My name is Franciely A. Contreras Piñeiro, a student at the University of Puerto Rico Rio Piedras Campus, and last summer, in July 2022, I got the chance to be part of a MEDLIFE Service Learning Trip. I went to Lima, Perú, and learned several things from the mobile clinics and cherished every moment during my time there. I have never seen more colors without actually seeing them. Most of these pictures show what I’m trying to explain, colors of hope, growth, and mindfulness. First and foremost, it was a rewarding, evolving, and educational experience. As you help these people grow their communities, education, healthcare, and so much more, you yourself get to grow as a professional and human being in the process. I realized that chasing your dreams feels amazing, but having the opportunity to make an impact in other people’s lives and be part of a change in the world for the greater good is more than I could ever ask for.
The first feeling I got was blessings, two different types of blessings to be specific. The first was that I had the opportunity to give hope to these low-income communities. Seeing them happy made me happier than I have ever been in my life. But also, being part of something bigger than myself is more than I could ever imagine. The second type is the blessing of having, where I was able to acknowledge how we take for granted all the privileges we have, thinking that it is something that is supposed to be mandatory, while others are fighting for it. Meanwhile, others have to live day by day with no healthcare, and no access to roads to school or work.
As a volunteer, the first thing I was taught is that step one of helping others is starting to listen to them, and not make assumptions of what they need. I remember one of the leaders of the communities gave us a reality tour. They showed us that they dream of finishing a sports field where every kid can have a space to play safely and have a lovely childhood. His exact words were: “It is our dream that the six human settlements can have a sports field so that the children can be distracted and not be locked in their houses.” They also talked about the necessity of building roads with access so they can go by car to school, as it takes them 1 hour of walking to get to the road and get in a car for half an hour more.
It was an enhancing experience helping in the development of stairs. Also, watching the professional healthcare workers helping every step of the way in the Mobile Clinics. At the same time, we got to know their culture and the beautiful kids, adults, and elders of each community we visited. On the other hand, helping with the planting and nature-spreading project was one of my favorite parts.
Lastly, I wanted to share one of my writings and thoughts while sitting on the bus on my way to the communities:
“Llena de tristeza, pero también alegría. Alegría llena de valentía acompañada de un trago amargo. Ese trago que le añaden fuerzas y felicidad en pedazos. Esos pedazos de esperanza que atraen los mejores recuerdos.”
“Full of sadness, but also joy. Joy full of courage accompanied by a bitter drink. That drink that adds strength and happiness to pieces. Those pieces of hope that attract the best memories.”
This personal writing is full of melancholy, joy, and hope of how I personally felt during this period of time in the mobile clinics. Ending this rollercoaster of learning, emotions, and contributing to Moving Mountains with MEDLIFE, I cannot wait to be part of the next Service Learning Trip.