Intern Journal: A Clinic in the Clouds



On my very first day helping out on a clinic in Riobamba, Ecuador, we travelled past rolling green hills, steep river valleys, and then into thick mist to get to the community. When we emerged from the clouds, it seemed as though we were in a different world. Mountainous and rugged, the community we finally reached was remote, with no other villages in view. Vaguely reminding me of Scotland, we were at an altitude much higher than Machu Picchu.

With my only mobile clinic experience being in the sprawling metropolis of Lima, Peru, the day was full of interesting new experiences. The first and most apparent difference between this community and any other place I have been was the traditional clothing. Each community member wore layer upon layer of bright red, pink, blue, and green clothing, often with intricate patterns. Contrasted with the dull vegetation and town buildings, these vivid colors positively shined.

Despite it being the height of summer, the fairly cold temperature was also strange compared to hot, sunny Lima. Almost every child we saw had a bright red face, which we all soon realized was red from their raw and irritated skin. Because the community sat high up and close to the Equator, the cold there combined with bright sun cracked the children’s skin year-round. Regardless, the tooth brushing station that day was surrounded by happy and energetic kids, per usual.


Another fascinating aspect of that day was the extent to which the community spoke their native language, Quechua. It was clearly everyone’s first language, from young children to their grandparents. While most people easily spoke Spanish to us from MEDLIFE, it was striking to hear young children conversing in this beautiful language that sounds so different from Spanish.

Yet the most remarkable difference in this community did not occur to me until the end of the day, as we packed up the clinic and carried all the supplies back to the buses. Despite a lack of garbage bins, there was almost no trash on the ground. No soda bottles, no candy wrappers, and no chip bags. As I noticed this, I realized it simply was because no packaged foods were sold in the village. With no stores in sight, and I soon realized this community lives off their land and the little that they do buy and sell comes from the closest town an hour away. I was told by a doctor thatthe consequence of this is apparent in the low rates of diabetes but high rates of malnutrition in the community.

Even facing immense hardships—lacking access to a proper education, jobs, enough food, or medical care—it was clear to me how strong and beautiful this community was. Isolated and far from the nearest city, it has managed to hold onto an incredible culture and traditions. I hope that MEDLIFE can continue to bring them much needed medical care and education, while simultaneously showing student volunteers what a diverse and unique world we live in.




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.