Walking through the pebbly roads of Pamplona Alta, climbing up the rocky hill sides, and waving at the peeping eyes peering from the corners of the ramshackle corrugated metal homes, I have come to learn so much about the lives, families and communities that MEDLIFE reaches out to. When venturing into these towns, seeking the feedback and help of the communities that want a new staircase, a new Wawa Wasi or another new project, I get the chance to hear the oratory skills of Carlos, MEDLIFE’s Director.
Carlos commands the attention of the audience, each set of eyes fixed on his face, his jokes eliciting hearty chuckles and his moving speeches garnering solemn looks. Carlos effectively engages the community- convinces them that a mobile clinic will bring needed medical attention for their families, and that educational sessions will inform the young women about pap smears, self-breast exams and safe sex practices. Watching Carlos interact with community leaders, town residents and even grinning children, you understand how pivotal Carlos’s work is in creating a working relationship with all of the neighboring communities. His work is the foundation that we build MEDLIFE off of- he lays the groundwork with the communities, allowing mobile clinics to come in and aid the communities by building what they need, and providing necessary medical attention. What I find most awe inspiring is that MEDLIFE is able to include the communities in our work; we do not simply go in, have a clinic or build a staircase, and leave. We are able to partner with these families in the communities, their hands diligently working alongside ours.
The gray skies and chilly days are no match for the bright smiles and warm hearts that greet us when we trek into the communities. It is moving to see that so many people are so thankful for what we do, and are willing to help us make a difference, however large or small, in their communities. Each day that I get the opportunity to venture out into the field, I am rewarded with the smiles, tears and heartfelt hugs from the families we help. Knowing that a simple staircase, or a medical clinic, can improve the lives of so many in such a small, yet profound way, makes the work here at MEDLIFE more meaningful, as clichÃ© as that may sound.
A little more than halfway through my internship, and I have begun to understand the impact that MEDLIFE has on the communities and families we help, outside of the mobile clinics themselves. The work does not end simply because there are no students from abroad coming in for a clinic. MEDLIFE has a constant flow of patient follow up mingled with community development, working with the people we serve to improve their lives in small, yet significant ways. A day in the life of an intern is never stagnant- sometimes I am in the office, sometimes I am out speaking with a patient about his recovery. It is marvelous to realize that MEDLIFE’s work affects so many, and many more will continue to receive help long after I am back in America.