Intern Journal: A Walk in Vilma's Shoes - MEDLIFE

Intern Journal: A Walk in Vilma’s Shoes



When MEDLIFE initially approached Vilma to assist with her comedor, she was quite reluctant, as she was convinced that MEDLIFE’s assistance included a hidden agenda. But after a comforting talk with Carlos, Director of MEDLIFE Peru, she was able to gain our trust and accept our assistance. MEDLIFE first met Vilma in a mobile clinic that we held in her community, Ampliación Virgen de Lourdes. After the clinic, she promptly became a patient in MEDLIFE’s follow-up program to cure her cervical cancer. Due to the valiant efforts of  former summer intern Hailey Bossio, MEDLIFE will be assisting Vilma to maintain and repair her comedor while she is in her treatment program. With the support of Hailey’s campaign, we will be visiting and assisting Vilma every two weeks for the next 9 months.  

In order to maintain the functionality of the comedor, MEDLIFE has budgeted to provide nutrient-dense food for Vilma while she is in treatment. Due to her location in the high hills of Villa Lourdes and her weak physical state, it is extremely difficult for Vilma to attain the amount of food needed to nutritiously feed her community. Although the municipality does supply Vilma with the necessities, one cannot sustain a happy and healthy lifestyle eating only potatoes and rice. Thus, during our shopping trip on Tuesday, Carlos, the interns and I were determined to purchase nutrient-dense foods that Vilma’s community will be able to eat in the coming weeks.

In San Juan de Miraflores, there is a large market called Mercado Señor de Muruhuay where we began our shopping extravaganza.  Although the abundance of vendors and variety was slightly overwhelming, Carlos dove right in and began examining the quality of the vegetables that we would be purchasing. As we are only able to visit Vilma every two weeks, we decided to purchase fare with a longer shelf life. In addition to purchasing chicken, which would be consumed that day, we purchased a variety of dried legumes to provide a protein source that would not spoil quickly. Furthermore, we stocked up on a variety of fresh vegetables. Luckily, thanks to the strength of my fellow interns Arthur and Frank, we were able to purchase more than 50 kilos of food to bring to Vilma.

With our 50 kilos of food, the six of us piled into a combi, a small bus, and ascended on an unpaved and rugged road that leads to Vilma’s comedor.  After the 30-minute journey, we promptly got off the combi and climbed the hill that led us to the entrance of the comedor. Vilma greeted us with the warmest regards. Inside the comedor, we found a young boy who had been doing his math homework with the assistance of Vilma. She gratefully accepted the food and invited us to see the kitchen as well as her collection of livestock out back.


I cannot imagine how a single woman, like Vilma, is able to independently execute this task each week — a process that was not only tiresome but also very cumbersome for all of us. Witnessing the process required to obtain healthy, fresh foods in the high areas of Villa Lourdes made me realize the basic yet crucial luxuries that I take for granted each day.  I am very much looking forward to getting to know Vilma in the coming months and learning what else I can do to make her life less burdensome.