I have travelled to other countries in Europe and Latin America, but living in Lima for the past month has been a great gift. My first days were filled with excitement and giddy joy at this great adventure at a new place, and the rest of my thirteen roommates and I took it upon ourselves to explore the immense city of Lima, Peru. Our first excursions was to the district of Miraflores, which is known for its restaurants, bars and upscale apartments within view of the ocean. We walked on the oceanside and later got lunch at La Lucha, a delicious sandwich place of Miraflores, which is situated at Larcomar, the oceanside mall of Lima.
Similarly, my first day in the field was breathtaking in many ways. We began our 40 minute ride to the community Union Santa Fe in Pamplona Alta where we were to be present at the Wawa Wasi Inauguration (a day care). We entered a large sea of homes of which communities rise up to the hills and beyond the peaks. During the day you are able to see brightly colored homes scattered in the pueblos jovenes (shantytowns); in addition to a layer of fog that hugs the horizon and tallest hills which are covered in homes. You would never have believed these hills would have as many homes as they do, and to such elevation considering the landscape conditions and lack or resources in such areas. The seclusion and non-government land causes
When going to the field, I always think about going up. During the Wawa Wasi Inauguration we drove up to switchback up the windy trails, leaving only two feet of space between the unprotected cliff edge and our bus. We parked and then, of course, had to take a ‘few flights’ of stairs that led up to Union Santa Fe and the last colorful staircase which led up to the daycare center.
We recently visited the community of San Cristobal de Hurocancha, where we are beginning a partnership. This community is located at the top of the hills of Pamplona and does not have access to water, electricity or a safe and accessible road to home. Our meeting took place at 7PM, at which point the sun had set and darkness surrounded us. Our walk up to San Cristobal de Hurocancha began as a road, but quickly turned into a dirt path that was damp from the continuous fog and covered with stones, trash and other waste. The group of almost twenty of us walked in a straight line through the night, with only lights in the distance to guide us along the hillside.
During our meeting, Carlos asked the community members what trail they took home, the same way as we did, they responded. I couldn’t imagine this, almost hour long, trek day and night to the foothills and then another bus ride to a work location every day. I thought of the many times I have walked home and the path is always well lit, clean and paved. But that trail the reality for so many individuals of this and other communities.
My last field visit was this week, our patient had a possibly tumor on her forehead that had been developing for almost three years. Now it began to affect her vision, and MEDLIFE had proceeded to assist her with removing it and helping her family. Myself and another intern, April, were asked to come to the pre-op to donate blood for her upcoming operation. We took the normal bus ride to the pubelos jovenes in the outskirts of Lima and then walked to the hospital which provides health care the members of the pueblos jovenes.
We entered the hospital and immediately the lines of patients overtook your view and the warm air filled your lungs. There were long lines for appointments, every type of specialists, and the pharmacy. They trailed out of the offices and into the hallway, almost blending together and the amount of people waiting for an appointment was breathtaking. We walked over to the blood bank and waited for three hours to finish processing two blood donations, as we waited, I played with Leonardo, our patients four year old son. His mother told me he was missing school and had multiple times due to having to come along to her appointments. She didn’t have closer relatives to care for and take him to school.
I have mentioned the conditions of the communities we work in, and what they do not have access to and what they “need”. After this first month, reflection has sunk into our thoughts and everyday activities. I spent the first few weeks observing and understanding the delicate complexity that our jobs at MEDLIFE entail. Currently I struggle with the complexity of injustice that is present and how as a team we can assist. We know that this year will consist of improvements, however small, toward making better the community’s quality of living, but in this we will be able to learn from them and grow. “ What does this all mean?” goes through my mind continuously as I try and take the purpose of why I am here and make a difference. Experiences with Leonardo and his family have helped to feed my passion and show me what facts and pictures can’t.