Intern Journal: Sharing and celebrating an accomplishment

Year-long intern Hannah Gillean writes about her experience at the inauguration of a staircase project in community 15 A-1. 


Yesterday marked my third staircase inauguration, and it was the most meaningful one for me yet. Inaugurations are such a joyful experience as they give the community, as well as the zona (the surrounding communities), a chance to unite and celebrate the completion of a staircase that improves the environment in which they all share.  Although a staircase only directly affects those who live adjacent to the structure, the construction of a staircase indirectly improves the lives of all of those who live within proximity of the infrastructure; it allows neighbors to descend and ascend with ease as well as beautifies the environment for all to see.  A staircase is so much more than a set of stairs and its supporting structure.

This inauguration was unlike the previous two that I have witnessed for two reasons. For one, I saw, for the most part, the entirety of the process that led up to the final construction of the staircase. Typically, MEDLIFE works for around 8 months with the community — holding educational workshops and community meetings before the execution of a staircase project. Although I was not able to witness the community meetings in the months leading up to the staircase construction, I saw the entire labor process that led the staircase that we inaugurated Sunday.It began with the delivery of tons of sand and cement at the bottom of the hill that we hauled up bucket by bucket via a chain composed of us interns and community members. Then, similar to the chain created to lug the materials up the hill, we formed another human chain to pass wooden planks one by one up the intense incline to make a skeleton of the staircase. We followed a similar routine to fill the wooden skeleton with rocks and then to fill the steps with cement. As interns, we were only able to work for a few hours each visit, but the community relentlessly worked 10-hour days fueled by the sheer desire to improve the environment of their zona.  I was literally able to see the land transform before my eyes from precarious and unruly rubble to a solid and15a1beforeafter small3 safe structure.

The second defining event that made this inauguration so special was the open forum that took place after the bottle breaking ceremony, a Peruvian inauguration tradition. After community members and year-long interns briefly spoke about their experiences, Carlos promptly announced that we were to have an open forum among the four present communities that reside within this newly beautified zona. The purpose of this forum was to figure out who would be providing the last community with the wooden planks used for the skeleton so that their staircase can begin as soon as possible. Carlos requested that the dirigentes, or elected community leaders, of each block express their opinion publicly. As the debate ensued about whether the planks should be rented, loaned or bought, Carlos began to smile as it was clear that a solution was desired by all involved parties. Watching the four communities debate and reach a solution independent of intervention was not only euphoric but also incredibly gratifying as it reiterated their dedication to development.

The festivities followed with dancing and food. I am so grateful to have had the opportunity to get to know these community members and construct a staircase with them. I look forward to many more inaugurations in this community!



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.