Time flies. What a cliche term. Alas, cliches come to be because they have so much truth behind their overused sentiment. This phrase has never been so clear to me as I approach my last days as a MEDLIFE year long intern, and my last days living in Lima, a city I have grown to love. For the last nine months, I have been living and working in Lima with some of the most inspiring and talented people. Nine months, for some people, may seem like a short amount of time, but I assure you that nine months is a formative span of time in a young adult’s life. That nine months can teach you lessons about yourself, your passions, and your future. It can give you a life changing perspective and a support system you never could have dreamed of having. It is a fair amount of time to create change, impact lives, and open the eyes of students all over North America. Nine months may seem short in the span of one’s hopefully very long life, but it it is a substantial amount of time to do some good and learn something new.
And learn, I have. Working with MEDLIFE has taught me many lessons about life and about working in a professional environment, just what every recent college grad is looking for. From my very first week here to just this morning, I learn something new about Peru, marginalized communities, sustainable development work, disparities in health care, the lifestyle of our communities, and of course, the Spanish language. The internship has also given me a perspective that will, hopefully, continue to drive my career and life path. I never want to forget all I have seen and learned, and I never want to forget the real struggles these communities face every single day. In MEDLIFE’s introductory video, Dr. Nick Ellis, the founder and CEO of the organization, shares a story of the very first patient that started what would become the non-profit I know today. Darwin is a little boy in the rural parts of Ecuador who ten years ago, needed heart surgery. After Nick raised the money needed to help this then little boy survive, Darwin’s father said something that will always hits me to my core. He told Nick, “Don’t forget us,” and Nick describes in the video how all MEDLIFE employees feel, that we could never forget about Darwin, the catalyst for an organization that we love. But, no, Darwin’s father explains “don’t forget about all the poor people, everywhere.”
Don’t forget. Such a simple concept that is so poignant to someone who is passionate about doing social development work. Too easily can we get swept up into our own lives and into the trials and tribulations of our own struggles that we forget why we got involved in this type of work in the first place. The sentiment Darwin’s father brings to light is my biggest fear about leaving Lima. Will I forget? Will I lose nine months of valuable perspective that has deepened my understanding of human kindness? Will I get swept back into the world of material goods, and forget about all the people whose biggest concern is getting to school safely? Only time will tell, I guess. But this I do know: I know how I feel today, and today I feel completely permeated and changed by my MEDLIFE experience. Today I feel more enlightened about the world, about myself, and about my future. Of course I fear losing this perspective, because I feel how important it has been in cultivating the person I am today. But can you ever really lose a part of you, that at one point was the dominating factor of your being? Again, only time will tell; but I’m hopeful.
My time in undergrad at the University of Michigan cultivated and developed my critical analysis skills, especially when it comes to social justice centered issues. MEDLIFE has helped me take those skills learned in school and then properly apply them to developmental issues as we tackle access to healthcare for impoverished communities. Working in Lima has given me the opportunity to focus. To take one of my many, many interests and really dive in deep to the issues it presents. Not only has MEDLIFE given me focus, but its given me support to pursue this interest in international healthcare access and the tools to do so.
MEDLIFE brought me to Lima, and Lima showed me a love for a country I had previously never even visited. Lima showed me I can live in a massive city, humidity and all, and that I can find a community of diverse, caring, intelligent, and inspiring people to surround myself with inside and outside of work. Living in Lima has prepared me to be ready for anything. No curveball is surprising or shocking after living in Lima and after working with MEDLIFE. I have found a flexibility and resilience inside myself that I didn’t even know was there, which are valuable qualities to have at your disposal.
All that I have seen, done, experienced, and grown to love in my time here is because of MEDLIFE. I moved to Peru, a country I had never previously been to, away from all of my family and friends and everything I have grown accustomed to in order to be apart of the change MEDLIFE brings to communities around the world. I have grown and learned in these past nine months and have connected with people that have brought such a special light and meaning to my life through their friendship. The friends and family I have made here, all the professional and life lessons I have learned, all the drive I have to continue this type of work I have gained because MEDLIFE brought me to Lima, gave me a home, and gave me an opportunity to grow. For this, my time here, and all that it does to help those who have previously been forgotten, I am and will continue to be grateful to this organization.
Even though my fear of forgetting is still present, it has no power over me. Deep down, I know that I have been so profoundly influenced by my time with MEDLIFE that I will never be able to forget, but I believe the exact opposite will occur. I believe that these ideas and memories will only ferment itself further into my being and drive me to continue MEDLIFE’s mission, but in a different part of the world using slightly different methods. Because after all, how could I truly ever forget? All the patients I have met, all the students who have helped, and all the profoundly inspiring and charitable staff that work under the guise of MEDLIFE but for the marginalized communities we support. For me, Darwin’s father need not worry because I will never forget all the people who still need help, all the people who remained ignored and continue suffering. MEDLIFE will be here to support you, and I will continue to support this work, just in new capacities, using the tools that MEDLIFE has given me. I won’t forget. How could I?