As a summer intern for MEDLIFE, I’ve had the opportunity to participate in development projects on each of the 3 clinics I have worked on: two staircase projects in the Buena Vista community of Pamplona Alta in Lima, and MEDLIFE’s 100th project in Ecuador, a daycare center bathroom. Coming into this internship as a student interested in studying medicine, I did not anticipate that I would enjoy the development work as much as I do. However, at each project I was struck by the positive attitudes of the community members we worked with and how welcoming they were to all our volunteers. Even though we usually proved to be much less competent builders than they were -Mixing cement by hand? Not as easy as it looks!- the community members treated us like family and were so grateful for our help. Project days have become one of my favorite parts of the clinic week, so I was very excited for our intern development work.
As Lara discussed in her latest post, last week all of us interns started work on a project in the community of Jesus Obrero. We carried sand up to the worksite, packed the staircase frame with rocks, passed buckets filled with cement along the steep terrain, planted trees along the finished project and painted alongside the community members. All together, two much-needed staircases were completed in the community. On Thursday we completed the finishing touches, painted the risers in MEDLIFE’s signature red, and held our inauguration ceremony.
Inauguration ceremonies are some of the most fun and enjoyable parts of a clinic week, and this one proved to be no different. We blasted music, danced around, listened to some community members serenade us, talked and played with the little kids, and, as always, ate loads of food. They served us all kinds of cakes, cookies, tequenos, sandwiches, and everything in between as we listened to speeches and broke a bottle of champagne over the finished staircases. Afterwards we followed the local baker up to his house where he showed us how he makes bread in their small home. We all enjoyed some of the warm rolls on such a cold day, and the community members proclaimed our fellow intern, Cristina, and our architect, Tim, as godparents of the bread oven. Of course, more celebration and dancing ensued. When we left for home hours later we were stuffed and exhausted as usual, a sign of a successful inauguration.
As I prepare to leave my internship and head back home, I’m so grateful to have been able to work with and learn from these community members. The development projects have taught me much more than I would have thought. Working alongside the community members has shown me that a positive attitude can really change a situation, how to appreciate your neighbors, how much a thank you can really mean to those who help you, and to remember to take time to celebrate your work.