August 24, 2016 3:15 pm

Meet the Year-long Interns 2016-2017 I

Written by Rosali Vela

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Name: Allie Krugman
Hometown: Newport Beach, CA
School: Claremont McKenna College
Major: International Relations with Human Rights Sequence 

How I got involved with MEDLIFE: I first learned of MEDLIFE from a high school friend who worked as a year-long intern.  After researching the organization's mission and work online, I decided that I wanted to become involved.

Tell us a little bit about yourself: I have lived most of my life in sunny Southern California, close to the beach and fresh ahi poke. I graduated in 2015 from Claremont McKenna College and have since been working in Los Angeles at an HIV/AIDS non-profit. After MEDLIFE, I hope to venture out of California by attending graduate school for public health on the East Coast!  I enjoy having an active lifestyle: I pole-vaulted competitively for nine years, rock-climb both indoors and outdoors, and hope to become a better salsa dancer.  I also like to read and eat sushi.  I love meeting new people as well as growing my perspective with new ideas and experiences.

Why did you decide to become an intern?: During my junior year of college, I spent a semester abroad in Valparaíso, Chile, where I studied social justice and community development with the SIT program.  I fell in love with Chile: I found a close friend in my host sister, was enchanted by the bohemian and colorful city, and was drawn to the country's legacy of social movements and youth activism. The following summer, I completed an internship in Córdoba, Argentina, where I taught sexual health workshops to a group of young girls.  Through my experiences in Latin America as well as my undergraduate studies in International Relations, I became interested in identifying the political, economic, and social structures that give rise to health inequalities worldwide.  After I graduated, I sought work experience that would develop my interest in the intersection of health and human rights, as well as provide me with insight into field of public health from the perspective of a non-profit organization. The MEDLIFE internship was the perfect opportunity to gain insight into the real issues faced by low-income communities and analyze the steps taken to address them.

What was your first impression of Lima?: Lima is a large and vibrant Latin American city, bustling with people and very loose traffic laws.  We were quickly exposed to Lima's high socioeconomic inequality, demonstrated by the stark contrast between our environmentally-friendly San Borja and the expanse of shantytowns in Pamplona Alta, where residents lack access to water and stable infrastructure.

What are your goals for this internship?: Through the internship at MEDLIFE, I hope to gain a valuable on-the-ground perspective on poverty and the realities of working in the field of human rights.  I hope my work with MEDLIFE will have a measurable impact for the low-income communities of Lima. I also hope to take initiative through an independent project that will be helpful to MEDLIFE.


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Name: Tory Finley 
Hometown: Jacksonville, Florida
School: Florida State Univeristy- Go Noles!
Major: Spanish and Italian 

How I got involved with MEDLIFE: I discovered MEDLIFE during my freshman year at FSU. While I majored in languages, my goal was actually to use my skills as a linguist and my knowledge of different cultures to work with Hispanic populations as a physician. I saw a flyer advertising our campus chapter's trip to Esmeraldas, Ecuador, and saw the perfect opportunity to work towards that dream. Best decision I ever made.

Tell us a little bit about yourself: I'm a Navy brat, so I was basically born to be a traveler. From a very young age, my parents taught me to love and appreciate different languages and cultures, and that has led me to where I am today. I've ridden an elephant, been to almost every country in Europe, and my family once lived in Sicily, Italy, for three years! As a result, I am fluent in Italian (so don't take me to Olive Garden, unless you want me to correct the menu). I have worked with Hispanic migrant populations in Florida for the past two years, and loved every second. I am currently applying to medical school, and hope to be able to return and serve those same communities as a physician. I am incredibly passionate about culturally competent medicine, and I'm so excited to see where that passion takes me next! Fun facts: I almost majored in musical theater, I LOVE chocolate, and I once wore a Harry Potter uniform to school for a solid year (and am still very proud of it).

Why did you decide to become an intern?: My first mobile clinic experience really changed my view of the world, as well as my academic path. I chose my language major thinking "Oh, it will be useful to also speak Spanish as a doctor, given the rising Hispanic population in the U.S." When I left Ecuador, though, that major took on a whole new dimension. I threw myself into Hispanic cultural studies, and began pursuing classes in sociology, eager to try and understand where the problems I observed during my time in Esmeraldas had originated. MEDLIFE gave me a whole new way to approach medicine, and inspired me to try to change the world around me for the better. I had a gap year before medical school, and realized that there was nothing I would rather do than return to South America and work for the organization that inspired my path...and here I am!

What was your first impression of Lima?: My first thought was literally: "Oh, thank goodness, the Florida heat is gone." Seriously, though, it was crazy how different the weather was. I went from constant sun and ridiculous heat and humidity to cool temperatures and pretty regular cloud cover. The way people drive in Lima, however, is so much like the crazy bustle of Italian roadways that it felt just like home.

What are your goals for this internship?: I am excited to improve my Spanish even more, and I want to leave this internship with a deeper understanding of sociological and infrastructural factors that play into poverty, and how these trickle down to affect underserved populations' health. I plan on taking the knowledge I gain here and applying it to migrant healthcare in the U.S.--while I love Peru, and I love MEDLIFE, there are many communities of underserved individuals back home, and I am determined to improve their experience and get them the help they so desperately need.


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Name: Emily Gardner 
Hometown: Southlake, TX (near Dallas)
School: Vanderbilt University 2015
Major: Biology and Spanish, Art History minor

How I got involved with MEDLIFE: My dear friend from another volunteer trip found out about MEDLIFE and decided to start a chapter at Vanderbilt. She popped the question (asked me to be her Vice President) and of course I said yes! I subsequently went on a mobile clinic to Cuzco during the summer before my junior year and also was an SAB member. I was the Co-President during my senior year and went on another amazing mobile clinic to Esmeraldas before graduation.

Tell us a little bit about yourself: I was born and raised in Texas and come from an ample family of seven younger brothers, two parents, and a dog. After college I served for a year with AmeriCorps in San Francisco at a community clinic acting primarily as a health coach for overweight pediatric patients and their families. I love dance of all styles, starting books and not finishing them, cult classic films, attempting to meditate, meeting new people, and volunteering. I identify as a pathological extrovert and live to eat rather than eat to live. As for my life goals, I hope to eventually become a primary care Pediatrician, serve with the Peace Corps, work with Doctors Without Borders, and maybe teach dance classes.

Why did you decide to become an intern?: Since I devoted so much time to MEDLIFE in college, I decided that the internship was the natural next step; for me, there is little point to joining an organization if you cannot learn, grow, and deepen your involvement with it. The ability to live abroad is also extremely important to me; I place a lot of value on travel and broadening my global perspective. Most importantly, the experiences that I had on MEDLIFE mobile clinics in college radically changed my view of the world as well as my career path. I whole-heartedly believe that they made me a better and more well-rounded person. If I can help give that experience to even one college student via involvement with my chapters, it will be a successful year for me.

What was your first impression of Lima?: Lima was different than I was expecting! It's a a very large and bustling city, which is great because there are endless resources to tap into and corners of the city to explore. Life never seems to stop here and it's easy to thrive off the collective energy of everyone around you. The weather when you first arrive is a little grey, but I would say it's cozy rather than dreary. From Zumba classes at a nearby park to wonderfully cheap food, there's always something to do.

What are your goals for this internship?: From my year with AmeriCorps, I was able to learn a great deal about domestic health disparities. Through the MEDLIFE Volunteer Affairs Internship, I hope to learn more about the healthcare inequalities that run rampant in Latin America and on an international scale and more importantly, how someone like me can help start closing the gap. It has already become apparent to me that MEDLIFE and the communities we serve have many needs, be it funding for a new staircase, access to clean water, or medications. I hope to be able to foster thoughtful discourse with my chapters in the U.S in order to encourage and inspire them to affect change both locally and globally.


a8Name: Marissa Reinhart
Hometown: Fostoria, Ohio
School: The Ohio State University 
Major: B.S. in Pharmeceutical Studies  

How I got involved with MEDLIFE: I found MEDLIFE by searching for volunteer organizations on campus my freshman year. I attended a few meetings, one of which talked about their next mobile clinic trip to Moshi, Tanzania, and I was hooked. Participating in that mobile clinic was life-changing and led me to participate in this internship.

Tell us a little bit about yourself: I'm a small town girl with big dreams. I hope to work with many people and communities to better others' as well as my own life. I'm also passionate about the environment and love to be outdoors! Traveling and meeting new people from different cultures makes me the happiest.

Why Did You Decide To Become An Intern?  I just graduated in May and wanted to take time off before heading to grad school to travel and practice my Spanish. MEDLIFE was the perfect option for me because it is directly related to the issues I care about most. I love MEDLIFE's model and how they operate as an NGO, so it was a great fit for me!

What was your first impression of Lima?: That it is a huge city with lots of traffic, probably because I got here during rush hour. However, along with a large city comes tons of things to do and explore which I love. Also, food here is amazing!

What are your goals for this internship?: To learn more about how NGOs operate, especially in the scope of public health. I would like to expand my knowledge of the challenges patients and communities face every day and how these challenges became a prominent reality. It is important to me to learn about the infrastructure that leads to major social injustices and how MEDLIFE goes about solving those issues in order to translate those solutions into future experiences.


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Name: Brittany Cook
Hometown: Papilion, Nebraska 
School: University of Nebraska- Lincoln
Major: Biological Sciences 

How I got involved with MEDLIFE: There was not a chapter on my campus my first year at the University. I heard someone talking about a new organization on campus in one of my classes that focused on giving health care to those in need. After asking for more details, I attended a few meetings and joined the organization the following semester. After seeing the impact the mobile clinic had on the members who went that semester, I decided to go the following year. After spending a week in Lima, myself, I had a further understanding of what MEDLIFE stood for. I understood the importance of the efforts made by members on campus who fundraised for the organization to help it grow and help communities in need. I remained an active member of the organization during my last year at the University through fundraising and informing others about MEDLIFE.

Tell us a little bit about yourself: I was born and raised in Nebraska (Go Big Red) and moved with my family to Maryland after graduating in May 2015. I enjoy hiking, coffee/tea, puns, and reading - my favorite books being Harry Potter. I also enjoy traveling, meeting new people, and medical science; I am aspiring to become a doctor and find a career that integrates these interests.

Why did you decide to become an intern?: I first became interested in interning with MEDLIFE after discussing the position with the intern who led my mobile clinic in March 2014. The conversation began as a form of distraction while I passed her heavy buckets of cement to build the staircase but quickly turned into something I saw for my own future. Through her descriptions, I saw the unique way that MEDLIFE cares for those who have limited or no access to healthcare. I wanted to be a part of an organization that sees its patients as unique and deserving individuals and leaves a lasting impact on the surrounding communities.

What was your first impression of Lima?: Being from a suburb in the Midwest, I first saw Lima as slightly overwhelming and confusing. As I explored the city, I was shocked by the vast differences between the districts of the city. Some districts are extravagant while others are lacking in basic needs such as water and electricity. In San Borja, specifically, the varying cultural influences are evident in the shops, buildings, and food selections. The people take pride of their beautiful and vibrant city; the parks are welcoming, the landscaping intricate, and the people welcoming.

What are your goals for this internship?: I want to cultivate an encouraging environment for students who are in MEDLIFE. I hope to support the campus chapters and enable them to grow therefore helping MEDLIFE to expand and reach more communities in need. My goal is to ultimately learn all I can about MEDLIFE and the people we are aiding so that I can spread the knowledge and further develop the organization.


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Name: Kristine Zimmerman
Hometown: Sioux Falls, SD
School: University of Nebraska- Lincoln
Major: Biology/ Pre- Medicine, minor in Gerontology
How I got involved with MEDLIFE:  I got involved with MEDLIFE my junior year in college through the chapter on my campus.  I attended a mobile clinic that spring in Lima, Peru.  This allowed me to see the disparity in health care around the world, and helped me to recognize what I could do to help my own communities back home.

Tell us a little bit about yourself: I grew up in South Dakota, and decided to go to the University of Nebraska- Lincoln for my undergraduate degree (Go Big Red!).  Although Nebraska has fueled my love for football I grew up playing soccer and continue to be an avid Argentina and Barcelona fan.  I am an adrenaline- junkie of sorts and love most sports.  I also love to cook and look forward to experiencing Peruvian cuisine, especially churos!  If I'm not eating, you can usually find me reading, running or watching Grey's Anatomy.

Why did you decide to become an intern?: I have a great respect for the goals and missions of MEDLIFE.  There is a great need to help people around the world, but I believe there is a greater need for people to be empowered.  MEDLIFE goes above and beyond every day to ensure that the people we encounter are treated with respect, dignity and equality.  The deep conections MEDLIFE workers have with members of the communities they help is astonishing and creates pathways for effective medical care, follow-up care and continued community improvements.  MEDLIFE listens to and understands how to attain what the poor need.  They empower these people to work together to achieve their goals, which is exactly the model I wish to use with future patients as a physician.  

What was your first impression of Lima?: Honestly, Lima is completely overwhelming.  Coming from the Midwest, where most places are a small town or have a similar feel, moving to a big city was a lot to take in.  Everyday is a new experience, whether it's seeing a unique place, exploring exotic foods you can't pronounce yet or engaging in cultural activities... I can't wait to see what's all out here!

What are your goals for this internship?: I am dedicated to the things that I'm passionate about, which includes improving public health and conditions for the poor communities here- and a huge goal for me is simply getting more people to be passionate about this as well.  I want to take advantage of the time I have here, working beyond 8-5 and going out into the communities as much as possible to meet the people and understand their struggles in order to further MEDLIFE as an organization.  

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This week we interviewed Mercedes Olave, who has been working with MEDLIFE since May 2016 as a MEDLIFE nurse in Cusco, Peru.

Why did you choose to work for MEDLIFE?

My work has always been to reach populations with most need in my profession, healthcare. That is why I identified with MEDLIFE.

What do you have to do as a MEDLIFE nurse?

I have to coordinate the clinics with the community and community leaders. I have to motivate them to care for their health, work to prevent illness, and organize spaces to hold clinics. I also have to make sure they announce the clinics to their communities. I set up the clinics, work at stations. I also have to coordinate with the medical professionals as well, make sure they have an adequate space, all the equipment is there on time. When clinics have finished, I run the patient follow up program in Cusco.

Can you tell us more about patient followup?

The patients are in rural communities. I have to visit them in their homes. Then it depends on the diagnosis they have. I bring medicine, I see what their situation is. If they need more specialized attention, I coordinate and program care with the hospitals and accompany them to appointments.

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Do you have a particular story that has left an impression on you?

We met a 13 year old girl with a breast tumor. We visited her in her community, coordinated with the family, now we have a surgical intervention scheduled for next week.

Is there anything else you would like to say about your work?

I really identify with MEDLIFE's work. We reach populations with the most need, where the health sector doesn't reach. They are the most isolated populations, not populations in the capital, or in the center of the district. The populations with this need are not large, they are small, they are communities with 30, 40, 50 families. We want to reach these communities bringing medicine and medical attention. Many of these communities aren't even accessible by motorized vehicles. For me, working with MEDLIFE is very interesting. I really like working with the volunteers as well, our foreign friends who come. In truth, they make feel like we should work even more because they do. We have a team of professionals who really care about MEDLIFE's work, and that deliver a high quality of care, and really respect our patients.

August 15, 2016 11:57 am

Child Malnutrition in Ecuador

Written by Jake Kincaid

1Doris Guacho Jaya, 24, with her three daughters. The twins were diagnosed with chronic malnutrition at their 9 month checkup.

When Doris Guacho Haya brought her twin daughters into the local health post to get them their state required vaccines, the doctor told her they were healthy and normal for seven-month old infants. But at 9 months, the doctor delivered some bad news: Doris's twins were falling ill to the same condition that plagues so many other children in the impoverished farming communities of Ecuador's Chimborazo province- malnutrition.

“It's not their fault,” she said, as she stared at her twin girls simultaneously breastfeeding in her arms. She gives her twins breast milk 4 times a day, and sometimes some rice or soup when there is money. But the doctor told her she needed to feed them 5 times a day, not just breast milk, but fruit and meat. She didn't have money for that, the work she had one day a week cleaning houses and doing laundry only brought in about $30 a month. She didn't know how she was going to afford to get them more food. Despite her efforts, her kids hadn't put on weight 6 months later when Doris brought them into a MEDLIFE Mobile Clinic.

In Ecuador the minimum wage is $354 a month, the poverty line is $82 a month, and the extreme poverty line is $46 a month. Making only $30 a month, Doris sits well below all of these markers. Doris lives in a small agrarian community in Chimborazo, located in the heart of the Ecuadorian Andes. Doris's economic situation is not unique here. In Ecuador, 43% of rural people are living in poverty, and 19% are in extreme poverty, as compared to 24% and 8% nationally. The parroquia (a small subdivision within provinces with its own smaller local government) where Doris lives, San Juan, is particularly impoverished, with 84% of residents living below the poverty line.

Ecuador's population is comprised of 38% indigenous peoples, which makes Chimborazo the home of a large portion of Ecuador's indigenous population. This population continues speaking Quetchua, dressing in traditional clothing and living off the land much like they have for centuries.

3People doing field work in an indigenous community in the province of Chimborazo, Ecuador.

Families often have multi-generational roots to their land and homes, and these roots typically remain deep and unbroken. Doris lives in a small home with 4 rooms, two bedrooms, a bathroom, and a kitchen with a wood fire stove. She shares this home with 14 people, her parents, eight of her 10 siblings, and her own three children. Bedrooms are packed full at night, there is barely enough room for everyone to fit indoors at the same time. “We have never had a bank account or a credit card, a car, or even a donkey,” Doris's mother said. Doris was born there, her mother was born there, and so were her grandparents. “This is the home of our family,” she said.

2Doris with her daughters outside her four room, two bedroom home that they share with 14 people.

 Life is hard in these places. A subsistence farming lifestyle, harsh climate, physical isolation and lack of access to services contribute to a host of economic and public health problems. Here, the elderly hobble by with stooped postures and creaking joints swollen by arthritis created by years of hard physical labour, the mothers are young and the children are skinny, with cheeks cracked and scorched red from the cold dry air that sweeps across the hillsides where they live.

4An indigenous women climbs a hill to get home from a day of work in the fields in Chimborazo.

Doris is a single mother, her first daughter and her twins are from different fathers, both whom offer her no support and refuse to recognize the children as theirs. “One of them is married, and the other is poor,” she explained. She dropped out of school when she had her first daughter at 18 . She had her twins at age 23, now 24, she is left to care for the three children on her own with the support of her parents and siblings.

That is why there was never enough to go around- that is how everyone got so skinny, her young twins dangerously so.

Malnutrition is among the most serious of the many public health problems in this area. Government data from 2013 put national rates of chronic malnutrition in children under five at 26%, but it is much higher, at 52% in Chimborazo. Malnutrition, along with lack of access to health services are among the major factors that contribute to infant mortality and other developmental deficiencies. The government has put forth a plan to reduce malnutrition rates, but its effects often don't reach, or hit as a mere drop in the bucket, residents living in remote communities like Doris.

When her doctor told her that her nine month old twins were underweight, she was given a small packet of Chis Paz, a micronutrient supplement being handed out as part of the government's plan to combat malnutrition. She quickly ran out of it, and when she went back to the doctor, her twin's condition had not improved. Her kids were still underweight, but this time she was told there were no more vitamins.

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Dayanera Guacho Jaya, being held by her older sister.

“They say that public healthcare is free with the government's campesino (peasant) insurance policy,” said MEDLIFE nurse Maria, who has lived in Chimborazo her whole live, and worked with MEDLIFE patients there for years. “But when you go to the health post, nothing is available, or the waiting list is so long you could die before getting the treatment you need.”

I heard this sentiment expressed whenever I asked about the local health posts in the Chimborazo region; “they didn't have what I needed, nothing is available,” people told me again and again. It is not uncommon for a single health post staffed with less than twenty people to serve all rural communities a three hours drive in every direction. Given the costs in time and money to make the often long and arduous trip to the nearest health post and the lack of available services, many don't bother going.

 After 6 months of working to help her daughters put on weight with no results, Doris brought her daughters into a MEDLIFE mobile clinic. We gave them supplements of milk and vitamins, and her daughters have finally begun to put on a little weight after a few weeks. When MEDLIFE encounters children who are experiencing chronic malnutrition in clinics, we give vitamins, try and give guidance to the mothers, and in more serious cases add them to our patient followup list. MEDLIFE followup nurses will continue to check in with Doris's family to monitor their progress and help provide them with supplemental nutrition to get their children back to good health.  

 Sources and further reading:

http://www.ecuadorencifras.gob.ec/documentos/web-inec/EMPLEO/2015/Marzo-2015/Presentacion_Empleo_Marzo_2015.pdf

http://www.ecuadorencifras.gob.ec/documentos/web-inec/POBREZA/2015/Marzo/Reporte_pobreza_desigualdad_marzo15.pdf

https://www.culturalsurvival.org/sites/default/files/media/ecuador.pdf

http://www.desarrollosocial.gob.ec/programa-accion-nutricion/

http://www.desarrollosocial.gob.ec/wp-content/uploads/downloads/2016/01/AN1.png

A massive thank you to Foothill High School, California for sending a group of 18 students from their MEDLIFE chapter to our mobile clinic in Lima last week. We would like to give a big thanks to the initiative and cooperation of these students and their parents.  As minors, the students had to be accompanied by chaperones, something they organised themselves to make the trip a possibility.  It is so amazing to see such determination so early on for these students to get out to Lima and help serve the underprivileged communities we work with!

IMG 6112High school students help MEDLIFE staff set up for the mobile clinic.

IMG 6129Setting up a tent for the tooth brushing station.

IMG 6131A little boy looks on eagerly as the clinic is established in his community.

IMG 6239Tooth brushing is always a popular station at the clinics with around 300 children attending the station each clinic week.

IMG 6457The children in the communities were especially excited to see our volunteers at the clinic.

IMG 6462Some volunteers getting hands on experience at the dental station.

IMG 6726Some of the children playing games with the volunteers after the clinic.

IMG 6778Looks like the community will be sad to see these volunteers go!

A massive thank you to everyone who attended the Lima mobile clinic last week.  Thanks to our volunteers, we were able to treat 481 patients with medical attention, 86 patients were able to see our dentist and 133 got to our OB station.  We are looking forward to continuing to support our high school chapters and seeing more and more high school students at our clinics.    

In 2002, optometrist Dr. Sammy Rose and engineer Holland Kendall designed and created an optical set-up which could analyse a person's vision.  The machine works with a computer programme to select the glasses prescription which best matches the person's eyesight.  This machine, worth $17,000, enabled the two men to start setting up optometry stations at medical clinics all over the world.  

In 2005, the machine was taken on a trip to Honduras.  The trip was part of Dr. Rose's missionary work to help teach impoverished communities and give them the medical attention they desperately needed.  It was one of many trips that Dr. Rose had embarked upon to enable his optical set-up to help benefit those with poor eyesight who otherwise would not get treated.  It was however the first trip taken by Dr. Rose's son, Samuel.  Aged just 11 at the time, he was keen to get involved with his father's work.  This was also the trip that sparked Samuel's interest in the work that would eventually lead to him bringing the first optometry station to a MEDLIFE mobile clinic.   

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Samuel Rose, now a biology major at The University of Mississippi, went to Honduras on nine occasions during high school; helping his father and learning about optometry and missionary work for himself.  Samuel told us how important these trips were in shaping his future, explaining how “I developed a passion for mission work and helping people in poor areas.”  

However, Samuel also told us how when he started at college, he could no longer devote so much of his time to this work.  “I did not have time to go on mission trips and couldn't afford to miss so much class”, Samuel explained.  However, he was still keen to continue helping his father and using the optical machine to bring glasses to those in need.  Therefore, when a friend came back from a MEDLIFE trip just before Samuel was about to begin his junior year at college, he was excited to hear about what MEDLIFE had to offer and how he could get involved.  

Soon after starting his third year of college, Samuel signed up for his first MEDLIFE trip to Lima and he hasn't looked back since.  “Once I returned home I was quick to try to get involved [with MEDLIFE],” he said. “I was so happy to have found something to fill that absence I had had for so long.”  Samuel was soon asked to become president for the MEDLIFE chapter at his school and in this capacity got to work planning to bring his father's machine to set up an optical station at a MEDLIFE mobile clinic.  On his first phone call with MEDLIFE Volunteer Coordinator Kristine Paiste, he explained how he wanted to be able to set up this station.  MEDLIFE then started working to collaborate with Samuel and his chapter to make this happen.  

IMG 6957

“I've seen just how much glasses can change a person's life and I knew that I was capable of making this happen for MEDLIFE. Our chapter is young,” he said. “It was started in 2013 and I wanted to make a difference as the new president to show that leaps could be made even by a young chapter.”  Samuel set about contacting Holland Kendall, the engineer who had helped create the optical set-up.  They ran through the details of the machine and how to work it so that Samuel would be able to operate it on his own in Lima.  Samuel received a donation of 1000 pairs of glasses for the optometry station.   He measured each pair manually and then entered the data into his father's machine, corresponding each one with a number that matched the prescription.  He then spent $400 flying the machine and glasses out to Peru last week to be set up and used on the MEDLIFE clinic.  

Thanks to Samuel, we were able to have an optometry station present at 5 clinics last week alongside the usual dental, medical and OB stations.  With the help of an optometrist, Samuel was able to treat 257 patients across the week who had come from all over Lima's impoverished communities after hearing about this special clinic.  It was amazing to see these people being given their sight back.  There was a huge amount of gratitude from all who received glasses for MEDLIFE and Samuel's work.  “In this community people don't have glasses because they cost and we can't pay but now thanks to you they are free.  You have given us all back our sight” one man told us after being prescribed a pair of glasses by Samuel.  Another family were all given glasses and explained how much it would help them; “we are so happy and grateful to you all, this will make such a difference in our lives”.  

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When Samuel was explaining his work, he referenced back to the Gandhi quote that appears on the back of MEDLIFE t-shirts: “be the change you wish to see in the world”.  He told us how important this quote was to him and explained how it had been part of his motivation to get the optometry station to a MEDLIFE clinic.  “I know I can't change the whole world but I can change the way people see it.  Now 257 people see it differently. I did this because I was blessed with the opportunity to make someone's life better, I did this because I felt like God wanted me to be that change Gandhi talked about.”  Samuel also explained to us that these new glasses would not just affect these people's sight, but that he hoped it would be able to continue to make an impact in their lives long term.  Children will be able to get a better education as they will not be hindered by being unable to see what they are supposed to be reading or learning.  Adults will be able to do their jobs better without having to worry that their sight is letting them down.  Even MEDLIFE staff benefited from the clinic with some of our medical professionals visiting the station at the end of the day and receiving glasses they have been in need of for a long time.  

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Without Samuel's support and initiative, MEDLIFE would never have been able to get this station off the ground.  It was amazing to be able to bring optometry to our clinics and we hope it is something we will be able to expand upon in the future.  Samuel finished by telling us that he hopes for the same thing;“I hope it improves the quality of life that these wonderful people have because it's what they deserve. I'm honored that I was able to help make this happen with MEDLIFE and I hope I can figure out a way to provide this station on trips after I am gone.”  Seeing this kind of support from chapter members is hugely important for MEDLIFE and we hope that this collaboration and many others will continue into the future as MEDLIFE continues to expand.  

Jorge's ramp is complete! The MEDLIFE Summer Intern 2016 project was inaugurated yesterday, and Jorge used his ramp for the first time. After fundraising over $700 in 7 hours, the project construction began: his home transformed and we were able to add the ramp, redo the roof and frontal structures, add plants and paint the exterior! Jorge is now able to leave his wheelchair-accessible home and is no longer confined to staying inside despite his limited mobility. He is excited to be able to play with his son and engage with his family outdoors. Thank you to all donors - it is because of you that we were able to make a positive impact on Jorge's family. 

1Before reconstruction: Jorge Sanchez's son stands outside his family's home, a home with such an unsafe entrance, that his father is confined to staying inside due to his limited mobility. The grounds prior to reconstruction were uneven, dangerous and definitely not wheelchair-accessible.

2 1Measurements for the new ramp were being taken to ensure that Jorge could roll his wheelchair down the entrance as safely as possible. This ramp would change his life; allowing Jorge to enter and exit as he wishes despite his cerebral atrophy.

 

3 1MEDLIFE Summer interns worked on Jorge's home this week, building the ramp they are standing on in this photo. After fundraising over $700 in 7 hours, the extra funds went towards repainting, adding plants, reconstructing the frontal house structure and replacing the roof.

4 1MEDLIFE Summer intern, Yash Diwan, is digging holes for the plants that were planted as the final step of this project.

5 1Prior to painting the house: the concrete ramp was constructed efficiently, designed with stairs on one side and a ramp on the other. The roof has been replaced, windows have been built, and a new exterior has been constructed. These improvements will provide Jorge's family with a safer and improved living environment.

6 1MEDLIFE Summer interns, Eliza Gomez & Ian McHale painting the new frontal structure of Jorge's home. Painting the house offered a new landscaping to accompany Jorge's ramp.

7 1MEDLIFE interns at work: some are painting, some are sweeping dirt off of the ramp and some are digging holes for planting. The house took two coats of paint and the ramp was to be painted with a white double layer.

8 1MEDLIFE Summer interns with MEDLIFE project engineers, Director of MEDprograms Peru, Carlos Benavides and Jorge Sanchez along with his family. The group sits on the final, completed ramp in front of Jorge's newly designed home exterior.

9 1MEDLIFE Summer intern, Georgina Mezher, joins Jorge's wife in inaugurating the completed ramp project, after saying a final few words. Everyone is happy to watch Jorge use his ramp for the first time.

10 1The final, completed ramp project for Jorge Sanchez and his family. His wife speaks on behalf of his family's happiness and gratitude for MEDLIFE's help in improving their daily lifestyle through this ramp. His wife states, "Now my son can play with his father outside, and my husband can enjoy his time with the kids."

In July of 2016 MEDLIFE held two trips in collaboration with Broadreach for high school students in Ecuador, where we delivered the same immersive hands-on experience that we do for all of our volunteers. Thank you to all of the volunteers who participated for doing a great job and creating an incredible experience for all involved. Over the two weeks we had 247 general medicine patients, 98 breast exams, 35 pap smears, 49 dental patients, and taught 133 kids how to brush their teeth. We will continue expanding opportunities for high school students so that we can bring the MEDLIFE experience to a whole new group of students. 

IMG 4697Volunteers on a tour of an indigenous market.

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IMG 4954Listening to a patients heartbeat during clinic.

IMG 4969Volunteers working at the dental station, where they saw 49 patients.

IMG 5051Preparing medicine at the dentist station.

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IMG 6532Taking a patients blood pressure.

IMG 6938Applying fluoride at the tooth brushing station.

IMG 6637 Volunteers painted local schools for the development project portion of the trip.

IMG 6196The school wasn't the only thing that got painted!

 

July 27, 2016 2:59 pm

Meet the Patient: Ángel Zarate

Written by Sarah Bridge

A few months ago, a young mother arrived at a MEDLIFE mobile clinic with her 2 month old son.  He had a cleft lip which he had been struggling with since birth and, upon looking inside his mouth, our doctors observed that he also had a cleft palate.  The young boy's mother told us that her son, Ángel Zarate had been diagnosed by doctors just a few days after his birth.  The family had been informed that three operations would be needed to treat Ángles condition and the quicker they were done, the more effective they would be.   

Ángel lives in a small community in the hills of Villa Maria del Triunfo, the largest district of Lima's ‘Pueblos Jovenes'.  The house Ángel shares with his brother and parents is small and does not have access to electricity and running water.  Furthermore, the only access to the house is up a steep slope that is covered in dust and rubble.  This is the path that Ángel's mother had to climb everyday throughout both her pregnancies.

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Despite living in extreme poverty as so many in Lima's slums do, Ángel's parents were determined to be able to get the treatment their son needed.  After Ángel's birth, the family moved into his grandmother's house as the cold conditions and difficulties with the hill were too much to contend with for a baby in Ángel's condition.  Doctors who had been reviewing Ángel's condition said that it was important for the baby to be kept in a warm and comfortable environment both before and after the operation to give him the optimum opportunity to recover.  They also stressed the importance of Ángel taking the necessary medications recommended after the operation.  The family were told that their health care (SIS) would cover the cost of Ángel's operations but that these medications would not necessarily be covered by the system.

This is where MEDLIFE came in.  After explaining the situation to us at the mobile clinic, Ángel's mum signed Ángel on to the MEDLIFE patient follow up list.  The first operation on Ángel's lip took place just over a week ago on Monday 18th July.  A few days after the operation, one of our nurses went to visit the family to see how the operation had gone.  The change was remarkable, there was hardly any evidence of Ángel's previous cleft lip apart from a small scar.  Ãngel has been prescribed a cream and some pills to take to help the healing process which MEDLIFE will pay for if it is not covered by the hospital.

Ángel still needs two more operations.  One to fix his cleft palate which will take place in a year and a final one to straighten out his nose when he is seven.  MEDLIFE will continue to visit Ángel and provide him with any financial or medical support the family need.  Ãngel's mother told us how important it was to her and her family to be receiving this support.  She explained how “even though it's only a little thing, it is making such a difference in my life and the life of my baby.  It means so much to us to know that people care about our family”. We are looking forward to watching Ángel grow and being able to support him in his development.  

July 22, 2016 8:48 am

A Food Cart for Camila's Mum

Written by Sarah Bridge

Camila is 4 years old and suffers from cerebral palsy which she contracted aged 1 year and 2 months as a result of an intraparenchymal hemorrhage.  Her illness means that Camila is unable to move or communicate with anyone around her.

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Tatiana is Camila's mother and primary carer.  She gave up school and then work for Camila and, until recently has been working at a local market selling honey and coffee in order to pay for the medication Camila needs.  Camila is in constant need of attention and therapy and it falls on Tatiana to make sure she gets all the treatment necessary to deal with her illness.

MEDLIFE have been working with Camila and her family for over a year and since then have been able to contribute to the medication Camila needs.  However, one of the biggest issues Tatiana faces is having to balance earning money to afford Camila's treatment with being around to care for Camilla.  Tatiana told MEDLIFE that one of the most useful things would be for her to be able to work close enough to home that she could bring money in whilst also being able to take care of Camila.

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One of the pillars of the MEDLIFE ideology is sustainable development and support, therefore, MEDLIFE made it our mission to make this hope of Tatiana's a reality.  We fundraised to buy a sandwich cart for Tatiana that would allow her to make and sell sandwiches directly outside her house.  After raising the $1000 required thanks to the support of the University of Puerto Rico at Rio Piedras and individual donors,  last week we were able to deliver the sandwich cart to its new owner.

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Tatiana told us what a difference this would make to hers and Camila's lives.  She told us how “[Camila] needs help almost every hour of the day.  I can't leave to work or go out with anyone.  This cart will help me get back my independence and will enable me to earn the money I need to deal with Camila's condition”.

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This year's summer volunteer affairs interns were lucky enough to be Tatiana's first customers and enjoyed chicken and beef burgers and vegetarian sandwiches from Tatiana's cart on Friday afternoon.  Volunteer affairs intern Alexa Friedman said “being one of Tatiana's customers really showed me how the work MEDLIFE does is personal and sustainable. It made me proud to be interning for this kind of non-profit.”  This opinion seemed to be shared by many of the interns who seemed happy to be able to partake in what will hopefully be a life changing moment with Tatiana, Camila and the rest of their family.  Tatiana Gerena, another intern told us how “being able to support Tatiana from start to finish was so great. Her sandwiches were delicious and I have to admit that I went back for seconds!”

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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.

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