September 12, 2017 10:55 AM

Meet the Patient: Caroline (Moshi, Tanzania)

Written by Rosali Vela

Caroline is a six year old girl from Kilema-Moshi. We met Caroline in May 2017, while a MEDLIFE mobile clinic at her community.

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Caroline is a young and charming girl, who was diagnosed with Chronic Tonsillitis during her visit at the Mobile clinic. Due to her condition, she was then put into our follow-up patient program.

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The first home visit at Caroline’s place was on 11th August 2017 with Dr. Geofrey who is also our clinic doctor. The MEDLIFE team were able to talk to her together with her siblings.  

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The doctor recommended for possible surgery. An appointment at KCMC at ENT Department was made and Caroline was able to see the doctor on 18th August 2017. The doctor commented for a quick surgery as the tonsils were too big and give her discomfort especially at night. A second appointment was made on 21st August 2017 for admission, but it wasn’t successful since there were too many patients and our team couldn’t get a bed. They were told to come the following day 22nd August 2017, and finally they found a bed so she was admitted on that day. The next day, 23rd August in the afternoon, she was operated.

“We are happy the operation went so well. Since she didn’t have any complications, she was discharged from the hospital on 24th August.” Neema told us.

Caroline was very happy knowing she will be going back home to meet the rest of her family and be able to go back to school once again.

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What is the MEDLIFE patient follow-up program? When patients are simply referred to local hospitals for treatments many times they still fail to receive the actual treatment they need due to lack of resources, lack of confidence, or lack of a true understanding about their medical problems. For all of these reasons, MEDLIFE has developed a year-round patient follow-up process. We support our patients in many ways. We provide financial resources for treatments, emotional support, nutritional assistance for malnourished families, and educational resources to help individuals better understand their conditions.

Five months ago Peru was hit with historic rains, resulting in flash floods and mudslides known as "huaicos". The destruction of essential infrastructure such as bridges and homes severely damaged the communities we partner with. Support and donations from our global network of MEDLIFE Chapters and volunteers allowed us to begin immediate aid in the form of water, clothing and medical care when the disaster hit. During initial efforts to provide relief, MEDLIFE met a concerned mother from a local school, Colegio Inmaculada in Naña, who informed us that the school was lacking a hygienic kitchen and cafeteria, known here as a comedor, to provide food to students.

Through MINSA, a branch of the Peruvian government involved with health initiatives, nutritious and balanced meals for students in low-income communities can be provided through a program called Qali Warma (translating to “Healthy Child” in Quechua). In order to qualify for the Qali Warma program, schools must first have a clean, safe facility that maintains proper sanitation codes to house their comedor. Colegio Inmaculada currently uses a storage space as their kitchen, which is both unsafe and unsanitary, immediately excluding the school from qualification. Without a functioning comedor, the government will not fund the Qali Warma program, resulting in underserved students at greater risk of losing access to nutritious meals.

With the continued dedication and donations from our MEDLIFE volunteer base, we are in the early stages of building a new comedor with the local community. This project will ensure the Qali Warma program is able to benefit over 160 students with nutritious meals at school, thus cultivating healthy, positive outcomes. From the community of Naña and all of us at headquarters, we want to thank all our MEDLIFE supporters for making this project possible!

IMG 3912Instead of a hygienic space, this storage room is currently being used as a kitchen.

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On July 20th and 21st, MEDLIFE hosted its first mobile clinic at the Santa Monica Women's Penitentiary in Lima, Peru. We returned last week to host both an educational workshop and to provide follow up care to the patients.

MEDLIFE delivered pap smear results and provided treatment and medication, including ultrasounds where necessary, to the 120 women that we saw in July.

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IMG 0001A patient undergoing ultrasound.

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IMG 0017MEDLIFE also made a donation of powdered milk to the penitentiaries nursery.

Five months ago, Peru was hit with historic rains, flash floods and mudslides, known here as huaycos. During our initial efforts to provide relief, MEDLIFE met a mother from a local school, Colegio Inmaculada in Naña. She informed MEDLIFE that the school was lacking a proper sanitary area for the children to eat, also known as a comedor. Without this comedor, the school is at risk of losing access to the government program Qali Warma (Healthy Child in Quechua), which provides free meals to students in low-income communities.
MEDLIFE is in the early stages of building a new comedor with the community. This project will ensure the continuation of the Qali Warma program, providing 160 students with nutritious food at school.

IMG 3363MEDLIFE staff and interns with community members on the ground where the new comedor will be built.

IMG 3357Colegio Inmaculada.

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IMG 3253MEDLIFE recently held a community meeting with teachers and parents from the school regarding the construction of the new comedor.

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IMG 3385MEDLIFE also brought along a donation of toothbrushes for the students of the school.

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Last Friday the MEDLIFE summer interns joined the community members of Union de Santa Fe to inaugurate the completion of a new staircase. Not only will this provide safe and secure access to several homes but is the main point of access to the newly constructed second floor of the Wawa Wasi.

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Thank you to all the 2017 summer interns for the help on this project and all your work over the last three months. 

IMG 3052The summer interns delivering plants to decorate the area around the new staircase.

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IMG 3137The traditional MEDLIFE red paint adds some color to the new staircase.

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IMG 3445Balloons are a vital part of any MEDLIFE inauguration here in Lima and with the addition of a heart the finishing touches are compete.

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IMG 3673MEDLIFE staff and the 2017 summer interns at the base of the completed staircase.

 

1) MEDLIFE Values Volunteers

Over 3 billion people, more than half of the world's population, live on less than $2.50 a day. While statistics like this may seem bleak, they are not impossible to overcome. Poverty is a systematic issue that exists everywhere and is a cycle which MEDLIFE aims to break. The work we do would be impossible without the help of volunteers. In addition to providing helping hands during mobile clinics and development projects, many MEDLIFE volunteers fundraise year-round to help fund future development projects! 

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2) MEDLIFE Breaks down Barriers

If you are motivated and willing to dedicate your time and resources to helping others, then who are we to put barriers in your way? Our goal is to put you on the frontline of volunteering globally. There are no restrictions to join a MEDLIFE Mobile Clinic or any of our other Volunteer Trips. The steps are simple: find us online, sign up, and you are on your way to being part of the MEDLIFE mission! We want to make it as easy as possible for you to help change the lives of our patients and better their communities!

3) MEDLIFE Connects with Communities

MEDLIFE is more than a one and done organization. Our mission goes far beyond what happens during a mobile clinic. There is a team of local staff at each MEDLIFE location who work directly with communities to form a lasting connection and help in a sustainable way. These local MEDLIFE teams hold night meetings with community members to discuss future development projects as well as educational workshops to prepare communities prior to mobile clinics. These workshops cover a wide range of topics surrounding preventative health education including, to name just one example,  workshops focused on women's health which encourage female community members to visit the OBGYN station during clinic. 

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4) MEDLIFE Employs Ethics 

Would you allow a first year medical student to perform a procedure on you or someone you care about? Of course you wouldn't. Why shouldn't the same standards apply to those experiencing poverty? Many NGOs allow uncertified participants to perform actual procedures on the poor, with no regards to ethics. There is no reason a person living in a low-income area does not deserve the same care and respect as a patient in a more developed country. We allow participants to shadow doctors and assist while learning, but they are never allowed to perform any procedure they wouldn't be able to do in their home countries. Our patients deserve the utmost regardless of their economic situation or living conditions, and MEDLIFE ensures they will receive it. 

5) MEDLIFE Emphasizes Education

Our education efforts are not only directed at empowering the communities we serve through educational preventative health workshops. At MEDLIFE we also believe that, to combat poverty, you must be informed, and, for that reason, we place a huge emphasis on the education of our volunteers as well. Each service-learning trip begins with a reality tour of the city through which students can gain a better understanding of the factors influencing poverty in the area. Additionally, volunteers are expected to participate in group discussions with MEDLIFE staff following clinic days for an even more profound understanding of the cycle of poverty, the MEDLIFE difference, and other important topics. 

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6)  MEDLIFE Hires Heroes

They may not wear capes, but the professionals that wear MEDLIFE t-shirts are as much of heroes as anyone you'd see on the pages of a comic. During your week volunteering abroad, you will work with the extremely committed local MEDLIFE staff. These staff members have been working to serve the poor even before they were involved with MEDLIFE. Our directors wear hiking boots to work, and their offices are the communities we work in. People like Martha Chicaiza and Carlos Benavides inspire us all to go to greater lengths to serve the poor.  There's a reason MEDLIFE hires local professionals like Carlos and Martha to be in charge. We believe in the wisdom of Peruvians fighting to help the poor of Peru. We believe in strong Ecuadorian women leading the fight for better health in the poorest communities of Ecuador. The MEDLIFE staff is an entire team of heroes who fight tirelessly to break the cycle of poverty. 

7) The MEDFund fuels future development

All public donations and funds raised by MEDLIFE chapters go towards the MEDLIFE Project Fund. 100% of donations are used in the construction of community development projects like staircases, schools, and safe homes. These projects promote access to basic necessities and skills enabling poor individuals and families to free themselves from the constraints of poverty and promoting better health, education, and personal development.

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8) MEDLIFE Facilitates Follow-Up Care

Follow-up patient care is very often neglected by the majority of NGO volunteer brigades. This is one of the major tenants of the MEDLIFE difference. Often times, a medical issue can not be resolved with one doctor's visit, especially many of the chronic diseases associated with poverty. MEDLIFE as an extensive patient follow-up care system in place to ensure that our patients do not fall by the wayside. When a patient has been entered into our follow-up program, we are and will be there for them to support them both emotionally and sometimes financially and to see them through treatment until the ailments are resolved.

9) MEDLIFE Supports Sustainability 

MEDLIFE does not simply enter a community, provide a temporary fix to a deeply-rooted problem, and leave. We function on a model of sustainability. There is a team of architects backing every development project to ensure that they are safe and long-lasting. Our field team is expected to regularly check in on past development projects to ensure that they are being properly maintained and utilized. Additionally, community members are directly involved in the creation and implementation of development projects. Our volunteers work side-by-side with community members while building staircases or homes. This ensures a greater sense of responsibility and ownership for those who will benefit. 

10) The MEDLIFE Movement Matters

Over 190 student chapters from universities and high schools in the United States, Canada, Puerto Rico, and more have joined the MEDLIFE Movement. Our chapters are student groups that represent and promote MEDLIFE at their schools and in their local communities. MEDLIFE works 24/7 in the poorest communities from Peru, Ecuador, Nicaragua and Tanzania even when there are no Service Learning Trips. The dedication from these chapters is what allows MEDLIFE to continue to provide sustainable assistance to low-income communities year-round. 

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At MEDLIFE, we strive to empower the poor in their fight for equal access to healthcare, education and a safe home. Join the MEDLIFE movement by signing up for a Service Learning Trip during this upcoming year. Contact us at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it to learn more!

I’m a biology major. My classes involve a lot of walking through the woods, measuring the circumference of trees, and counting bugs. So, you’d be correct to assume that my friends had quite a few questions when I decided to pick up and move 3,199 miles (5148 km for anyone who’s wondering) away for three months to do an internship that consists mostly of taking pictures, writing blogs, and posting on the MEDLIFE facebook page. The answer is pretty simple; I am trying to see the world through a different lens.
 
There is something about being behind the camera which gives you a sort of all-access pass. There is hardly a thing that happens in MEDLIFE that I don’t know about because it’s my job to be there. I’m documenting and capturing MEDLIFE’s day-to-day happenings and spreading the word about what we do. Along the way, I’m learning what it’s like to see the world from another perspective.
 
Because of MEDLIFE, I was able to accompany Mercedes, a mother of six living in Villa Maria Triunfo, and comfort her during her very first trip to the doctor’s office in Lima. I had the opportunity within the walls of Santa Monica Women’s Penitentiary to document the first in a series of mobile clinics that will be held there.  I got to interview Carmen Narvaez, one of the MEDLIFE nurses, and learned that she has been a champion of women’s rights for basically her entire professional career. I was given the personal honor of inaugurating MEDLIFE’s first water pump project in the community of 15C, which will prevent community members from having to carry heavy buckets up incredibly steep hills just to have fresh water. In just three months, I’ve done all this, shot multiple service learning trips, conducted multiple interviews in both Spanish and English, and even been to the desert twice to snap a few photos of the volunteers sandboarding. Yet somehow, there is still more to be done! 
 
In MEDLIFE, there are so many stories that need to be heard, and I’ve spent this summer trying to be the one to tell them. In doing so, my eyes have been opened to the realities of poverty, structural violence, and so much more. I’m leaving Lima as not only a better photographer, but a better person, global citizen, and future health professional. 
 
I can’t write paragraph upon paragraph about photography and not include any pictures, so I’ll end this with some of my favorite moments from the summer. 
 
Two volunteers pose in front of a newly painted MEDLIFE sign in Bella Vista. Taken during my first mobile clinic of the summer.Two volunteers pose in front of a newly painted MEDLIFE sign in Bella Vista. Taken during my first mobile clinic of the summer.
Catalina, a follow-up patient originally from Cusco, poses with one of two brand-new pairs of glasses delivered during a follow-up visit.Catalina, a follow-up patient originally from Cusco, poses with one of two brand-new pairs of glasses delivered during a follow-up visit.
One of the high school volunteers climbs sand dunes during the day trip to Ica.One of the high school volunteers climbs sand dunes during the day trip to Ica.
A group of friends chat during clinic while their parents are attended to by MEDLIFE doctors.A group of friends chat during clinic while their parents are attended to by MEDLIFE doctors.
A little boy gives his full attention during a community education session on women's health.A little boy gives his full attention during a community education session on women's health.
Community members from 15C work on decorating the newly completed staircase before inauguration.Community members from 15C work on decorating the newly completed staircase before inauguration.
Aidan Wells is the co-president of MEDLIFE at the University of Georgia and the 2017 summer communications intern. 
“Why are you helping abroad and not back at home?” 
 
This question haunted me throughout the summer, but I knew it would follow me the rest of my life since I have a desire to live and work in another country after graduation. It was hard for me to answer, but interning with MEDLIFE for a summer helped me find clarity.
 
I devoted three months of my life to uncertainty. I had never been away from home this long, never been to Lima, Peru, and never met the thirteen other interns I would be living and working with. It was definitely scary, but it's through these moments of uncertainty that I learned more about who I am and about the needs of the world, specifically Peru.
 
14 12 2620Brandy, along with several of the other 2017 summer interns, work with community members in Unión de Santa Fe to fill in the roof of the MEDLIFE WawaWasi.
 
I remember the first time I went on a reality tour, an educational walk through underdeveloped areas in which MEDLIFE works, and how I felt completely overwhelmed by how much needed to be done. There were an endless number of houses that lacked proper access to water, electricity, and sanitation. Overall, things were just unsafe, with the electrical wires hanging, waste alongside the street, and  unpaved roads. There was a moment when I thought to myself, “this is too much”. It would have been easy just to leave then and there, but I found too much significance and value in the work that MEDLIFE does. It is really easy to feel discouraged; however, I know that the effort we put forth really benefits the communities. It changes the life of a family, of a person. For example, the staircases we built will not only provide a safe pathway, they will also allow community members to apply for a land titles which will essentially give them easier access to food, education, health services, work, and other basic necessities. 
 
14 12 9887The Wall of Shame: a wall that separates Pamplona and the richest neighborhoods in lima as well as a stop on the MEDLIFE reality tour.
 
Staircases are only one example of the numerous projects we completed this summer. I also had the incredible opportunity to participate in several mobile clinics. One that was particularly impactful was MEDLIFE’s first clinic in the Lima women’s penitentiary. We performed pap smears and gynecological consultations. What's most astonishing to me is that MEDLIFE created this opportunity from scratch. Obviously, the women inside the prison had no way of attending a MEDLIFE mobile clinic on their own, so MEDLIFE took action and sought them out. 
 
14 12 0381Women of the Santa Monica Penitentiary in Lima attend an education session on cervical cancer hosted by MEDLIFE staff.
 
So why serve communities internationally rather than domestically? Because a person is a person. I am not diminishing the necessity of helping people those in need at home. Help is needed everywhere, and no one person is more valuable than another. If a plane ticket is necessary, I will take the initiative and go. I am not going back to “the real world” when I return home; I'm returning having experienced another part of the real world. Now, I can continue to assist people who are only a walking distance away from me. The most exciting part is knowing that the knowledge and insight I have gained through my experience in Lima will be shared wherever I go, even my own community back in Sweet Home Alabama.
 
Sometimes we do not take the first steps because we are overwhelmed, intimidated, and think our goals are unachievable before we even start. I desperately want each person to live a better life, and I needed to remind myself that small steps are essential to a larger movement.
 
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Brandy studies Marketing and Spanish at the University of Alabama and plans to start a MEDLIFE chapter when she returns. 
MEDLIFE recently held its second annual Leadership Corps, a two-week service learning trip that is open to Chapter Leaders and Student Advisory Board (SAB) members. This year, eight student leaders were joined by MEDLIFE staff, including CEO Dr. Nick Ellis, in Ecuador and Peru to learn in-depth about MEDLIFE’s work and future goals, as well as global health and development issues such as structural violence, education, urban development, public health and international aid. 
 
MEDLIFE Staff, including CEO Dr. Nick Ellis, and the 2017 Leadership Corps participants in Llillia, Ecuador.MEDLIFE Staff, including CEO Dr. Nick Ellis, and the 2017 Leadership Corps participants in Llillia, Ecuador.
 
It was an action-packed two weeks that included a hike to Llilla, the first community MEDLIFE ever worked with back in 2004, where both students and staff spent a somewhat chilly night camping at 3,800m and ran a mobile clinic the next day. Other activities involved visiting the hospital and daycare center belonging to Fundación Tierra Nueva in Quito, attending a night meeting in Lima with over 300 community members, learning about Peru’s recent history at the LUM, working on a development project, and dropping by the MEDLIFE Wawa Wasi in Union Santa Fe.
 
We’d like to thank this year’s participants: Carolann McNicoll (McGill University), Karolina Weglinska (McGill University), Erika Ortiz (University of Puerto Rico, Aguadilla), Matthew Holmes (Rowan University), Heena Patel (Rowan University), Jason Hong (Richard Montgomery High School), Hailee Peterson (University of North Dakota) and Fouad Berry (University of Michigan, Dearborn)
 
Check out the video below to see more footage from the 2017 Leadership Corps! 
 

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