July 12, 2016 8:12 AM

Ecuador Earthquake Relief Fund

Written by Sarah Bridge

Two weeks ago, MEDLIFE doctors, nurses and clinic leaders made the 3 hour journey from the city of Esmeraldas to the small, isolated community of Canalon in the province of Muisne, Ecuador.  The clinic staff had to take two buses over rocky, undefined roads and pile into a small boat to reach the community that is all but cut off from Ecuador’s main cities.  The journey was made to set up one of the most ambitious mobile clinics we have established so far.  Over 170 people from five different communities made the journey to Canalon on 29th June to seek medical attention from the clinic.  As always, MEDLIFE staff were offering medical treatment and advice to attendees of the clinic.  However, in addition they were also offering support and help for those community members who had been affected by the recent earthquake that shook this, and many other areas of Ecuador, in April of this year.

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Following the catastrophe on April 16, MEDLIFE in Ecuador has been working tirelessly with affected communities to bring medical attention and development to areas that need it most.  The earthquake, which struck Ecuador’s provinces of Esmeraldas and Manabi with a 7.8 magnitude, caused around 661 deaths and resulted in over 7000 injuries.  Furthermore, there was severe impact on infrastructure with more than 2000 buildings damaged and over 24,000 people left homeless.

Jama, a community of about 20,000 in the coastal region of Ecuador, was hit especially hard by the earthquake and MEDLIFE has been working closely with the people of this district to provide the help needed to rebuild the worst affected areas.  Since the earthquake struck, MEDLIFE’s Earthquake Relief Fund has been going towards rebuilding and fixing many of the buildings that were destroyed in this area.  The fund, which totalled $18,962, is being used in conjunction with money from the provincial government of Tena to construct houses and bathrooms for the individuals and families who suffered most from this natural disaster.

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In working with the government, MEDLIFE is able to create a more sustainable development and reconstruction project for this community.  Since April, MEDLIFE have succeeded in working with the government to complete two bathroom projects in this area and another eight are planned to be completed over the next few months.  In addition to the infrastructural improvement projects being run by MEDLIFE, the Canalon clinic was established to make sure even those most isolated from the rest of the country were able to receive medical attention if they needed it.  Three months on and the work MEDLIFE and other NGOs have been putting in, along with the government, is beginning to bring normality back to the affected provinces.

However, though under control, the assistance needed as a result of this earthquake is still far from being over.  Just a few days ago, on July 10, two more earthquakes were recorded in the Esmeraldas province.  These recent tremors reached magnitudes of 5.9 and 6.4 respectively on the Richter scale and are thought to have been aftershocks of the April disaster.  The recent earthquakes have caused further damage to infrastructure in affected areas that, though not as severe as in April, still needs attention.  Martha Chicaiza, director of MED Programs in Ecuador told us that this would be more repair and maintenance work than reconstruction.   Martha described how “the first earthquake entirely destroyed buildings, this time however it will be more fixing the roof of a school or rebuilding the wall of a house than having to create entire new buildings”.

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MEDLIFE hopes to be able to continue to work with the government on these projects to create sustainable development in the communities and continue to run more clinics like Canalon where possible.  Being able to support the affected communities to the best of our ability will make a difference in how much these people suffer from this disaster.  As the projects continue, we will keep our website updated with information about the communities and the progress of the projects.

We would like to give a huge thanks and congratulations to Univeristy of Georgia MEDLIFE chapter, who was able to raise an incredible $9476 to put towards the Ecuador earthquake relief fund. Their work will have a significant impace This is what the UGA board had to say about running a succesful chapter and fundraisers. 

2The UGA MEDLIFE chapter volunteering at a local food bank.

How long has your chapter been around?

Our chapter was founded in Fall 2010 with 10 active members.

How big is it?

We had 258 active members in our chapter this year with a 10 member executive board.

What was your reaction when you first heard about the earthquake?

We were shocked and saddened by the news, especially when we realized that the earthquake had such a high magnitude.

How has your chapter fundriased in the past?

Our chapter hosted a benefit concert to raise money to build a bathroom for a school in Tena that was in desperate need of improved sanitation, and UGA students volunteered at a mobile clinic over winter break to help complete the project.


How did you fundraise so much for the earthquake so quickly?

We feel a personal connection to this part of the world and wanted to do all we could to help! Over the course of our school year at UGA we fundraised money through large events such as our annual Spring 5K and winter benefit concert, as well as through smaller fundraising initiatives such as selling Peruvian scarves bought from MEDLIFE mobile clinics, baked goods, Butter Braids (a baked goods company), and Homeless Help Cards (a phone app used to alleviate poverty). Additionally, we hosted a Kaplan course auction, held many percentage nights at local restaurants, volunteered to clean our UGA stadium, and canned downtown Athens.


What obstacles did you encounter and how did you overcome them?

Making our cause stand out at a university with hundreds of service organizations was definitely a challenge, but communicating our passion for MEDLIFE’s mission to others through social media, advertisements, and everyday conversations helped to make our fundraising efforts a success!

What advice do you have for other chapters thinking about sponsoring a project?

Make sure to start planning large fundraising events as early as possible, but also remember to be flexible! Don’t be afraid to try new ideas and initiatives. If you share your enthusiasm for the specific project with other students and members of the community, they will be more willing to support you!

How do you feel about the impact you are making with the money you raised?

We are proud of what we have accomplished, and we are very grateful for our members and executive board for their continuous teamwork and dedication to this cause. However, we also realize that our contribution can only alleviate a fraction of the pain and suffering in Ecuador. We hope to return to Tena, Esmeraldas, or Quito on future mobile clinics in order to help rebuild the communities that have become so dear to us.

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Anything else you would like to add?

Although fundraising contributes a great deal to relief efforts, hands-on service is also a key component of global disaster relief. In April, some of our members volunteered with Medshare, a nonprofit organization that organizes and packages unused and surplus medical supplies to send to countries in need. All of the supplies we sorted were sent to Ecuador. Fundraising provides the means for making these relief efforts a reality through service, so we want to emphasize the importance of volunteering to bring Medicine, Education and Development to Low Income Families Everywhere.


July 7, 2016 9:52 PM

A Ramp for Jorge

Written by Sarah Bridge

In April of this year, Jorge Sanchez suffered a nasty fall down the steps outside the front of his house which rendered him unable to leave without the assistance of his wife.  Though already limited in his mobility, this fall created even more problems for Jorge and his family and further restricted their freedom.   

Jorge suffers from a rare genetic disease that causes early onset cerebral atrophy.  Cerebral atrophy, or ‘brain shrinkage’, is common in people over the age of 75 and can lead to Alzheimer's, cerebral palsy and dementia.  Jorge is only 39 years old.  However, due to his condition, he now has the mobility of someone far exceeding this age.




Upon visiting Jorge on a MEDLIFE patient follow up earlier this month, it became clear why the fall had occurred.  The steps leading up to his house are less steps and more slabs of stone, placed unevenly towards the front door.  This makes it almost impossible for Jorge to leave the house and also creates a dangerous situation for his 4 young children who often play in that area.


Jorge’s wife, Margarita, told us about the effect the living situation was having on the family.  She explained that “Jorge cannot get around the house or outside and I can’t leave him on his own.  It means I never go out and the children can’t go out and so we are all stuck here”.  She also explained what a difference some basic access equipment such as a ramp up to the house would make.  “It would make such a difference to the whole family if I were just able to wheel Jorge outside the house or to the park.  He would feel much less guilty also if we were able to get out”


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MEDLIFE has been working with Jorge for nearly six months and so far has been able to provide him with a walker and, more recently, a wheelchair.  However, as his condition declines, he needs more equipment to help his access.  The wheelchair allows him to move around the house with the help of Margarita and sometimes alone but without easy access to the outside, Jorge still remains isolated.  This isolation creates more than just physical barriers.  


Jorge described how frustrating it was to be unable to communicate with his body and also the guilt he felt for the impact he is having on his family.  As Jorge grew emotional trying to describe this to us, Margarita tried to bring him back to the positive, describing a future where she will be able to wheel him to the park with the children and he will be able to sit outside during the summer to sell popsicles.  




With the help of this MEDLIFE project, this dream of Jorge and Margarita’s could become a reality.  With a ramp in place of the poorly formed stairs, Jorge would be able to get outside and even be taken to other places in the community.  It would mean he could enjoy the sunshine, watch his children playing and regain some of his freedom.


MEDLIFE has calculated that to build a safe set of stairs and a wheelchair ramp up to Jorge’s house, it would cost just $700.  The project is already in the planning stages and just needs the funds to go ahead.  As many of this year's summer interns have had the chance to meet Jorge and his family over the past month, this project is something that has become close to our hearts.


There is only 1 month left of the summer internship and it would be amazing to see the project completed in our time here.  For this reason we need to make sure we have raised all the funds by the end of the week.  We are therefore adopting a ‘$700 in 7 days’ strategy.   Raising the money needed to build this access to Jorge’s home would make such a difference to him and his family so please go to the project page and donate what you can to help us build the ramp!

June 28, 2016 11:44 AM

New Projects at CCAPA Nursery School

Written by Sarah Bridge

MEDLIFE has been involved with the Cuna Jardin Virgen del Buen Paso nursery project for over a year now and in this time have refurbished much of the interior to create a more hygienic space, have built a wall to enable the children to have a safe area to play and created a slope to allow easy and safe access to the nursery.  Last week, the MEDLIFE mobile clinic was working on developing a garden in an area of land outside the nursery to allow the children to have a green space to run around in and play in the fresh air.  

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Our summer volunteer affairs interns and volunteers at last week's mobile clinic were out in the field helping with the conversion of this area of wasteland into a green space that is safe for the children to play in.  After removing all the dirt and trash from this area, the process of constructing the garden could begin.  

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During the week we got a chance to visit the children in the nursery to find out more about how this area will benefit them.  The nursery has around 350 children attending every day aged six months to five years old.  There are six classrooms to separate the children according to their ages and abilities.  The youngest children spend most of their time playing with toys and learning about the world around them.

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The elder children do more active learning.  One class was being taught about how to behave in school, another was practicing handwriting and others were creating pictures for their fathers for ‘Día de los Papas’.

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Each class we visited sang us a song and some even included a dance!  All the children seemed so happy to be spending time with their friends and teachers and to be able to perform to us.  

For Tatiana Gerena, it was even more special to see this project in its final stages as her brother, Rolando Gerena, was the volunteer affairs intern who began the project last summer.  Rolando (known affectionately as Roly at the nursery) fundraised via social media after he saw the state of the play area outside the daycare centre on a visit he took with fellow interns.     

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The nursery is located in San Juan de Miraflores, a district that contains some of the most impoverished communities in Lima.  The headteacher explained to us why it was so important for the children to have this area to play in due to the state of the community around the centre.  “It is not a safe community and the parents want to know that they have somewhere safe to leave their children.  Many of these parents work every day and so knowing their children have a safe building and a good place to get fresh air is very important to them”

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We also spoke to some of the children who told us how they were looking forward to the park being finished.  4 year old Luciel told us  “When it is raining, I like to play inside.  But if it is sunny, it would be nice to be able to play outside”.

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Previously, the only outside playing space the daycare centre had was a small playground that was fenced in.  Now the children have a large green area to run around in, get fresh air and enjoy the outside.

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On the day of the inauguration, all the children were very excited to see the completed outside area and the finishing touches that had been added to the wall.  The day had a feeling of celebration and festivity about it with balloons hanging around the nursery, speeches from different parties and performances from the children.  

The headteacher told all the volunteers and MEDLIFE interns what the garden meant to the school.  She said “I want to thank you all so much for all your hard work.  It means alot to us to see people like you coming here and caring enough about our small community to build something like this for our children.”

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     Rita Santiago finally has a place to call her own, a small shack in the Lima desert. Her living conditions are far from ideal; her home does not have running water, it leaks in the rain and turns into an oven in the summer. It is precariously placed; she is constantly afraid the unstable hillside composed of loose rock and sand will give and crush them in a landslide.

      But despite all of this, for her the home is a triumph.  Rita and her husband forced it to become a habitable place for their family with an endless reservoir of grit and determination. They cleared the piles of rock, carving a flat space in the rubble-strewn plot. They carried the construction materials up the hillside and built the house by hand little by little. Rita and her husband didn’t own the land, they simply found the open space, built a home and took possession of it. Rita and the hundreds of thousands of other people like her are often referred to as invadadores, or invaders. Rita understands this perspective. But for her, it seemed like her only opportunity to end the displacement, instability and hardship that has followed her like a curse since the fabric of her life was left in tatters by the internal conflict that terrorized Peru from 1980-2000.

       “A part of me resents this country,” Rita said. “My family has been destroyed, and on top of that I wasn’t able to finish my studies and have a career of my own. This is all a consequence of the political violence that we lived through in the 90’s. Everything that has happened to me, I am still recovering from it.”

       The conflict began when an armed communist insurgent group known as Sendero Luminoso (the Shining Path in English) began to gain power in the rural provinces of Peru, particularly in Ayacucho, culminating in an attempt to overthrow the Peruvian government. Sendero Luminoso was militarily defeated by Alberto Fujimori’s government in 2000, and now Peru is mostly peaceful. Today’s youth did not live the conflict it is something they learned about, something they see traces of, it is history. However, within the shanty towns and rural communities where MEDLIFE works, the consequences of the devastating internal conflict in Peru are still very much alive. The circumstances of countless families are a direct result of the displacement, chaos and loss caused by the conflict, the results of which remain as ever present obstacles in the lives of victims like Rita Santiago.

       Rita was born in the Huánuco, a city in central Peru. Her parents were poor farmers. They had food on the table and their kids went to school, but still, Rita remembers that farming life in Huánuco was hard. Rita’s father always had bigger dreams for his children, he didn’t want his kids to continue with the poor farmer’s life he had. “Every father wants the best for his children,” Rita said. “My dad wanted me to study and prepare for a career, because he was a farmer and wanted the best for us. He didn’t live for himself, he lived for us.”

       As a child, Rita believed that she would have the opportunity to live up to her father’s dreams for her. One day, Rita’s father was out with his youngest son, and they didn’t return home when expected. What initially appeared to be an innocuous late arrival would mark the end of Rita’s childhood.
            Her father never came home. His body was found in a hole on the riverbank, covered by just a little bit of sand, his head, legs, and fingers all detached in a pile with the bodies of two other men, recognizable only by their clothes. Her youngest brother was never found, and became one of an estimated 15,000 people who disappeared during the conflict. Rita’s family was devastated and terrified. They had no idea why they had been killed, maybe the killers were coming for the rest of the family next. Who knew?

       Rita now says it was government soldiers who killed her father. “The soldiers thought that everyone that lived around us were terrorists, but we weren’t, we were farmers. We were dedicated to agriculture, we weren’t terrorists,” Rita said.  

     Sophia Mahen, an expert on the conflict and human rights who has held prominent positions in Amnesty International and the Commission de la Verdad, an organization that conducted the most thorough investigation of the conflict, explained that “In terms of the violence, you have to look at the idiocy of the state in their answer to the armed organization of Sendero Luminoso.” At first the state ignored Sendero Luminoso, and when they finally did go to help the peasants communities that were under Sendero Luminoso’s control, they ended up hurting them in much the same way that Sendero Luminoso did. They didn’t know who among the rural population was working with Sendero Luminoso, and so, often they treated them as if they all were.

        Sendero Luminoso made its base of operations in Ayacucho, a city that heads a very impoverished and primarily indigenous region in southern Peru. When news of conflict in Ayacucho began reaching Lima in the early 80s, many Peruvians dismissed it as a conflict in a far off Andean province with only regional impact. Even when Sendero Luminoso sent a gruesome announcement of their presence and power, hung canine corpses on lampposts on a major Lima Boulevard, it was not taken too seriously. 

       Sendero Luminoso was able to rapidly take control of the highlands. By 1990, at the height of their power in the last days of President Alan Garcia’s government, just 32% of the territory and 40% of the population were under the control of the national government and military. Sendero Luminoso was detonating car bombs in prosperous districts of Lima like Miraflores that had seemed insulated from the chaos that had enveloped other parts of the country. In addition to heavy military and territorial losses to Sendero Luminoso “Hyperinflation bordered on 60 percent monthly, the economic crisis brought havoc to the population and was destroying the state and the social fabric with as much or more efficiency than the insurgency itself.” (loc 645 How Difficult it is to be God.) 

        Alberto Fujimori’s took office in 1990 and instituted an authoritarian regime.

       Fujimori, an extremely controversial President, tried to take back the territory controlled by Sendero Luminoso in a bloody campaign that killed thousands upon thousands of innocent peasants like Rita’s father. “When the state went to defend them (the rural indigenous population) from Sendero Luminoso, they had the idea they were all Senderistas,” Mahen said. “The Indigenous is other.” 

       Meanwhile, many provincial communities under Sendero Luminoso’s control, who were their supposed base of support, began organizing armed resistance to protect themselves from the violence besieging them from both sides, and particularly against Sendero Luminoso. On the other hand, when their lives were at risk, many people did not resist and instead fled their communities.

       Faced with a crossroads after her husband’s tragic death, Rita’s mother decided that her family was no longer safe. As the violence escalated in their community, they decided to abandon their home and flee to Tingo Maria, where the mountains meets the amazon in central Peru, hoping to escape the violence and begin again. As violence and chaos spread across Peru, many people made the same decision, creating a wave of migration and displacement that would leave a lasting mark on country’s demographic distribution.  “The kids now, they were born in the cities. They have cut their ties with their old communities,” Mahen said. “Ayacucho lost 20% of the population, you have to interpret that they went somewhere else. Many went somewhere close to wait, and returned after the violence passed. Many went to the city and now the kids don’t want to go back. They stayed in their place of displacement.”

     Rita’s family left in search of a better life, but they didn’t find much more than a change of scenery. The eldest of her two remaining brothers, 18, felt that since their father was gone it was his duty to support and care for the family. Her brother took on the responsibility and guided the family, helping them find a way to sustain themselves through farming once more, getting by on nothing but rice, bread and bananas. “This was supposed to be an age of having fun,” Rita lamented about her brother’s lost adolescence.                

       They were able to live, but they could not escape the violence. The conflict continued to be a part of their daily lives. “This was a terrible time; you couldn’t go out in the street…there was a lot of violence by both terrorists and the police,” Rita said. She remembers running into the jungle to take shelter when bombings rocked the community, hiding with her siblings until the explosions stopped and order returned. “We were afraid we were going to die, and we hadn’t done anything. They thought we were going to fight, but really we were just trying to get food.”

      One night Rita’s mother was with a group of friends, talking and dancing, when three hooded figures appeared asking everyone for identification. They were frightened by the men, and plus, she didn’t even have an ID, so she lied to them and left with a friend as soon as she could. As they walked home, they heard three shots ring out in the night. A neighbor told her that her son had been shot. Rita’s mother ran to try and find him. She saw one of the hooded men again, she knew he was responsible and tried to chase him through the jungle, yelling at him to come back, but she lost him in dense foliage and darkness. She never found the hooded man, but she did find the body- her son was dead from a bullet to the head. “My mother felt dark,” Rita said. “She had no idea what to do.” Why had he been killed? Had it been the police, the military, or the terrorists? All she could do was hide the body in the jungle and hope the rest of her family would be spared.

      They kept quiet, hoping nothing else would happen. Her mother began working as much as she could, leaving the kids to fend for themselves throughout the day. “We were basically living on the streets at this point,” Rita said. In 1994, Rita finished high school. She was still holding onto her father’s dream for her of finishing her studies, and she felt she needed to somehow help her family; moving to Lima seemed like the only option.

     So to Lima she went along with countless others with nothing more than an urgent need for work and a safe place to call her own. The Commission de la Verdad concluded this in their final report about the effect the migration of people like Rita who had been displaced by the violence had on the urban capital of Lima:

     “The massive displacement from violent zones constituted a painful process of uprooting and impoverishment of hundreds of thousands of Peruvians. This led to compulsory urbanization as well as a historic regression in the pattern of occupation of the Andean territory that will have a long-term effect on the chances for sustainable human development. The displaced population experienced the dislocation of social networks, forcing them to adapt to new circumstances with varying levels of success and considerable suffering, which posed an enormous challenge to the provision of services in the cities."


     She went to Lima alone, and began working as a live-in housekeeper, where she worked long hours and subsisted on bread and butter for low pay. “I was always hungry,” she said. Even though her wages were low, she managed to save some money after a year, but instead of using it for college, she sent it home to her mother. She continued this way for a few years until she met her husband through a friend and they quickly married. 

     They still didn’t have a home, but her husband had heard there was open land in the hills for the taking. A huge number of people were hiking up into the hills, clearing plots, building houses there, and squatting. The land had owners, sometimes they tried to kick the invaders off, sometimes they allowed them to slowly buy it, and sometimes there was a legal process that allowed communities of invaders to take possession of the land titles after they had occupied it for many years. In all of these cases, people with nowhere to go in Lima were doing whatever they could to take a piece of it.  Rita and her husband decided to go try and do whatever it took to get a place of their own. 

        3 years later, they had built a house; 15 years later they finally owned the land.  “I was working and my husband as well, so we could put together the money to buy the land.” In 2015, Rita could proudly say she legally owned the land. “If you don’t get the money together, later the owners will evict you. So we were able to make a deal and last year we were able to pay. It was hard; at times we had to not eat so we would have the money… I have made my house nice enough, from what it was.” 

     The process of rapid, unplanned and disorganized urbanization in Lima has a long history and host of causes that go beyond just the internal conflict. Vast expanses of communities exist with dismal living conditions that are subjected to social and economic exclusion are often not even counted in census data and sometimes even physically walled off from other parts of the city.

     It is in these places MEDLIFE does it’s work in Lima. Rita is not an outlier in these places, and many people have a story to share like hers. Rita admits that the trauma of the past has haunted throughout her whole life, that sometimes she felt like giving up, like she couldn’t go on living, but she always kept going. “After everything I have lived through, everything that has happened, I have kept going through. I want to continue. This is what I want,” Rita said. As her life took on some semblance of stability, she began to feel like things would be ok, she had lived through so much, and her experiences had made her strong. “If you never have to face your own mortality, then you don’t realize its importance; you don’t realize the things that are worth fighting for.”  She began to dream again. She has accepted that she will not study in university like her father had dreamed for her, but maybe her kids can- and so a fathers dream for his daughter became her own. Today, in her small home in the hills, Rita is still fighting for that dream, for a better life everyday.


     Rita’s struggle is not over. In 2015 MEDLIFE met Rita in a Mobile Clinic. That same year, Rita was diagnosed with breast cancer. MEDLIFE has taken her on as a follow-up patient, and is working with her day by day to get through chemotherapy. While fighting the disease, she has continued to show the strength and resilience to adversity that has characterized her life. Rita’s story exemplifies that of so many of our follow-up patients, who often are people who have overcome tremendous obstacles for what little they have with no support and no safety net, only to get knocked down again by an unexpected illness or accident, leaving them at rock bottom with nowhere to turn for support. Rita’s story is still unfolding, as MEDLIFE works with her day by day to fight her illness. Check back in the future for an update on Rita’s progress.

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Karis Barret and Sarah Simko collectively raised $1,646 in their 50:50 campaigns. Here is what they had to say about how they ran successful campaigns and their experience on their trips!

Why did you decide to do a 50:50 campaign?

 Karis: To make a difference , even a little difference and try and raise as much money as I could. It also helped with trip fare, which was nice.

Sarah: That was the same way that I found out about it. I found out about it right after I signed up to go on the trip to Peru. And I thought it was a really great way to help contribute to MEDLIFE and the clinics financially.

Karis: I signed up last minute, so about two weeks.  I sent it out to friends and family and asked them to send it to there friends and managed to have some people donate. If I had started earlier, it would have been easier to get more money but I did what I could with the time I had.

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Sarah: I also signed up for the trip last minute. It took about two weeks to raise the money. I wrote support emails and sent them out to family and friends letting them know about the trip and how their money can make an impact on the people I would be working with in Peru.

What obstacles did you overcome fundraising?

Karis: I’m from Canada, so lots of people didn’t realize it was going to be in American dollars. I also had a lot of family members not know how to use paypal. Some times they just got another family member to send money over paypal and gave them cash. Also, people just gave a little bit less because of the exchange rate, which is terrible right now.

Sarah: The paypal issue was my only obstacle. That was an issue for some family members.

Karis: Especially the older ones, they just wanted to put in a credit card. What’s this paypal thing?

Sarah: They would call and ask, "How does it work? Can I just not do that, can I just send you money?" … No!

How do you feel about the money you raised and the impact you made?

Sarah: The most memorable part of the trip was being able work one on one with people. And just seeing how loving and grateful they were towards us just made me want to do this more and I felt really good that I was able to raise some money to contribute to the healthcare they needed.

Karis: The most memorable part for me was seeing how grateful everyone was. And seeing how much it was needed just really reinforced why we are doing this. And made me feel better about raising the money that I did and helping buy supplies.

What would you do differently next time?

Karis: Start earlier!

Sarah: Start earlier than I did and send it to more people!


June 21, 2016 12:06 PM

Elderly Care in Lima's Slums

Written by Sarah Bridge

The aging population is a worldwide issue that many countries are struggling to deal with.  Elderly patients who are suffering from rapidly deteriorating health issues form a large percentage of the MEDLIFE follow-up patient list.  In much of the developed world, residential homes guarantee the amenity, stability and care people need in their old age.  However, this is not a comfort that impoverished families in the slums of Lima can afford.  In Peru, the leading causes of death among people over 65 are untreated infections, influenza and pneumonia.  More often than not, these deaths come about due to neglect and isolation suffered by elderly patients who are unable to access the healthcare they require.  

1Ediberta Malpartida at home in her bed 

It can be easy to overlook these patients as their suffering is often less shocking as it is something people are familiar with all over the world.   Aging is, after all, a natural process that happens to everyone and is always difficult to face.  However, the real issue here is the condition the patients have to endure as a result of their poverty.  Without any real pension, medication and therapy cannot be paid for and so these patients become resigned to spending weeks at a time alone in their rooms.  Rooms without windows, corrugated iron roofs that let in all the elements and lumpy mattresses that cause discomfort and bed sores.  For these patients, sitting outside and feeling the sun on their faces is a rarity.

2Eulogio Orcottma

Ediberta Malpartida and Eulogio Orcottma Cardenas are examples of this suffering.  Aged 88 and 79 respectively, both have been MEDLIFE patients for over a year and both have spent almost the entirety of that time in isolation.  Jimena Torres, who lives with Edilberta, explained how “she doesn’t walk for fear of falling over; she can’t bathe herself, she can’t cook for herself, she can’t do anything on her own.”

  Being immobilized and bedridden often then leads to other health issues.  Lack of movement and basic exercises can result in muscle deterioration and infections.  Whereas in developed countries, these conditions are relatively easy to recover from, here in Peru it is not so simple.  Hospitals are often only a short bus ride away, but taking that journey can cost up to s/3.50 which is an expense many are unable to pay.  Furthermore, once at the hospital, it is unlikely treatment will be given straight away thus incurring the need for more travel.  This means more money wasted and more tiresome journeys that these patients struggle to make.

Eulogio has been bedridden since arriving at his son’s house in Lima last year.  He suffers from arthritis and bladder obstruction and more recently has been losing sensation in his left side.   MEDLIFE has been providing him with medication and medical visits and is now funding therapy to help him regain his mobility.  

One of the most important processes for the elderly is to keep up basic exercise and movement.  Having a walker to enable travel around the house or a wheelchair for outside access can make all the difference to these people.  Furthermore, doctors visits and therapy sessions are crucial to keep track of a patient's progress and make sure they are not deteriorating or becoming isolated.  MEDLIFE is keen to invest in therapy and equipment that can enable patients to take part in much needed exercises to strengthen their muscles and rebuild their health.  Such equipment is often cheap to buy for the charity and can provide significant improvements to the quality of life of the patients.

IMG 6177Ediberta being visited at her home by MEDLIFE nurse Janet

Following the support given by MEDLIFE, both Eulogio and Ediberta are in much better health compared with last year though their treatments have been very simple.  As of January, following an MRI scan Eulogio has been put into a rehabilitation therapy programme in his home supported by MEDLIFE.  He is being given painkillers and MEDLIFE are now trying to get him therapy sessions at Hospital de la Humanidad, which is at the bottom of his street, now he is able to get there.  Ediberta is being given the medication she needs to make her more comfortable and make the living situation easier for the friends taking care of her.  

Old age is never easy to confront, least of all for the elderly.  However, even a little bit more comfort and mobility can make a world of difference.  For patients like Ediberta and Eulogio, just having medication to stop them from being in constant pain getting the therapy they need to be able to move from their beds can improve their quality of life.  With such a vast number of MEDLIFE follow up patients being over the age of 65, it is hugely important that we are able to fund the support these people need to live normal and healthy lives.      

June 16, 2016 8:33 AM

Meet the Patient: Isaí Cañi Basillo

Written by Sarah Bridge

Isaí Cañi Basillo is 4 years old and lives with his parents and two brothers in the district of Villa Maria del Triunfo in Lima.  Isaí has a cleft palate and suffers from Apert syndrome, a genetic disorder characterized by the premature fusing together of skull bones, fingers and toes during pregnancy.  A cleft palate can cause problems with speaking and feeding, whilst Apert syndrome can lead to impeded movement and slowed intellectual development.  Before Isaí’s birth, his parents had recently settled in a new house in Villa Maria del Triunfo to enable them to work, be close to their parents and start a family of their own.  When his mother, Maria, was pregnant with Isaí she was told all was ok and he was going to be a healthy child like his elder brother.  It wasn’t until Maria was approaching her due date that she was warned there may be some abnormalities with the pregnancy.   

 IMG 9691

Following Isaí’s birth, it became clear that he was suffering; his hands and feet were webbed and there were some abnormalities also with the structure of his skull and face.  Isaí spent his first few months in a children's hospital where he was given the medication and treatment necessary for his condition.  He was then treated at another hospital for a year where he was diagnosed with sindactilia- the webbing of hands and feet, related to Apert syndrome.  Maria told us of the struggle her son’s condition created for her:

“From the moment I first held my child I knew he was a gift from God.  However, it was also a shock for me. I was thankful to God for the child I had been given but I was also worried that people would be embarrassed about him and the way he looked”.  Maria described how she would love for Isaí to be able to have the same movement and freedoms as his brothers which is what an operation would allow.  However, she also told us how she worries as she sees Isaí growing and knows what treatment he needs, but her and her husband cannot afford to pay for it.  “All I want is my son and I want to be able to give him the movement and independence that I have and that his brothers all have”.

IMG 9698

After meeting Isaí and his mum at a mobile clinic last April, MEDLIFE funded Isaí’s first surgery on his cleft palate and everything went well.  Isaí’s feeding and speaking processes have improved and he has even started going to school.  He has another appointment with our doctors scheduled for July and if all goes well he may have his next surgery for the palate as early as August.  After the second surgery, Isaí will need to wait one year before he can have the operation for Apert syndrome which will allow the webbing of his hands and feet to be fixed to enable improved movement.  If the surgery goes well it will lead to a new start for Isaí and his family, who will no longer be restricted by his disability.  It will also allow his mother’s wish of giving him the same movement and freedoms as his brothers to become a reality.  

June 14, 2016 9:23 AM

Meet the Interns Summer 2016 part 2

Written by Rosali Vela


Name: Chris Johnson
Hometown: New York City
School: Queens College
Major: Neuroscience with a Minor in Chemistry

How I got involved with MEDLIFE: I discovered MEDLIFE at my school’s club fair at the beginning of Freshman year. I was an active member of our chapter throughout my first semester and decided to attend my first Mobile Clinic in Cusco, Peru over the following winter break. Experiencing my first Mobile Clinic instilled in me a fervent passion for global health that continues to drive many of my endeavors today.

Tell us a little bit about yourself: I was born and raised in the borough of Queens in New York City. I am a drummer and I enjoy creating and listening to music. A non-work goal of mine during my stay in Lima is to become proficient at dancing salsa. I love traveling, going to New York Mets games and watching Game of Thrones. I aspire to become a medical doctor working in global health. I have the hearing ability of a 75-year-old former jackhammer operator.

Why did you decide to become an intern?: To say I was changed by my first Mobile Clinic would be a vast understatement. I gained a new global perspective that drastically altered my entire college career and will likely affect my path in medicine. After attending my first MEDLIFE trip, I became significantly more involved with my chapter and went on to be elected as chapter President for my Sophomore year. Subsequent to completing my first semester as chapter President and attending a second Mobile Clinic in Lima, I realized that serving as an E-Board member and attending trips simply was not enough for me. I had finally found an organization whose mission and operations I fell in love with, and I wanted to dedicate more of my life to furthering its extraordinary initiative.

What was your first impression of Lima?: Surprisingly, it reminded me of home! From the diverse seasonal weather to the taxi drivers who have seemingly no regard for pedestrian safety, it reminded me of the hustle and bustle of New York City. My enamored state was soon brought to a halt as I learned more about the socio-political divide plaguing Lima. I was heartbroken upon seeing and conducting more research on Lima’s poorest communities and the infamous “Wall of Shame.” After undergoing such eye opening experiences and realizing that I had the platform to help make a difference, I was compelled to return to Lima in the summer and make a greater contribution to the MEDLIFE movement.

What are your goals for this internship?: I look forward to gaining a more comprehensive understanding of global health and where I belong in the field. After my experiences with MEDLIFE to this point, I cannot imagine excluding global medical and developmental initiatives from my professional life. I hope to have the opportunity to practice medicine in developing regions around the world.


Name: Sarah Shawky
Hometown: Oakville, Ontario, Canada
School: McMaster University
Major: Biomedical Discovery & Commerce - B.H.Sc & Accelerated Masters 

How I got involved with MEDLIFE: In September 2015, I noticed the MEDLIFE information stand at my university club fair. I had a friend who had volunteered at a Mobile Clinic in Lima before, and she would always tell me what an amazing and different experience she had working alongside other students and staff with common motivations. I decided to take a risk, join the MEDLIFE community and be actively involved as much as I could to gain a better understanding of health care in developing countries and to learn about different cultures. I found myself opening my eyes to the broad spectrum of opportunity and optimism shared by MEDLIFE and its participants and could not wait to become a part of the team in action. Now, here I am in Peru, ready to start and never stop.

Tell us a little bit about yourself: I am an outgoing and spontaneous university student trying to figure out her life and what she would like to do. However, as of right now, I reside in Canada, I am of Egyptian background and I love to help people. I love to teach, learn, laugh and I know that I would like to become an oral surgeon - I believe in smiles. You are most likely to find me trying to brush the tangles out of my frizzy hair, taking pictures, drinking tea at a new hidden cafe discovered online, eating ridiculous amounts of sushi or indoor rock climbing. 

Why did you decide to become an intern?: I decided to become an intern with MEDLIFE because I knew that my long-term goal was to be involved in the medical field, and more specifically, I knew that working with an NGO that provides healthcare in developing countries would help me solidify this goal. One of my greatest past times is photo editing and capturing moments that I would love to remember forever. Sharing memories and promoting global awareness among my family and friends has always been important to me, so I decided that spending my summer as a Communications Social Media Intern with MEDLIFE would be amazing and that I would definitely learn so much!

What was your first impression of Lima?: My first impression of Lima was that it was so awake and lively at night! I arrived very late and was surprised to see the entire city still lit up and alive! I also fell in love with the light heartedness of the locals and the colourful architecture. I´ve also learnt to appreciate the one and a half days of sunshine that appears in Lima, per week. 

What are your goals for this internship?: Throughout my internship, I hope to be able to broaden my understanding of global health and awareness, contribute to the communities in need, learn some Spanish and successfully portray the face of MEDLIFE through my social media contributions. I plan to leave with an accurate vision of what goes on in Lima in order to project this same perspective onto people back home. I hope to be able to make connections with other fellow interns and to inspire, teach and encourage others to become actively involved with MEDLIFE as well! Oh, and I hope to be able to successfully cross the road to the grocery store without looking like a foreigner running for her life. 


Name: Ifelola Ojuri
Hometown: Cambridge, England
School: University of Southern California
Major: Health & Humanity B.A., Accelerated Master of Public Health

How I got involved with MEDLIFE: I was browsing the Internet looking for internships for the summer when I stumbled across MEDLIFE's page.

Tell us a little bit about yourself: I am a rising senior at the University of Southern California (Fight On!), but raised in Cambridge England. My spirit animal is a giraffe, specifically the tea-drinking species. I’m pretty tall, incredibly clumsy and have super long legs.  In my spare time I drink and blog about tea; just imagine a giraffe with a top hat, sipping tea and exploring the world – that is me.

Why did you decide to become an intern?: MEDLIFE’s mission and sustainable practices are what ultimately drew me to the internship. Every nonprofit is unique, and I wanted an opportunity to learn more about what makes MEDLIFE different and what they plan to continue in the future. Interning at MEDLIFE will allow me to see firsthand the intersection between global public heath and community development and whether or not I would like to pursue something like this in the future. “Never believe that a few caring people can't change the world. For, indeed, that's all who ever have”. - Margaret Mead

What was your first impression of Lima?: Lima is loud, bustling and diverse. From the terrain to the food, there’s a lot to explore. Also, each time you attempt to cross the road will be a near death experience.

What are your goals for this internship?: To come away with a more holistic view of the global public health sector, and the social justice issues that are currently happening in Peru. To fully understand communicate MEDLIFE’s mission both passionately and effectively. To have a renewed sense of understanding of how the interconnectedness of social issues is both of benefit and hindrance in closing the inequality gap. To gain transferrable skills, which I can use both when I return home and beyond.  


supporters12Name: Yash Diwan
Hometown: Brampton, Ontario
School: McMaster University
Major: Health Sciences with Global Health Specialization 

How I got involved with MEDLIFE: To tell the truth, I was not actually involved with MEDLIFE in any way, shape, or form before this internship. One of my friends from school shared their experiences at a Mobile Clinic on facebook and said that it was a life changing experience. I decided to do a little more research, and, once on the MEDLIFE website, I found out that I could apply for an internship. I was already on the website, so I figured, why not? Small things, like a facebook post, can lead to significant changes in one's life. Now, I have the opportunity to travel, immerse myself in different cultures, and be a part of something that really makes a difference, all because of a facebook post. Also, I will be joining McMaster’s MEDLIFE chapter as an Expansion Officer next year and I am excited to continue my journey with MEDLIFE after this internship.

Tell us a little bit about yourself: I was born in India and my family moved around quite a bit before we finally settled in Canada. I just finished my first year at McMaster University in the Health Sciences program and am planning on specializing in global health next year. I love reading, and am one of the very few people who actually signs books out at my school library (I don't know why it's called a library if nobody reads any of the books in it). I almost exclusively listen to hip-hop, but have recently tried to expand my musical taste and have started listening to a little bit of reggae and jazz. An interesting fact about me is that I played the trombone in middle school, but I almost never practiced. During class, I would just pretend that I was playing and my music teacher, Mr. Kershaw, never realized that I didn't actually know how to play any of the songs. Unfortunately, after a year and a half, I got caught and I got kicked out of the band. All good things come to an end. Another thing about me is that I love asking questions, and those who know me know that I do not shy away from saying what’s on my mind. This can be both a gift and a curse, and I am still figuring out how to deal with this side of my personality.

Why did you decide to become an intern?: I think that this internship is an excellent way for me to expand my horizons, meet new people, and help an organization which truly embodies my core values. I believe that we, as human beings, have the responsibility to love one another and help each other as much as we can. I think that there is more that unites us than separates us, and I believe that MEDLIFE is an organization that truly represents these beliefs. Being a MEDLIFE intern is definitely going to help me learn a lot about myself, and will allow me to hone some very important skills. Apart from allowing me to contribute to sustainable development and Mobile Clinics, I think that this internship will arm me with the tools and information I need, to make an impact in McMaster’s MEDLIFE chapter. I hope that I can apply the skills I acquire through this internship into my local community, so that I can be a part of a positive change.

What was your first impression of Lima?: Traffic. Honking. Shouting. Confusion. Everything in Lima moves so quickly, and there is so much to see. Going somewhere you have never been is always exciting, and I am trying to soak all of it up as much as I can. It’s the little details that make a city what it is, and it’s very important to pick up on these little details. Initially, going out to buy groceries or getting the laundry done was a little daunting, but as I am getting to know the city and the language a little better, I am becoming more comfortable with it. I am very excited to continue learning about Lima and (hopefully) getting a little better at Spanish. 

What are your goals for this internship?: My biggest goal for this internship is to explore. I want to see as much as I can, and I want to meet as many people as I can. I also want to contribute to the communities in Lima and make as big of an impact as I can. I hope that my time here will not only allow me to help MEDLIFE and the local communities, but will also push me to acquire new skills and will give me the opportunity for self-development.


Name: Elisa Gomez
Hometown: Clearwater, Florida
School: Florida State University
Major: Family and Child Sciences

How I got involved with MEDLIFE: I became involved with the MEDLIFE chapter at my university as a college freshman in 2013. Throughout my first semester in school, I was introduced to the MEDLIFE mission and I was drawn to it immediately. It was clear how much of an impact this organization was making globally, and I wanted to be a part of it! It was not long before I packed my bags and headed for Esmeraldas, Ecuador for my first Mobile Clinic.

Tell us a little bit about yourself: I was born in Medellin, Colombia where lived until I was four. In the year 2000, my family immigrated to the United States in hopes of a better future and a chance at an education for my sister and I. Now, 16 years later, I will be going into my last year of undergrad this August and I plan on pursuing a master’s degree in Physician Assistant Studies soon after. I enjoy traveling and learning about other cultures and their beliefs. My passion for equal access to health and education for all individuals has pushed me out of my comfort zone, allowing me explore these human rights in a variety of different countries. Oh, if I’m not traveling, studying or being a homebody, you can usually find me eating. I LOVE food and chocolate, too!

Why did you decide to become an intern?: As a MEDLIFE volunteer I was able to learn a lot about how the clinics were run. After hearing so many stories from the patients and their families, I could not help but to wonder “what now?”. I knew that as a MEDPrograms intern I would be able to finally answer this question by visiting patients alongside the doctors and nurses and participate in MEDLIFE follow-up service visits. I knew that interning for MEDLIFE would be such a wonderful opportunity because we all share one common goal, and that is to ensure that medicine, education and development are perceived as human rights.

What was your first impression of Lima?: When I first arrived in Lima all I could think was “Finally I can escape the Florida heat!”

What are your goals for this internship?: This summer I hope to get a lot of field experience which will allow for me to understand the role that MEDLIFE plays in the patients journey towards a healthier future. On a more personal note, I know that this internship will allow me the opportunity to grow as an individual. I want to absorb all that I learn throughout my time here in Lima in order to return home and share with my friends, family and university chapter the impact that MEDLIFE had not only on the patients, but on myself as well!

supporters9Name: Riley Hess
Hometown: Allen, Texas
School: University of Kansas
Major: Psychology

How I got involved with MEDLIFE: I got involved with MEDLIFE during my freshman year of college when our chapter president visited my class to talk about an upcoming trip to Ecuador.  I’d wanted to get involved in an organization like MEDLIFE and to take a trip like this one for quite some time, so I signed up the next day.  After an amazing experience in Ecuador, I applied for executive board and served on the fundraising team and as fundraising chair for the following two semesters.  This next year I will serve as Mobile Clinics officer for our chapter.

Tell us a little bit about yourself: I grew up in a northern suburb of Dallas, Texas, and went out of state to KU to study psychology.  I am very interested in research in the psychology field and plan to continue on into a PhD program to study to become a clinical psychologist.  I also love Spanish, art (primarily painting), plants, and traveling to new places.  I have been involved in a variety of service projects and love to serve others.

Why did you decide to become an intern?: To get a more hands-on experience with MEDLIFE and to learn about what goes on behind the scenes, to bring back knowledge that will help our chapter thrive, to gain a global perspective, and more generally because MEDLIFE’s mission is something that is close to my heart.  Being an intern has been a goal of mine since my first MEDLIFE trip. Volunteering is an incredible experience, but I chose this internship so that I could do summer-long work to bring much needed resources to areas experiencing poverty in the field while helping to improve the program from the office.  

What was your first impression of Lima?:  My first impression was “I can’t wait to explore!”.  There are always people walking around this busy city and there is plenty to do. And the food is great, which is always a plus. I hope I have time to see all the sights in this lively city.

What are your goals for this internship?:  As much as I want to say my goal is to make a difference, I know that real change takes time, so my goal is to be a part of that positive change.  I also hope to learn the language and about Peruvian culture.

supporters3Name: Thomas O’Neill

Hometown: Bradford, UK.

School: University of the West of England

Major: Politics & International Relations

How I got involved with MEDLIFE: I actually stumbled across an advertisement for the MEDLIFE Film & Photography internship whilst scrolling down my Facebook news feed earlier this year. Upon doing some additional research into the goals and values of MEDLIFE I decided to apply, never expecting to actually get shortlisted for an interview. Two skype interviews later I was offered the internship and, before I knew it, found myself flying out to Lima for the summer.

Tell us a little bit about yourself: I have a passion for filmmaking and video journalism. I enjoy most sports and love travelling. Back home I have a dog called Miko and a cat called Tibbs, both of whom are very mischievous.  

Why did you decide to become an intern?: Pursuing a degree in Politics & International Relations has enabled me to study the world in a lot more depth than I previoiusly have at any point in my life, since the suffering of those elsewhere in the world due to poverty is often a main topic of discussion in both lectures and seminars. Because of this, I have developed a strong interest in the work of non-profit organizations in general, as well as in the deeper social and economic issues at play throughout the communities in need of such assistance. Having been brought up in the UK with access to good health care and education, I feel somewhat obliged to do what I can to help people without similar access to such services. After all, no one chooses to be born into poverty. An internship at MEDLIFE is, therefore, the perfect opportunity to do something worthwhile for the impoverished communities here in Peru whilst also gaining valuable experience in a field I may well want to pursue a career in, upon graduating from university.

What was your first impression of Lima?: Strange, chaotic and exciting are all words that immediately spring to mind. The crazy taxi ride to the intern house from the airport in Lima was an experience I will never forget. I remember feeling a real sense of adventure, a feeling I hadn't had since setting off to travel around South East Asia back in January 2014. So far, the Peruvian people have been very friendly, the food has been great and the weather has not too bad either!

What are your goals for this internship?: To combine the knowledge and skills I have gained throughout my university studies with the experience I have in Film & Photography to raise awareness of the MEDLIFE mission and to benefit the communities that MEDLIFE is here to help. I can only hope that the photos and videos I'll create during my time here will truly represent the values of the organization, hopefully inspire other interns to get involved, help MEDLIFE to further expand and continue to help the communities that need it the most.

supporters14Name: Sarah Bridge
Hometown: Oxford
School: University of Bath
Major: Modern Languages (Spanish and Italian) with ‘minors’ in Politics, Literature and History.

How I got involved with MEDLIFE?: As a languages student I am forced to spend a year of my uni course living abroad, experiencing the culture and eating the food of the countries that speak the languages I am learning- it’s a tough life.  I found out about MEDLIFE as I knew I wanted to do something to do with media in South America and was also keen to get the opportunity to work with an NGO.  MEDLIFE fitted in suspiciously well with all that I wanted to do and so I immediately applied for the position of journalism intern and was ecstatic when I was told I’d got it!

Tell us a little bit about yourself: As one of 3 Brits living in the MEDLIFE house at the moment I have been keen to keep up the stereotype by drinking copious amounts of tea, not understanding people when they talk about their ‘schools’, ‘elevators’ and ‘cilantro’ and speaking with a weird accent.  My experience in Lima so far has been different to any experience I have had before but I am loving every minute.

Why did you decide to become an intern?: The description of the Media internships here sounded almost too good to be true and for some reason I have been surprised to find out that the actual job is even better than what was described.  It is amazing to be able to do something that I enjoy so much and that enables me to learn so much and still holds benefit for the community I am working with!

What was your first impression of Lima?: Loud and very crazy.  The bus system here has got to be my favorite part of the city as despite being completely mental, it somehow makes more sense than the ‘well thought out’ British system.  I am also in love with the food here and have ended up having the menu of the day from a local restaurant almost every lunch time.  It becomes worryingly easy to justify this kind of extravagance by thinking 11 soles is only 3 dollars which is only 2 pounds...

What are your goals for this internship?: The dream would be to become so fluent in Spanish and Peruvian culture that I get mistaken for a native by the end of my time here.  However, I have been told that my blond hair may give me away so instead it looks like I am just going to have to settle for the ability to ride the buses like a local.  

June 7, 2016 2:09 PM

Meet the Interns Summer 2016 part 1

Written by Rosali Vela


Name: Alexa Friedman
Hometown: Cortlandt Manor, New York
School: University of Connecticut, Storrs, CT ; University of Connecticut School of Medicine Farmington, CT.
Major: Human Health Sciences, B.S with minors in Human Rights and Biological Sciences; Masters of Public Health

How I got involved with MEDLIFE: I first took interest in my school's chapter and became interested in attending one of the clinics. After many of my fellow students attended a clinic, I heard that they hired interns. After some research, I realized this internship opportunity was the perfect chance to combine my interests in human health, science and human rights in a unique way. I am so thankful to be given the chance to work with such a unique organization and such good people.

Tell us a little bit about yourself: My goals long term are to work in the field of public health to improve the access and quality of health care worldwide. I believe that health should be a human right, and plan to work towards that in the years to come. My hope one day is that everyone has the equal opportunity to have good health. Other than that, I love to read, eat food and hang out with my family and two amazing dogs.

Why did you decide to become an intern?: I decided to become an intern because with such a different and growing non-profit organization like MEDLIFE, I knew that my voice and opinions would be able to be heard. Because of this, I knew that I could actually make a difference in the community. Also, I wanted the chance to grow and experience first hand the work in the public health field. I strongly believe in MEDLIFE's mission to improve quality of life through medicine, education and development and hope to be a part of their success.

What was your first impression of Lima?: My first impression of Lima was that the driving here is insane, and, I don't think that this will ever seize to amaze me. But Lima is a wonderful, huge and diverse city full of culture and liveness. I was amazed at how modern and metropolitan the city really was.

What are your goals for this internship?: My goal is to be able to expand my knowledge and perspective on global health, access to health care and quality of health care delivery. Additionally, I hope to leave Peru and MEDLIFE with something that will continue to enhance the experience of those who attend the clinics, both for volunteers and patients.


Name: Alex Hatke
Hometown: Cincinnati, OH
School: The Ohio State University
Major: Environmental Public Health

How I got involved with MEDLIFE: One of the first friends I made when heading off to college was a member of the Executive Board who heard me explaining how I wanted to get involved abroad and participate in some sort of medical mission trip. He then told me about a Mobile Clinic trip to Lima that was leaving right after my first semester. Without much persuasion I signed up for a trip and came to Peru without knowing much about what MEDLIFE was really about or what kind of reality many people around the world are dealing with every day. The trip really opened my eyes and started me down a path of both pursuing Public Health as well as wanting to become more involved with MEDLIFE.

Tell us a little bit about yourself: I was actually born in South Korea but was adopted and raised from a young age in Cincinnati. While I wouldn’t consider myself a die hard Cincinnatian like some of the other citizens, I definitely miss having Skyline and the personality of my city and its inhabitants. I’ve always loved traveling and trying new things, even if it means I have to put myself out there and get a little uncomfortable. I like to try new things and I believe everyone should be open minded about new experiences, because it’s entirely possible to fall in love with it, but also because shared experiences and education helps break down cultural barriers and build international relationships.

Why did you decide to become an intern?: Immediately after my first mobile Clinic, I knew I wanted to not only go back, but to really spend sometime abroad and learn the area, as well as have a bigger impact. One week is only a taste of what is possible with some hard work and a solid team, and I really wanted to be a part of the effort in the area and get hands on with the communities as well as being a major player in the behind the scenes work in the offices.

What was your first impression of Lima?: It seems each time I come to Lima I arrive very tired and on little sleep, so I’m always surprised by how loud and bright everything is. It’s very possible I’m just tired and grumpy, however people are much more willing to honk around here as it isn’t quite as much of an offensive action as it is just a passive gesture between drivers.

What are your goals for this internship?: For me, I really want to grow into this position. It’s my chance to get a taste of more real and practical work and gain some experience. I totally want to work on my Spanish while here and I definitely plan on acting like a local and eating some interesting cuisine. I also want to do my best to essentially bear witness to everything, soak up the feeling of something that’s very public health oriented, while also taking this chance to really see the realities that people face and beginning to ask what we can do to help these people. I really hope to take away some big ideas from this and one of my biggest desires is to be able to apply even some of this knowledge and improve upon, while also spreading some awareness in the meantime.


Name: Tatiana Gerena
Hometown: Miami, FL
School: University of Florida- Go Gators!
Major: Chemistry

How I got involved with MEDLIFE: I was originally studying to be an engineer before deciding to make the switch to medicine. My brother, Roly, who was an intern last summer and an active member of the MEDLIFE chapter at FSU, encouraged me to become a part of the chapter at my school.

Tell us a little bit about yourself: I’m starting my junior year this coming fall. Even though I am a chemistry major, I love my nutrition and sociology classes. I love to dance to almost any kind of music and signed up to take an African dancing class in the fall and just became a part of the belly dancing club in my school. If I’m not studying for an upcoming chem exam, you can find me eating (I love sweets), reading, or ‘netflixing’. I have three spirit animals: turtle, lemur, and honey badger and I love, love, love to travel and see new beautiful places and meet all kinds of people J

Why did you decide to become an intern?: I heard about the internship through my older brother and decided to look into it. On my trip to Ecuador it was mentioned to me again, and I was pretty much sold already. I decided to become an intern because I share MEDLIFE’s mission and vision. As a volunteer I learned so much about the conditions in South America and all the help we can provide, and knew that as an intern I could do so much more. Not only can I, myself, make a difference but I can help others do the same.

What was your first impression of Lima?: My first impression of Lima was definitely that they had a very busy airport. But in terms of the rest of the city, I think Lima is beautiful! It’s so full of life and always moving. I have been to several different places in Central and South America and, to me, it’s so impressive how each region can have its own personality and its own story. I’m not too familiar with the area yet, but I look forward to discovering all that it has to offer and leave my mark on this city.

What are your goals for this internship?: My goals for this internship manifest on personal and professional levels. Personally, I want to grow as a person in my ideas and goals for the future. When I finish studying, I hope to be a doctor and I hope that this internship will further help me realize that I am on the right path and that I’m doing something that I love. I also hope to meet new people, in the other interns and MEDLIFE staff as well as locals, and hopefully make friends for life.

At this end of this internship I hope to gain skills that will benefit me professionally, such as public speaking skills and just getting used to working in an office setting. Finally, I hope to bring back knowledge to my chapter at the University of Florida and further develop it. It’s a relatively new chapter so I hope to contribute a lot of what I learn here.

supporters8Name: Georgina Mezher
Hometown: Hatfield, PA
School: University of Delaware
Major: Applied Nutrition; Public Health and Health and Wellness minors

How I got involved with MEDLIFE: I heard about MEDLIFE through a mutual friend who had previously gone on a trip to Lima. I did not know my school had a chapter at that time and so my friend and I decided to attend a mobile clinic trip to Lima on our own the summer after my Freshman year. I left Lima with the best impression of MEDLIFE and what we stood for, which is why I wanted to attend another trip. The following summer I convinced my best friend from home to accompany me on a mobile clinic trip to Cusco. I applied for the executive board at my school and became the secretary. To continue my involvement with MEDLIFE, I looked into the internship; I would have never imagined living in Lima for a whole summer just because of going on that first mobile clinic trip. 

Tell us a little bit about yourself: I was born in Brooklyn, NY but raised in the suburbs of Philadelphia. My parents are from Venezuela, which is how I learned how to speak Spanish fluently. I went to a small private high school, which is what interested me in attending a larger university. Delaware seemed like the best fit because of its size and one hour distance from home. I became very involved with service in college as I joined the MEDLIFE club at my school and joined a co-ed service fraternity where I made most of my friendships. I would definitely consider myself as someone who loves to serve.

Why did you decide to become an intern?: Being on the MEDLIFE executive board at my school just did not seem like enough. I wanted to do something different, and I would consider MEDLIFE not your typical internship. I wanted this internship to allow me to explore career paths in the future and also assist me in bringing new ideas to the chapter at Delaware.

What was your first impression of Lima?: My first impression of Lima was how beautiful the country is despite the poverty. It seemed like some areas have wealthy looking homes while others barely have a standing wall. You can see the division between both sides, where tourism is a significant factor in the city. 

What are your goals for this internship?: From this internship I hope to gain experience and independence. Living in a country 3500 miles away from home for the summer is not easy, and I want this internship to allow me to grow as a person. I want to take advantage of my time here and learn as much as possible so that I have more to bring back to the states. I also want to learn more about MEDLIFE so that I can find better ways to explain the organization to people at home.  


Name: Kevin de Wit
Hometown: Holambra, SP, Brazil
School: Leiden University College, Leiden University
Major: Governance, Economics and Development

How I got involved with MEDLIFE?: Summer Internship 2016 and starting a MEDLIFE chapter at my University.

Tell us a little bit about yourself: I was born in Brazil and have lived in a couple of countries ever since. I am now studying in the Netherlands in a small liberal arts and sciences college (Leiden University College), and I guess I have come to realize that travelling, living challenges and learning through them are the fundamental parts that made me who I am today. I really enjoy volunteering and helping people (hence, I am here), as through these activities I feel incredibly rewarded and content. I have set up a couple of different projects, such as an Interact, Peace Jam group at my high school, a youth forum at the British Library and now a MEDLIFE student chapter at my University; developing new projects thrills me. As you can probably tell, I get very involved with a variety of different things, but I always try to make time for friends, as well as volleyball, theatre and, as of recent, dance. These creative and physical activities always give me the energy I need to tackle whatever is to come ahead.

Why did you decide to become an intern?: I was seeking an opportunity to work at an NGO over the summer and was considering an opportunity in South America. After some time spent researching (namely on google) I found an article mentioning MEDLIFE, praising its work, and that triggered my curiosity. I went through the website and the information that was available to me at the time. MEDLIFE struck me as a unique and transparent organization; I knew that MEDLIFE was not only concerned about helping people, but doing so in ways that were significant and meaningful to the respective families (identifying and cooperating with the local community's issues). I decided to become an intern because I respected this and wanted to engage and become a meaningful part of MEDLIFE's activities during the summer.

What was your first impression of Lima?: A deceptive paradox exists in Lima during "winter": The skies are grey and the environment is urban and fast paced as any big city usually is, but there is an energy and resilience that reminds me so much of Brazil. This "paradox" however was easily explained the instance I spoke to some of the people who lived here and the Peruvian I met in the plane on my way here. The people have energy, charm; they are incredibly approachable in a very "South American way". I feel, perhaps not so surprisingly, at home; very much the same way I would feel in Brazil. I guess if I were to sum up my first impression of Lima I would say that it is a city that resembles a home; no home is perfect but it is always surprising to catch yourself growing more at ease and content to be there.

What are your goals for this internship?: My goal for this internship is to develop conections. MEDLIFE is an organization that I got to know while searching for opportunities at different NGO's as it stood out and striked me as having a conscientious and reflective approach; it has the exact approach that I wanted. Therefore, my goal is to get to know MEDLIFE even better, its dynamics, how it operates, and then hopefully bring this back home in order to develop a chapter and a link that I think will be valuable for my University and myself. Furthermore, I know that in my life I want to seek different opportunities and ways to help people, and I want to assess whether working long-term at an NGO is the right thing for me. 

supporters13Name: Ian McHale
Hometown: Hamilton, New Jersey
School: University of Vermont
Major: Biology and Community and International Development Minor

How I got involved with MEDLIFE?: I first got involved with MEDLIFE at the University of Vermont by joining our local chapter during my Freshman year. I went on my first brigade the summer of my freshman year to Cusco, Peru which was absolutely life changing. My Sophomore year I became Vice President and Brigades Officer for our chapter since I wanted everyone to be able to experience volunteering with MEDLIFE. The summer of my Sophomore year I then went on my second brigade to Esmeraldas, Ecuador and that is how I heard about this internship! The following year, my Junior year I became the President of our chapter at UVM and I am now a Volunteer Affairs Intern!!!

Tell us a little bit about yourself?: So my name is Ian and I go to the University of Vermont! I absolutely love it at UVM, from the picturesque campus to great group of friends I’ve made. I am a DREAM mentor for my two awesome mentees Keshon and Kiki, I volunteer at the University of Vermont Medical Center on the pediatric floor, I am the president of MEDVIDA, our local chapter of MEDLIFE, and I am a member of the UVM Triathlon club. I love being outdoors hiking, snowboarding, and camping and I am always doing something weird and spontaneous. I am excited to be a MEDLIFE Volunteer Affairs Intern and to live in Lima for the summer!

Why did you decide to become an intern?: I have decided to become an intern because I have been very involved with MEDLIFE for my past three years at the University of Vermont and being an integral part of our local chapter has helped me gain a great appreciation for MEDLIFE and the work MEDLIFE does. I support MEDLIFE and want to volunteer for MEDLIFE because I’m passionate about and support organizations that have similar missions and values as myself. This internship will allow me to achieve a better understanding of community development in the real world and gain clinical experience while working on mobile clinics.

What was your first impression of Lima?: My first impression of lima was WOW! When I got picked up from the airport, on the way to our apartment I couldn’t stop looking out the window at the city! I can’t wait to explore it over my time as a Volunteer Affairs Intern.

What are your goals for this internship?: My goal for this internship is to connect my Biology major and Community and International Development minor through helping with the planning and implementation of sustainable community development projects that help bring medical access to vulnerable communities. 


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