Intern Journal: Jessica Danker - MEDLIFE

Intern Journal: Jessica Danker

“Lima, founded by Francisco Pizarro in 1535, is a fascinating city and a treasure trove of history. Explore ancient Incan archeological sites, or stroll through the elegant cathedrals and opulent palaces dating from Spanish colonial times. Downtown Lima is crowded, but you’ll enjoy exploring the city’s neighborhoods—especially the beachfront areas, which have great shopping and dining and fabulous hotels.” Trip Advisor.

Immediately, with just a single Google search, you are sucked into this whirlwind of what seemingly sounds like a travel destination that you would be dumb not to have on your bucket list (for me it was almost instant FOMO).  Words such as fascinating, opulent, historical, beachfront, elegant, fabulous, and a treasure describe the city of Lima almost everywhere you turn. Not to mention, the endless chat about the incredible gastronomy Peru has to offer.  Prime examples: Ceviche, Aji de Gallina, Causa Rellena, Arroz con leche and the list goes on… Drool. When I found out that I was going to be coming to Lima, Peru for the yearlong MEDprograms internship I could hardly wait to explore the city and thoroughly enjoy every mouth watering Peruvian dish over and over again.

405 7Typical Peruvian dish ceviche. Photo credit : Kristine Paiste

 As I sat in the window seat on the airplane, I excitedly awaited our arrival. We dove into the fog, my heart began racing as reality set in. This is my home for the next year. I impatiently awaited the wintery grey fog to clear (still waiting) so I could see the city described to me.

 I immediately discover that my mental image had been guided completely askew.  Not one word was mentioned during my research on what would be my home for the next year about what and who embodies the real city of Peru. Not one! Yes, the city does have marvelous archeological ruins, beautiful cathedrals and street food to satisfy any traveler, but what about the parts of the city that aren’t plastered on each and every travel site.

405 3Photo Credit: Tom Stephens

405 6Lima, Peru houses 30% or about 10 million inhabitants of the Peruvian population.  Many of who live in extreme poverty in communities called pueblos jovenes.  Within these communities almost all of the people are not considered residents of the city of Lima due to their lack of land rights.

In my short time as a MEDprograms intern these forgotten, unspoken about communities have become a part of everyday life.  Just a week into working for MEDLIFE I have seen what incredible things the program has done for the community.  While the interns and I huffed and puffed walking up the steep staircases MEDLIFE has built into the mountainside, it is hard to imagine how the inhabitants of this area climbed the treacherous terrain up and down to their houses multiple times a day.  While on the tour with Señor Carlos, it was made clear how much I took for granted each day.

I met a mother that day on tour. With sad and tired eyes, she told her story. I listened and almost instantly she began to cry. Her sons playing nearby, seeing her crying, came to comfort her as she asked for our help. Help with life’s basic necessities that so many people like her do not have access to, such as, running water, electricity and some things as simple as a staircase.  For the rest of my time here in Lima, it will be her face and those of the community that push me to continue the fight for medical, educational and developmental equality for low- income families. I am grateful to have the opportunity to be a part of MEDLIFE.

405 1A mother is aided by a staircase that MEDLIFE has built into the hillside. Photo Credit: Tom Stephens

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