This blog is part of a series showcasing chapters that won awards in this years MEDLIFE Awards. Each week we will be talking to a chapter to hear about their keys to success. Find out how to start a MEDLIFE chapter at your school HERE.
 
University of Nevada Reno’s MEDLIFE Chapter has made strides in expanding members and was this years runner up in MEDLIFE Awards for the social media category. In it’s second year, Anisha Chedi, Marketing/Advertising Chair, implemented social media strategies for the chapter like creating daily promo content on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram and creating their own graphics to promote events and activities.
 
We caught up with Christina Chen, UNR MEDLIFE’s co-president, to talk about her chapter and work with MEDLIFE.
 10551708 988382614510135 3734612100353194608 oUNR Chapter members on a project work day in Lima, Peru.
 
How did you start to work with MEDLIFE? Why did you choose MEDLIFE?
 
One of my close friends, Lucia Sanchez, first brought this chapter to the University of Nevada, Reno and built it from ground up. I had heard about it, but was not very involved. Until the end of Spring 2014, my sister and I decided to jump right into attending a mobile clinic in Lima and from then on forward, we've constantly been involved with MEDLIFE UNR. I fell in love with what MEDLIFE stood for and had to offer, embracing both community service locally and abroad, providing medicine to communities worldwide, and educating and assisting communities/people develop. 
 
What new strategies have you used as President of your Chapter to gather support and inspire students to work with MEDLIFE?
 
Since this school year was geared towards restructuring and rebuilding of the chapter, we utilized the University's resources, especially our club fairs to promote the chapter. A lot of our activities were revolved around local volunteering, which gained a bit of attention from our campus. It wasn't until a recent early transition of executive board officers did we really utilize our social media, thanks to our new marketing/advertising chair, Anisha Chedi. She has been very diligent about posting MEDLIFE Nevada's activities, along with embracing campus events.
 
Also, during meetings, making them more activity based and interactive. We would prep snack packs for distribution and was a great way to socialize with the members. At the same time, we would include icebreakers and activities to keep the members more engaged, rather than just staring at a powerpoint. 
 
I definitely turned to my MEDLIFE liaison, Emily Gardner, a lot for advice and monthly meetings for inspiration. She always kept me motivated and encouraged me to keep my head up when it came to difficult times of rebuilding the chapter. So shout out to her and a big thank you!! 
 
In your opinion, what is your chapter’s greatest achievement?
 
Being such a small chapter, in a small city, I'm very proud that we've managed to send members on mobile clinics. Although they are minimal number of participants, every year we've managed to send people to either Lima, Peru or Riobamba, Ecuador.
 1546Volunteers pose on a completed staircase in Lima, Peru.
 
What is your most memorable experience working with MEDLIFE?
 
A personal memory is my mobile clinic experience back in 2014. It was a life-changing experience that I loved! On a whole scale level of the chapter, I would being able to finally work with a new full executive board with members who were very adamant about promoting MEDLIFE was a great experience. Passing on the torch to the newly transitioned executive board makes me hopeful about leaving the chapter in a stable stage to keep growing. 
 
Do you have any advice for other chapters?
 
General advice: keep things fun and exciting at meetings. It's hard to keep member attendance when meetings are merely powerpoints. Add activities, competitions, create families, etc...get to know your members.
 
Find out how to start a MEDLIFE chapter at your school HERE
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For five years, Dr. Jose Luis Rodriguez worked in the Amazon as an infectious diseases expert. When he returned to his home in Lima, he reached out to MEDLIFE and has been working with the NGO ever since.  
  

Dr. Jose Luis’s commitment to medicine began with his family. When his siblings fell ill, his father always asked Dr. Jose Luis to care for them. This motivated him to study medicine, which eventually led to a passion for attending patients.    

  
 What inspired you to work in MEDLIFE's Mobile Clinics?  
  
There are only a few organizations that dedicate their time to help poor patients like MEDLIFE does. Also, it is an opportunity for doctors to meet other professionals, new people, and students that come here bringing new energy that refuels us every year. 
  
Where do you work when you are not attending patients in the Mobile Clinics? 
  
When i'm not working in MEDLIFE, I work in the San Juan de Dios Hospital. I've also been studying oncology for the past two years in order for it to become my specialization.
  
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What experience impacted you the most when working in Mobile Clinics? Any particular case or patient? 
 
I'm the oldest doctor at MEDLIFE: I have worked here for nine years and have had a lot of experiences. The ones that impacted me the most are probably the most painful. In one case, we detected breast cancer in a patient named Carmen Solano. We helped her and followed her treatment but unfortunately she passed away. Despite the sorrowful moment, her family was very thankful for us. We attended Carmen’s funeral and MEDLIFE nearly took over the procession.
 
One rewarding experience was the case of Mr. Pineda, who has diabetes. We got him a prosthetic leg. He wanted to work again as a taxi driver and it is wonderful to see him working now.  
  
What do you enjoy the most in the Mobile Clinics? 
  
I enjoy spending my time with students. They have a positive energy that renews us all. I like teaching them and sharing our Peruvian culture with them. I also like being an inspiration for those who have decided to study medicine.  
  
What would you tell to the future volunteers that will come to a Mobile Clinics?  
 

Students leave their country, they invest money in something new and give their time to people they don't know anything about. I believe it's important that volunteers, as well as MEDLIFE staff, understand the value that this holds for patients.

 

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Nadine Heredia is a community in Lima, Peru established in 2012. MEDLIFE has been working in Nadine since its founding and this week we will complete our eight staircase project. 
 1Nadine Heredia Community.
 
Fabiola Rosales (age 29), is a member of one of the 350 families who have benefited from this project. She has been living in Nadine since 2014 at the highest part of the hill, next to the “Wall of Shame”, a wall emblematic of the class divide in Lima, separating the district of San Juan de Miraflores from Surco which is one of the wealthiest areas in Lima.  
 
2Fabiola Rosales holding her baby.
 
Three days after giving birth to her son Alonso, Fabiola fell on the steep hillside. She believes the community will be better once the staircase is built because it will be easier to climb up and down to her house, and most importantly, it will reduce the number of accidents that occur when children go outside to play with their friends.
 
The first staircases in Nadine were built by each manzana, or block. This reflected a fragmented sense of unity, community members would only participate in the staircase that was benefiting their street, they would not help other blocks build their staircases. This attitude became toxic to the community; it created hostility between neighbors and also limited their progress. Building a staircase requires a lot of people to mix the cement to form a chain to pass buckets up the hill and level off each individual step. Without the support of neighbors from all streets, building a staircase takes twice as long and may never be finished.
 
 IMG 3799Jose Sanchez (red shirt) working at the staircase.
 
When Jose Sanchez (age 30) became the community leader of Nadine last year, he set out with one goal: to improve the relationship between the neighbors so the entire community could work together towards a common good. “I think this can be achieved by applying something that I learned when I was in school in 2000. One of my teachers said that one of the best ways to motivate people to support you is through facts,” says Jose. Jose never misses the weekly Sunday community meeting and tries to involve people in the projects by telling the truth. In Peru, it is very common to find unfinished projects due to organizations who make promises they are unable to keep. In these meetings, if Jose says that a staircase will be built, the community members believe him. When people see you meet the demands of the community, they start to get involved. Jose's hard work is starting to pay off;  in the staircase we're building this week, we have more community members from all blocks participating than in any other staircase we have built with them.
 
Despite working night shifts, Jose supervised the staircase project every day and helped the community members and the group of MEDLIFE volunteers in Lima this week. He hopes that teamwork will prevail and that someday the people of Nadine will have the same motivation he does to accomplish every project. “To the community, to the ones who are parents like me, we are inspired everyday to accomplish our inner goal: to provide a better quality of life to our children so that they have a better life than we did.” 
 

 IMG 39578th Staircase inauguration at Nadine Heredia.

April 27, 2017 4:26 pm

Life after the Huaicos

Written by Sam Roberson

Tents provided by the municipal government line the streets, inside them varying levels of food, water and possessions. Some families have a car parked outside the tent, others have functioning kitchens with ovens and stoves powered by gas. Still many have little more than the clothes and belongings they managed to salvage from the flood.

Since after the huaicos that destroyed parts of the 27 de Junio community in Lima last month, there is no clear plan of recovery in place for those displaced from their homes. Those in the Encampments are in an inbetween state, living with the wake of the disaster.

IMG 8254Water is distributed from the truck contracted by MEDLIFE to 27 de Junio.

IMG 8281A stray dog interrupts the trip bringing buckets of water back to a tent.

When MEDLIFE arrived with a water truck, the residents flock to fill up any buckets and barrels they have. With no access to the water system of Lima the trucks filling up plastic tanks and barrels is the only way to get a large amount of potable water. Even then, the water trucks cost money and inconsistently visit the community.

The  Simeon Emiliano Ramirez Mendoza, who now lives in tent in 27 de Junio, says there has been little aid from the government and he expects little in the future.

Below the tents in the washed out river bed, the debris of homes swept away from the huaycos remains. Tempora Ventura Donato use to live close to the Huaycoloro River before her house was swept away during the huaicos. She now lives in a tent with her son, daughter in law and sisters up the hill from her old home.

IMG 8308Tempora Ventura Donato points to where her home once stood before it was swept away in the huaycos.

She stands where her home once stood with her family while some of them wash up with buckets in their bathing suits to bathe. Donato says her home was swept away in the middle of the night and they have lived in the tents since then. They are still able to use a well to get water for bathing, but the water is not potable.

In the camp, a comedor, a public kitchen serving discounted meals, operates off of food from the government as well as donations. Stocked with cans of tuna, dry pasta, chicken and potatoes, women living in the encampment prepare a large pot of atun con tallarine, tuna with noodles.

IMG 8344Women continue to cook for their community in the comedor, running off food from government and donated supplies.

The comedor functions like much of 27 de Junio now, where life attempts to carry on as usual through the inconsistent government aid and donations provided. After the Huaicos, many people are living as refugees in their own community.


MEDLIFE has been carrying out a special project to bring medical assistance, donations and water trucks to communities affected by the huaycos. You can DONATE to our efforts to aid the victims of the disaster.

April 27, 2017 8:19 am

The Beauty of the Andes

Written by Jake Kincaid

MEDLIFE has two separate destinations, Cusco and Riobamba, where we work in primarily in rural indigenous communities in the Andes mountains. These communities are in very scenic locations in the mountains. This post showcases that the incredible beauty of the Andean communities that we work in. 

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     MEDLIFE is proud to announce that the plans to construct a second floor to the Union De Santa Fe Wawa Wasi were finalized in April 2017 as community members and MEDLIFE CEO Nick Ellis signed agreements. 

     The first floor to the Wawa wasi was completed in 2015 , and serves as a space for the governments "Cuna Más" program. The government will provide trained childcare personel and nutritional meals for kids if the community provides the space and other materials. MEDLIFE provided those things and the Cuna Más program runs the daycare.

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However, Cuna Más is only available to kids age 6 months to 3 years old, and children cannot enter primary school until age 6. So kids who are between ages 3 and 6 cannot enjoy the facilities above. For this reason, MEDLIFE is providing the materials for a second floor to the wawawasi that can be used for a similar program "Pronoei", a preschool for children ages 3-6. The community will organize the construction.

The addition of a local "Pronoei" seeks to close the 3 year gap between when children age out of "Cuna Más" program and start primary school. This frees up time for parents that can be used to work a job during the day. With the second floor, kids with working parents will have a safe, constructive environment with nutritous food all the way up until primary school.     

IMG 8384A child who will be served by the new floor outside the night meeting that finalized the agreement.

 IMG 8392Carlos Benavides explains the agreement to the community.

 IMG 8401Nick Ellis signs the agreement.

 IMG 8410Community members sign on, commiting to help us work on the project. At MEDLIFE community investment is a priority.

 

 

 

 

 

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1. Language Skills

     Just kidding, you don’t have to be a Language pro to come on mobile clinic trip, but it is worth it to quickly study up on key phrases! Just a few basic things will make your life a lot easier and will let you relate to and communicate with community members on clinic.

2. You will need good shoes!

     The communities we go to rarely have the normal city infrastructure you are used to like paved roads. This often meets walking around in MUD and DIRT. Don’t show up to clinic or project in flip flops.

 3. Flexibility is key.

     Our goal is to bring clinics to the poor and to meet them on their level. If we are going to meet them in their communities, we cannot possibly be in control of everything that happens. Things won’t always go as we plan or hope but we will adapt to make the best of it and deliver high quality care regardless of circumstances.

 4. Get Ready for Culture Shock.

     The places we serve are radically different from your home. Before making quick judgements based on what you see and hear, stop to consider how it might have a different meaning in the new cultural context. Think about how your actions may be interpreted differently than at home.

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 5. Bring Sunscreen.

     Most of our destinations are really close to the equator! You will get cooked quickly if you do not put on sunscreen in the morning. Pro tip: bring it with you, it is often expensive on destination!

 6. Bring Donations

     We accept donations of medicine, dental supplies and vitamins on trips, these are very appreciated in the communities! 

 7. Do some background research!

     Take some time to read up on the destination you will be visiting. You will learn and enjoy more if you have some context to understand your experiences. Read about the countries history, politics and culture.

8. Bring an open mind!

Many things are sure to surprise you on this trip. Be ready for what come your way. You are sure to learn a lot. 

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April 20, 2017 3:02 pm

Huayco relief aid underway

Written by Rosali Vela

Last week, MEDLIFE staff visited Cajamarquilla in Lima, Peru to deliver water and supplies to a community affected by the huaycos. We were able to secure a water tank truck to deliver much needed water to the community of 27 de Junio.

IMG 816527 de Junio relies on water tanks filled by trucks, that have been seeing infrequent visits since the huaycos.

Tempora Ventura Donato, who lives in 27 de Junio, said they had not been able to refill their water supply for 4 days. Her experience is common for those living in makeshift camp set up for the people displaced by the huaycos. Thousands are still displaced by the huaycos.

IMG 8254Water trucks can be sporadic in the area. Residents gather all available containers because it is often not known when a truck will visit.

Some fled their homes do to flood damage, but many had their entire homes swept away by the overflowing Huaycoloro River. The displaced have been living in tents provided by the municipal government of Lima.

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Water tank trucks are private businesses that sell potable water straight from their tank to homes not connected to the water system of Lima. We were able to cover the cost of the delivery for this visit, taking the truck back into the camp to refill plastic water tanks and residents buckets and barrels.

IMG 8362Supplies vary on how much people were able to save or salvage from the flood. Some have close to full kitchens run on gas tanks in tents while others lost nearly everything.

We also delivered, toothbrushes, basic first aid kits and clothes collected from a donation drive in Lima. There is no steady supply of aid in many of the communities we have visited affected by huaycos, relying on a sporadic mix of government aid as well as other NGOs.


MEDLIFE is funding the huayco relief efforts through our project fund. This is an emergency fund to help aid the communities we serve in a time of dire need. Please consider donating today as 100% of the funds for this project will be put to direct aid to communities around Lima.

April 18, 2017 3:26 pm

Navya Singirikonda : 50:50 Campaign

Written by Rosali Vela

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Navya Singirikonda from Texas A and M raised 3000$ in her 50:50 campaign for her Mobile Clinic Trip to Cusco. We spoke with her to find out how she ran such a succesful campaign and about her experience on her MEDLIFE trip. 

How did you first hear about the 5050 campaign?

I had a friend who did MEDLIFE last year so she told me about it, but also it was on the website.

Why did you decide to do the 50:50 Campaign?

I think it’s good awareness for people. Most of the people who raised money, who gave money, friends and people who don’t really know about this kind of thing, it was nice to bring that awareness. It also helped me, I don’t make any money, so it was nice to make some money from that.

How long did you fundraise for?

About 20 days- not long.

What did you do to be so successful with your 50:50 campaign?

I think I publicized it really well. I reached out to the people I thought would be able to help me. I’m glad I used the 50:50 versus something else. It was just better organized and kind of made the point clear of what it was for.

Did you encounter any obstacles in the process and if so how did you overcome them?

I didn’t have any issues.

How was organizing a positive experience and what did you learn from it?

Honestly I was so surprised by how generous people are I did raise a lot of money, 3000$ which isn’t small, and it was nice to see how people are that kind and willing to help me even though they don’t really know what I’m doing. So I think that was nice and probably makes me feel a little closer to some of the people that I hadn’t talked to in awhile.

How do you feel about the impact you made raising money for the people you worked with this week?

I really thought it was amazing. I noticed their gratitude, just how gentle and nice of people they are. But I think them being that way, them being willing to let me into their home, let me into their communities, makes me feel like I should keep doing that. It really was very motivational doing this. It helped me realize that this isn’t something that is crazy and out there- that I can do it all the time.

In April of 2017 MEDLIFE completed one of our long-term projects, building a house for Soledad and her son. MEDLIFE met Soledad in 2014 (full story here), and upon see her living conditions, we knew we needed to get her a new home. The home she was in was unsafe, and appeared to be on the verge of collapse. The fundraising process and construction process was long, but we succeeded. A group of students from Cornell University, who helped fundraise for the house, got to be there to help put on the finishing touches, see the finished project and meet Soledad themselves.

blog soledadThe back of the old, structurally insecure house. 

blog soledad3Soledad and her son, inside their old home in 2014.

IMG 7947The completed house.

Volunteers helped us add the finishing touches on their volunteer trip!

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 IMG 8041Soledad, on the day her new home was completed.

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 IMG 8107Thank you to this group of volunteers for your help fundraising and finishing the house!

 2017 04 13Thank you to our year long interns for all of your help on this project!

MEDLIFE Future Project: A New Home for Soledad from MEDLIFE on Vimeo.

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