A little more than a month has passed since I arrived to the grey winter skies of Lima, PerÃº. The experience so far has been humbling and exciting all in one. I’m already nervous about the time passing too fast. The thought of being at the airport eight months from now waiting for the flight home is a bit daunting. There is so much to do during this year: get working experience, learn more about global health, empower and aid these communities, learn about PerÃº’s history as well as its society, explore a new city, explore a new country, explore a new continent, get to know the co-workers, meet the locals, eat as much local food as possible and also find the time to apply to graduate schools and/or jobs. Easy, right?
This is probably one of the most stimulating and overwhelming experiences we will ever have. On the one hand, there is group of fourteen twenty-something-year-olds living together under one roof. Everyone is extremely passionate about global health and exploring a new city. On the other hand, a couple of miles east of where we live, people live in more poverty than any of us could even fathom. To balance these two worlds is difficult because we are all excited to help others’ needs during the day, but we also get the chance to go home at night and unwind. We get to explore the city life after 5pm or come home to a warm bed or a cup of tea with friends sitting by our side. Then the next day, we go back into these communities to listen to their concerns and see how different our realities are, once again. Two completely different worlds are intertwined and it is a struggle to not feel guilty about our “normal” reality.
When we visit the communities of the “Pueblos JÃ³venes”, we get their perspective and get to experience, for half a day, how “simple daily things” such as bathrooms, staircases, water and electricity are not only scarce but almost nonexistent. It is not only medicine and healthcare that lacks, but also these basic living accessories that we all have access to in our homes. How do we go into these communities’ everyday, work hand-in-hand with the community members, knowing that at the end of the day we will be warm and safe in our houses? With MEDLIFE, I hope to gain an idea of how to turn this initial guilt and confusion into a positive output towards global health and the communities most in need.
We are also slowly learning to balance our desires to help these communities based on theories and problems we’ve learned in college versus figuring out what is actually plausible and sustainable to the particular needs of each community. The importance of listening to the communities and empowering their decisions rather than imposing our own beliefs of what we think they need is crucial for a sustainable outcome. For this reason, I am so happy to be part of the MEDLIFE community that works with said mission. I think this is what separates our non-profit from others, and it is providing an excellent base for all of us interns and our futures. Hopefully, by the end of this internship, we will have a better idea of how to be pioneers for social justice and against global health disparities.