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.
 
14 12 8675
Brandy studies Marketing and Spanish at the University of Alabama and plans to start a MEDLIFE chapter when she returns. 
14 12 2323The view from Mercedes's house.
 
Through this internship, I have had many opportunities to reflect on privilege in ways I have never conceptualized before. One day, I accompanied Janet, a MEDLIFE nurse, to a follow up appointment with Mercedes, who lives high up in the community of 15A1, Nueva Esperanza. While MEDLIFE has worked with 15A1 to build many staircases in the community, the final portion of the path leading to Mercedes’s house, when I visited, remained undeveloped, steep, and dusty. Excitingly, MEDLIFE already has a plan in place to build a staircase on the path to Mercedes's house. 
        
14 12 48MEDLIFE Nurse, Carmen, and Mercedes stand on the path to Mercedes's house, where a MEDLIFE staircase will be built.
 
After watching several women go up the path they traverse everyday with buckets of water and other materials in hand, I somehow stumbled up to Mercedes’s house on all fours, refusing to look behind me until I reached the top. Then, after we finished speaking to Mercedes and her children, we had to go back down. To me, this was definitely scarier than going up. So when Mercedes recommended a different path around the back of her house, I was relieved. However, the "safer path" meant narrowly walking along a wall built of seemingly unstable rocks.
 
14 12 2346Two of Mercedes's daughters play outside of her house.
 
I was only able to take a few steps along the rocks until my feet did not want to move further. I knew I had come to Lima specifically to work with impoverished communities, and I did not want to let fear of heights stop me. However, as much I told myself about the reasons I wanted to move forward, my feet did not seem to agree. Then, a little girl, maybe eight years old at most, ran down from the house above to offer to hold my hand. I was simultaneously embarrassed as the other MEDLIFE workers waited on the other side and amazed as this young girl tried to instill confidence in me. For the first time, I realized that even my fear of heights was a privilege. The people of 15A1 did not get to exercise the same fear. Even if the mothers, fathers, and children of 15A1 falter in the face of dusty slopes, they traverse them everyday to access basic resources. The young girl’s unhesitating kindness, while facing the same height that had my heart racing and palms sweating, taught me that my fear was entirely mental. If the girl could unwaveringly run down just to help me, I could at least take baby steps to continue to work in her community. I am grateful for the opportunity to support families during my time in Peru, and I am excited to continue to reflect on my own life along the way. 
 
14 12 8700Noor works on painting a staircase like the one that will benefit Mercedes and her family.

Noor Chadha is the co-president of the MEDLIFE at UC Berkeley Chapter and a 2017 MEDLIFE Summer Intern.

June 27, 2017 10:30 AM

MEET THE SUMMER INTERNS 2017 (PART 2)

Written by Aidan Wells

The gang is finally all here! With the last of the interns having just arrived, the office is alive and buzzing as the MEDLIFE family continues to grow. Keep reading to learn more about our 2017 MEDLIFE Summer Interns and their stories! 

Crystal Rubalcava: MEDPrograms Intern

crystal 1Hometown: San Fernando Valley, CA
School: UC  Berkeley
Major: Molecular and Cell Biology & Integrative Biology with a Minor in Global Poverty and Practice
How did you get involved with MEDLIFE?
At Berkeley, in order be a part of the MEDLIFE chapter, you have to take a class. Given the size of our school and the allotted spaces in the class being capped around 40 students, we had to apply to get in. I applied, got in, and raised enough money to go on a service learning trip this past winter. After the trip wanted to continue my work with MEDLIFE, so I applied to be an officer in my chapter and have been involved ever since. 
 
Tell us a little bit about yourself.
I will be starting my 4th year of undergrad in the fall. I am the oldest of 4 girls and am the first in my family to move away and go to school. I am Mexican, and I live by the major three F's: Family, Food, and Fútbol. I aspire to be a physician and would like to work with the under-served people of Los Angeles because it has one of the largest Spanish speaking populations in the country but lacks medical professionals who can actually communicate with the people they work with. I would like to bridge that gap and make it easier, for people like my grandparents, to receive quality medical care.
 
Why did you decide to become an intern?
After coming back from my service learning trip this summer I realized I wanted to continue working with MEDLIFE. I am skeptical of global poverty work because "dufflebag medicine" attract many voluntourists who go on medical missions to boost their resumes.  However, I find MEDLIFE to be different because it emphasizes community involvement for coordinating and planning mobile clinics and development projects. I really like the immediate medical relief with the mobile clinics AND sustainable relief with the development projects, such as building staircases with the communities of Lima. I also really just enjoyed the environment. The community members here are super friendly, and Peru is such a beautiful country. I needed to come back and explore more.
 
What was your first impression of Lima?
It is such a diverse city. I found it similar to Los Angeles where you have the extremely rich (Westwood in LA vs. Miraflores in Lima) living with malls, cell phones, Starbucks, casinos etc., and just a 30 min drive away you will find communities (Watts in LA vs. Shantytowns in Lima) that have minimal to no infrastructure. 
 
What are your goals for this internship?
I hope to gain a better understanding of what global poverty means and what the type of work in this field entails so that I can go back and share the knowledge with my chapter and anyone else who would be willing to listen.

Jana Abdul-Samad: Volunteer Affairs Intern

janaHometown: Burr Ridge, IL
School: Miami University of Oxford, Ohio
Major: Biochemistry with minors in Physics and Music Performance
How did you get involved with MEDLIFE?
I learned about MEDLIFE while trying to find an organization related to my interest in medicine. I joined my chapter at Miami, and went on a mobile clinic to Moshi, Tanzania soon after. I was attracted by the deeper understanding of the social aspects of healthcare that we are not exposed to in the typical classroom. It's completely different when you're faced with it in person.
 
Tell us a little bit about yourself.
I'll be a senior at Miami this coming year. I'm from Chicago, IL, but both my parents are from Homs, Syria. I hope to attend medical school and pursue a career as a physician, continuing to care for people in a new way. I enjoy playing violin, trying new foods, cooking, traveling, and meeting new people. 
 
Why did you decide to become an intern?
Before joining MEDLIFE, I had been on two brigades with Global Medical Brigades to Panama and Honduras. I decided to try a trip with MEDLIFE to Tanzania, and I really loved the way the mobile clinics are set up with a reality tour prior to actually attempting to help the community in the area. MEDLIFE exposes the truth of the situation, and provides not only the aid needed, but also the education needed to care for oneself. I knew I wanted to do something for an organization that does so much more than just send money and materials, and I wanted to help spread their message. This was the best way to do that.
 
What was your first impression of Lima?
I was kind of surprised at how cloudy it always is here during the winter. However, I've still really enjoyed the city and how different every part and neighborhood of Lima is from the next. You can choose to be anywhere based on what kind of feel you are looking for. 
 
What are your goals for this internship?
I hope that through this internship I can learn more about the sociological aspect of healthcare, and what factors are important for a community to sustain itself. I'd like to learn how to get a society on its feet and how to offer healthcare in a way that promotes development. This could help down the road, as I intend to return to Syria to help rebuild the country after the revolution. I hope I also learn a little bit more about myself and how I work with others, helping me become a more efficient individual.

Lisa Krecké: Volunteer Affairs Intern

lisaHometown: Colmar-Berg, Luxemburg
School: Leiden University College The Hague
Major: Global Public Health
How did you get involved with MEDLIFE?
During the last academic year, we started a MEDLIFE Chapter at my University, and I was involved in this process as a member of the Executive Board. 
 
 
Tell us a little bit about yourself.
I was born and raised in Luxemburg, which is a really small country in Europe. Currently, I am studying at a Liberal Arts & Sciences College in The Hague in the Netherlands, and I will graduate during the upcoming academic year. I really enjoy getting involved in different groups and committees at my University and have very diverse interests. I love books and movies and I really enjoy sharing this excitment with people that are also passionate about these things. 
 
Why did you decide to become an intern?
I really enjoyed my time on the Executive Board of our MEDLIFE Chapter and I wanted to learn more about the set-up and functioning of the organization on a global scale. I love traveling and experiencing new environments, so getting the opportunity to live in Lima for a couple of months is something that I am very excited to do. This internship will be a very valuable work experience and I hope it will help me with any future academic or professional plans. 
 
What was your first impression of Lima?
Lima is a very busy and huge city. I will have to learn how to get around and navigate within it. However, everyone has been very nice and welcoming, so I am sure that I will figure it out over time. I am very excited to explore this city and visit its many beautiful sites and areas.
 
What are your goals for this internship?
I want to learn more about community-based development work and thus have a clearer idea about careers I could see myself doing in the future. I hope to leave feeling comfortable in this city and feeling that I made many new friends. 

Melissa Montes: MEDPrograms Intern

melissaHometown: Rancho Santa Margarita, CA
School: Saint Mary's College, Notre Dame, IN
Major: Biology 
How did you get involved with MEDLIFE?
I became involved with MEDLIFE because a friend of mine went on a mobile clinic trip and invited me to go with her to a second trip to Tanzania this past winter break. I have also been a part of the team trying to start a MEDLIFE chapter at my school.
 
 
Tell us a little bit about yourself.
I am laid back, easy going, and hard working person! I am from southern California and am a rising senior at Saint Mary's College, Notre Dame! I love to be outside and to have fun with friends and family! 
 
Why did you decide to become an intern?
I decided to become an intern because I loved my mobile clinic experience and wanted to continue to learn about and work towards MEDLIFE's mission. I think that MEDLIFE is doing so much good for so many people around the world, and I really wanted to be a part of it.
 
What was your first impression of Lima?
So far Lima reminds me a lot of Mexico! There is so much to see and do, and I'm looking forward to exploring the city! The busy city life has been very exciting and an overall awesome experience so far.
 
What are your goals for this internship?
My goals for this internship are to continue to learn about global health issues, and what we can do to help as well as improve my Spanish skills. Oh and, most importantly, to have fun! 

Noor Chadha: MEDPrograms Intern

noor 1Hometown: San Jose, California 
School: UC Berkeley
Major: I'm majoring in Molecular and Cell Biology, with an emphasis in Immunology. I'm also minoring in Global Poverty and Practice!
How did you get involved in MEDLIFE? 
I first heard about MEDLIFE as a freshman looking for organizations to join at our university's club fair. After taking UC Berkeley's student-led preparatory course for MEDLIFE mobile clinics, I came to Lima in January 2015. Prior to my trip, I questioned how I could really make a difference in two weeks. However, once in Lima, it was clear to see the impact MEDLIFE makes in the communities we work in. While an individual volunteer may only visit a given community once, MEDLIFE consistently returns and follows up with patients. Inspired by MEDLIFE's focus on community needs and sustainability, I became involved in Berkeley's MEDLIFE chapter as an officer. I started out as Spanish Director of our preparatory course, and now I'm our chapter's co-president! 
 
Tell us a little bit about yourself.
I am a rising senior at UC Berkeley. Besides MEDLIFE, I work to connect patients with community resources at a hospital in Oakland, study the molecular underpinnings of Chlamydia trachomatis at a research lab, and dance on a Bhangra team! (Cal Bhangra - check us out!)
 
Why did you decide to become an intern?
Whenever I recruit members for our UC Berkeley MEDLIFE chapter, I consistently find myself emphasizing MEDLIFE's focus on follow up care and sustainability. I love MEDLIFE's holistic mission of comprehensively helping patients live healthier lives, and I'm excited to actually be a part of MEDLIFE's long term work as an intern. 
 
What was your first impression of Lima?
My first impression of Lima was two and a half years ago when I came on a mobile clinic here. I remember loving to explore the gorgeous, fun, and metropolitan city. However, I also remember being struck by how close yet how different the lifestyles were between where we lived in Miraflores and where we worked in Pueblos Jovenes. Going back and forth between both locations every day was an extremely thought provoking experience. 
 
What are your goals for this internship?
I am excited to connect theories and paradigms from my Global Poverty coursework to real life poverty action. I have studied the historical and cultural contexts of MEDLIFE's work in an academic setting, but I hope to learn a lot about what it actually means to sustainably combat health inequities on the ground. I am also excited to build relationships with both my fellow interns and with community members. I hope to have a meaningful impact while I am here, and also to take perspectives and memories with me that I can continue to apply once I leave!

Sydney Tang: Volunteer Affairs Intern

sydneyHometown: Danville, CA 
School: University of California, Los Angeles
Major: Undeclared in Life Sciences
How did you get involved with MEDLIFE? 
I went on my first mobile clinic last year in Riobamba, Ecuador! I actually didn't know about the trip until after the registration deadline passed, but I reached out to MEDLIFE asking if there was any way I could join. Next thing I knew, I had my bags packed and was on a plane to Quito! My experience in Riobamba opened my eyes up to a new perspective in health, and fueled me to learn more about the social, cultural, and political determinants that affect health. It was one thing to learn about these issues in school, but a whole different experience to actually see them in person.
 
Tell us a little bit about yourself.
I grew up in the San Francisco Bay Area, and I am an upcoming junior at UCLA! I love being in LA because there is always something to do, or somewhere to go. Hiking, playing soccer, crafting, and trying new foods are some of my favorite things to do. I also love finding new music (Ed Sheeran and The Beatles are some of my all-time favorites), and I would love to start a vinyl record collection sometime soon. Although I haven't decided on a career path yet, I know that I am passionate about helping underserved communities and I want to work in healthcare in the future.
 
Why did you decide to become an intern?
After my trip to Riobamba, I went home feeling like my trip was cut short. I had an amazing experience, but I wanted to do something more.  I decided to become an intern because it was an incredible opportunity to work toward sustainable change alongside other passionate individuals. MEDLIFE's mission resonates with me, and I truly believe in the work that we do.
 
What was your first impression of Lima?
Lima is way bigger than I imagined. I was overwhelmed at first, but I have loved everything about it so far. I took Spanish for a few years in high school, but I want to challenge myself and practice it whenever I can. I can't wait to just walk around and explore everything that Lima has to offer.
 
What are your goals for this internship?
My goals for this internship are to keep an open mind, try anything and everything, and be mindful of everything I do. Whether its struggling to improve my Spanish, or going the extra mile with a project, I want to challenge myself to get out of my comfort zone and make an active effort to learn as much as I can. I am so grateful to be here in Lima, and I want to make the best of this experience.
 
14 12 2568MEDLIFE Summer Interns and staff at a night meeting to discuss a future clean water project in the community of 15C
June 22, 2017 10:30 AM

MEET THE STAFF: CARMEN NARVAEZ

Written by Aidan Wells
Carmen Narvaez is a nurse technician, and a part of the MEDPrograms team. The nurses on the MEDLIFE team work directly in the communities to ensure patient follow-up care. The patient follow-up team conducts individual patient visits, checks in on patients who present serious symptoms, and delivers exam results. When a Mobile Clinic participant receives abnormal test results, this is the team that accompanies him/her in each step along the way to recovery. Carmen loves working directly with patients to look after their needs, support them, and make them happy.
 
18839222 1450080975030940 6631311400114263089 nMembers of the MEDPrograms team are constantly in the field working on mobile clinics, providing patient follow-up, and working with community members to ensure successful MEDLIFE initiatives.
 
Where are you from? 
I'm from Lima, and I live in San Juan de Lurigancho.
 
How did you get involved with MEDLIFE? 
I saw an announcement that they were looking for nurses to work here in MEDLIFE. So, I applied, and I was accepted and had the opportunity to become a part of the MEDLIFE team. 
 
What is it that you like most about working with MEDLIFE? 
I love visiting the patients. I like working directly in the clinics, and leading the educational workshops.
 
14 12 7331Here, Carmen demonstrates the steps of a Pap smear exam at a night-time educational workshop in Villa El Salvador.
 
Can you name a particular patient that has had a strong impact on you? 
Yes, there are many patients that have an impact on us because you get to see, first-hand, the help that you can give. The help you're providing the patients is sometimes much more emotional than simply medical. You want to treat them well because sometimes all that the patients want is someone to listen to their problems. Many times, their ailments aren't just of the body. There are times when you're speaking to a patient, and they have so many things stored in them that the moment they start telling you all their problems, their illnesses, it makes you sad because you see everything they have gone through. 
 
Before MEDLIFE, what were your experiences with non-profit/humanitarian organizations?
Before MEDLIFE, I worked with another NGO called Manuela Ramoswhose work focuses on women's sexual and reproductive rights. The organization aims to empower women to make their own decisions about using methods of contraception, to report when there is any kind of violence towards them, and to make the decision to have regular Pap smear exams.
 
14 12 1Carmen makes a follow-up visit with Maura Morales, a MEDLIFE patient who was in a moto-taxi accident and required major reconstructive surgery.
 
Why is this work important to you? 
I think that sometimes the work we do is to try and help women understand that their health is a priority. Women are often caretakers. They care for the health of their families, the husband, the children, but they do not care about their health. Most of the time patients who have cancer or other severe illnesses are women. They are often made to understand that, as women, we are the healthcare providers of the family, but our health becomes a part of the background.
 
What do you do in your free time?
I do a lot of work at home. I like to go dancing or go for a walk, but mostly I like to spend the weekends relaxing in my house.
 
15776874 1292474324124940 1535702963453788041 oOn clinic weeks, one of Carmen's many responsibilities includes working with volunteers to fill patients' perscriptions.
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