were 5 MEDLIFE community leaders present from surrounding areas to share their their heartfelt gratitude for MEDLIFE and its volunteers. Each community leader shared how our student volunteers dramatically changed their lives by providing their communities with medical and educational resources, and infrastructure. Our student volunteers not only made a difference in their lives but their children’s future as well.
Even outside of MEDLIFE Summer Internship, I thoroughly enjoyed my experience in Peru. Despite being 4000 miles away from home and no fluency in spanish, I felt very comfortable living in Peru for these past 2 months and will definitely miss this place. As a foreigner, I encountered some of the friendliest individuals, welcoming me into their homes with open arms. Even as a college student with a budget, I was able to enjoy the excursions Peru had to offer. This past week alone was extremely adventurous. I traveled to Islas Ballestas, saw penguins in very unlikely places of earth, gazed at the mesmerizing Paracas Candelabra, and snapped pictures of sea lions and dolphins in their natural habitats. I then traveled to Huacachina village, the “Oasis of America”, where dune bugging and sand boarding was more exhilarating than the amusement parks in United States. Finally, I ended the weekend with some of the world’s delicious cuisine, including Astrid y Gaston, ranked as the 18th best restaurant in the world, where 2 sets of delicious bread and olives, 2 main meals, and a dessert dish only totaled up to $60 with the tip (inexpensive compared to the same quality of food in United States). Overall, this summer has been the best one yet in my life, and I would relive it again if I could.
She was only 14 when she arrived from Huanuco, Herminia was fleeing an uncertain future. Her mother's words were clear: we have no money for you to study. That was when she decided to use savings to travel to Lima and try to build a future in this chaotic city.
Upon arrival she sought out a distant aunt who gave her a job peeling potatoes at a market. The owner of the place, a gentleman who was very friendly, offered her a small room in his house, but his wife, full of jealousy did everything possible to get Herminia out. Thus, soon enough she was once again alone again and on the street, Herminia bought a box of tomatoes and began selling them, trying to get some money.
She slept on the street for many weeks, until she could buy a patch of cheap land in the hills. There, using some cardboard and old wood, she managed to build a house, good enough to at least stay warm in the cold and wet Lima climate.
She met the father of her children one afternoon while working in the market. Love was not immediate, but they began to rely on each other in hard times, and grew stronger together. When her son was born, Herminia did not know whether to laugh or mourn. The money was enough for her to barely eat, let alone an to feed an extra mouth. But the value of having their own child won her over and that's when her son was born.
10 years have passed and Herminia remains living in poverty, and she became pregnant once again. But their bond and perseverance to build a better life has meant she stopped being the shy young woman who came from nothing, and Huanuco has became the leader of his community, where six MEDLIFE staircases have been built. He and Herminia have worked day and night to help complete all of them.
Getting electricity in her community had always been a big problem and was not easy. Herminia had to learn the laws that she had never heard of before and rights that she did not even know she had. But by overcoming struggles between her and the system brought electricity and light to an entire community. Incredibly, Herminia achieved this alone.
Now, Herminia has a newborn baby and faces another problem. Her house is falling apart. Bad weather, moisture and rats, have made their home unlivable, it will soon fall. Therefore, recognizing the work of Herminia, MEDLIFE is looking to the next group of Development Corps to build a home for Herminia, so that she can continue her work as a community leader and to protect their children from the inhospitable climate in the hills of Lima.
Together we will succeed!
Walking through the pebbly roads of Pamplona Alta, climbing up the rocky hill sides, and waving at the peeping eyes peering from the corners of the ramshackle corrugated metal homes, I have come to learn so much about the lives, families and communities that MEDLIFE reaches out to. When venturing into these towns, seeking the feedback and help of the communities that want a new staircase, a new Wawa Wasi or another new project, I get the chance to hear the oratory skills of Carlos, MEDLIFE’s Director.
Carlos commands the attention of the audience, each set of eyes fixed on his face, his jokes eliciting hearty chuckles and his moving speeches garnering solemn looks. Carlos effectively engages the community- convinces them that a mobile clinic will bring needed medical attention for their families, and that educational sessions will inform the young women about pap smears, self-breast exams and safe sex practices. Watching Carlos interact with community leaders, town residents and even grinning children, you understand how pivotal Carlos’s work is in creating a working relationship with all of the neighboring communities. His work is the foundation that we build MEDLIFE off of- he lays the groundwork with the communities, allowing mobile clinics to come in and aid the communities by building what they need, and providing necessary medical attention. What I find most awe inspiring is that MEDLIFE is able to include the communities in our work; we do not simply go in, have a clinic or build a staircase, and leave. We are able to partner with these families in the communities, their hands diligently working alongside ours.
The gray skies and chilly days are no match for the bright smiles and warm hearts that greet us when we trek into the communities. It is moving to see that so many people are so thankful for what we do, and are willing to help us make a difference, however large or small, in their communities. Each day that I get the opportunity to venture out into the field, I am rewarded with the smiles, tears and heartfelt hugs from the families we help. Knowing that a simple staircase, or a medical clinic, can improve the lives of so many in such a small, yet profound way, makes the work here at MEDLIFE more meaningful, as cliché as that may sound.
A little more than halfway through my internship, and I have begun to understand the impact that MEDLIFE has on the communities and families we help, outside of the mobile clinics themselves. The work does not end simply because there are no students from abroad coming in for a clinic. MEDLIFE has a constant flow of patient follow up mingled with community development, working with the people we serve to improve their lives in small, yet significant ways. A day in the life of an intern is never stagnant- sometimes I am in the office, sometimes I am out speaking with a patient about his recovery. It is marvelous to realize that MEDLIFE’s work affects so many, and many more will continue to receive help long after I am back in America.