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:
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.