Intern Journal: An Unexpected Reaction

MEDLIFE summer intern Karolien Celie, a student at the University of York in the UK, writes about her first visit to the field in Lima: 
karolineinternjournalFrom left: Carlos Benavides, followup patient Vilma, interns Lara and Karolien.
Photo by Benjamin Ostrander

It was a chilly day in Lima the day my fellow interns Ben, Lara and I made our way outside to meet Carlos, the director of MEDLIFE in Peru, who was ready to take us on a patient follow-up visit. As we all squeezed into the crowded little bus that would take us to the outskirts of the city I wondered what the day had in store for us. Carlos had told us that a few weeks ago MEDLIFE had run a clinic in Ampliacion Virgen de Lourdes and we were going to go visit one potential patient whose test results had come back positive for cancer. As the little bus sped through the streets of Lima the scenery noticeably became more barren, the houses smaller, the stray dogs more prevalent.

I figured when we met this lady she would be very grateful for the assistance MEDLIFE offered her, I expected gratitude and relief on her part but when we finally reached her little rugged house somewhere up the mountain, only distinguishable because of a little sign at the front that said “comedor,” it was not a relieved lady that met us. Instead, it was a shy lady, who looked not relieved but very scared. We talked with her and it became evident that she not only feared her diagnosis but also…us!

Carlos of course had encountered this kind of distrust before and explained to the lady that his own wife had once been in her position and that MEDLIFE had helped her too. He also assured her that there was no secret agenda, and that the fact that MEDLIFE would help her for free was simply out of goodness. Carlos referred to a conversation he had had with the founder of MEDLIFE, Nick Ellis, who had told Carlos he simply believed that humanity should help each other – if everyone did that we wouldn’t live in a world, Carlos told the lady, we would live in a paradise! Finally the fear began to leave the woman’s eyes and a slight smile appeared as she agreed to let MEDLIFE help her.

It was an eye-opening experience for me in the sense that I had never realized some people would need to be persuaded to accept free help, and how amazing it must be for them to realize MEDLIFE offers exactly that, with no strings attached. As we said goodbye to her and her little 10 year old daughter I imagined briefly what an awful situation they would be in if MEDLIFE had come a few years later, or not at all.


Hear it From MEDLIFErs

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Reya Seby
Western University

This trip motivated me more to pursue a career in the healthcare field so that I can use my resources to help those who need it the most, similar to MEDLIFE’s mission.

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Victoria DiCanio
University of Connecticut

It was most enjoyable to finish the hard work and see how big a difference a group of individuals can make. It was such an amazing experience.

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Anita Woo
University of Toronto

I enjoyed the mobile clinics the most, especially the dental and triage portions. I would definitely recommend a MEDLIFE trip, it was a great experience.

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David Saff
Maclay High School

The most enjoyable part of my trip was hanging out with the amazing group of kids I was with. I would highly recommend a MEDLIFE volunteer trip to others.

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Sydney Sansone
Nova Southeastern University

This trip made everything that I was learning in my public health courses come to life and immersed me in a new culture while also learning about medicine.

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Abygail Youmans
College of Charleston

Being involved with MEDLIFE is not like joining another club - its bigger than that. It is about joining a movement that seeks to help change people’s quality of life for forever.

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Emi Hofmann
University of Central Florida

Not only was I able to participate in a week long Mobile Clinic, shadowing doctors of all types of specialties including pharmacy, dentistry, gynecology, and more, but I was also able to learn about the culture and visit incredible places.

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Julian Takagi-Stewart
University of Toronto

One thing that I really loved about this trip was that MEDLIFE made sure that the volunteers got an understanding of the complexity of issues that lead to underprivileged people in communities outside of the main city

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Hannah Van Hofwegen
University of Ottawa

Whether it was basketball with the local kids, assisting the doctors, talking with families, building washrooms, holding babies, or spending time with the people who were on the SLT with me, this was an amazing opportunity that I would do over and over again.

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Isabelle Holt
Cornell University

I loved learning about the patients MEDLIFE has followed and how they offer real help to people with chronic/urgent conditions. It is amazing how the organization formed real connections with the communities.

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Valerie Lindeborg

Our family had the privilege of participating in multiple trips with Nick [founder] and his amazing staff. Their expertise made the trips unforgettable while instilling in my boys the fundamentals of good character: selflessness, compassion, and empathy.

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Harry Vildibill
University of Georgia

As an aspiring physician, MEDLIFE motivated me to further continue my goal of becoming a doctor. In fact, I enjoyed the Tanzania Service Learning Trip so much that I decided to go on another trip to Cusco, Peru.