Intern Journal: Lauren St. George - MEDLIFE

Intern Journal: Lauren St. George

Water. Such a basic and common thing in my life that I never stopped to think, ‘what my life would be like without easy access to clean water’? Clean, safe water for cleaning, cooking, drinking, and so many other uses is immediately at our fingertips as Americans that it easily becomes taken for granted. 

When I went on a MEDLIFE trip nearly three years ago, I must admit that I was much more selfish than I am now. The trip for me was going to be a cool experience– I could travel and shadow some doctors so that I could get in a fun, international experience while also building my resume. My time in Lima that winter really changed the perspective I had of my world and allowed me to have tremendous personal growth the past three years. (Which ultimately led me to this internship with MEDLIFE) For me, this change came about very clearly during my reality tour on the second day of my volunteer trip.


When walking through the communities and taking photos, we saw many appalling things, including water being distributed in retired chemical barrels. Some of the people who sold these barrels to the communities had not even taken the time to fully peel off the skull-and-crossbones stickers on the side, which were meant to warn the user that the contents were toxic. I kept thinking, ‘people actually drink from these??’


This was the most shocking sight I had ever seen, and it made me kept thinking ‘why’? Why are these people drinking from these barrels? Why are they in such a circumstance that no other option is available? Why are the people not educated enough to know they are probably poisoning themselves by using these barrels? WHY DOESN’T SOMEBODY DO SOMETHING TO HELP??? We kept walking a ways and stopped to talk to a gentleman standing by an outdoor water faucet. He was explaining that the faucet supplied them with clean water, and was recently put in. After talking with the man a while longer, he shared the information that it had cost about $500 US dollars to install this faucet. 

374-5This hit me hard. Why? Because previously that month I had bought a pair of boots that I had been eyeing for over a year. These boots were beautiful! Brown leather, handmade, and way too expensive. It made me sick to realize that I had just bought a pair of shoes that cost the same as putting in that water faucet. This is when the self-reflection started. I started to question everything I was doing with my life and why I was doing it. Why do I think it is okay to spend money on unnecessary objects when people here can’t even have water that is safe? What do I expect out of my life? Why do I want to be a doctor? Why am I here? And eventually, what can I do to help? This moment was bittersweet for me because I then knew that I could not go home and get on with my life. I could not forget what I had seen here. It would have been easy to go back and move on without MEDLIFE, but that was not possible for me.

Three years later, here I am! An intern with MEDLIFE and someone who has a passion for public health and helping underserved communities. That moment in Pamplona Alta changed my life because I know I would not be here without it. I have had the most amazing experience here with MEDLIFE so far and I cannot wait to continue working to make a difference.