Intern Journal: Sneha Kolla


Getting off the phone with my almost 15 year old sister and hearing her get excited about her first homecoming dance and her experiences as a freshman in high school only reminds me of how fast time flies. It was merely eight years ago I was in her position and who would have known that I would be picking up my bags and moving to Peru back then. Yet, here I am enjoying a café con leche in Lima and thinking about how to fit the numerous wonderful and eye-opening experiences I’ve had so far working with MEDLIFE and living in Lima into this blog post.

To begin, MEDLIFE is something I came across through a Facebook friend who posted pictures from a clinic trip. With the intentions of signing up for a trip myself, I went on their website and learned that I could start a chapter at my university. With the desire to do something substantial and helpful for my college community before graduation, I started the MEDLIFE chapter at Rowan University and this has by far been the most enlightening experience both professionally and personally.  


Developing the chapter at Rowan and simultaneously learning about Paul Farmer’s work in my medical anthropology class only enhanced my interest in the field of global health. It motivated me to do more with MEDLIFE’s mission so I applied for their internship and literally jumped to joy when I came to know I got it. It was something I knew I genuinely wanted to do and felt privileged to have the opportunity to do the kind of work the organization does. So I came to Lima in August with great compassion and integrity, which was greatly questioned during one of the night community meetings all the interns attended.

San Cristobal de Hurocancha is a community that MEDLIFE is recently partnering with. As an establishment in the hills of San Juan de Miraflores, this community has no access to electricity or a road. So when we hiked in the pitch dark for an hour and half to reach them, it’s no surprise to say that we struggled. There were many instances during this hike where I found myself not having the sense of compassion I came to Lima with. All I could think of was how much my legs hurt and how tired I was. I simply wanted to do go home, take a shower, and eat. I truly felt guilty for thinking like this but I believe it was indeed this guilt that made me push myself to continue the hike.


Once we finally arrived, the MEDLIFE staff along with the community members huddled in a circle. Carlos started talking to the community members to get an idea as to what their main concerns were and I couldn’t help but get lost in a train of thought when I saw the pregnant woman who was standing right across from me.

What was merely a one-time hike for me was one this woman has made multiple times during her time living here. I started imaging the several plausible risks she and her child faced living in conditions like these where there is no electricity, access to water is a hassle, and the susceptibility for a fall is extremely high due to the steep hillside this community was located in. I myself fell a couple times walking the same paths as this woman and imaging the toll this fall would have on her and her child was something that I found simply terrifying and devastating. It was hard to come to terms with the fact that this was their reality every single day – not just a couple of hours like it was for me.

I wanted to fix everything I saw wrong with this community. I wanted to help them in any way possible to make their reality better.  But if there is one thing I have learned from my experience working with MEDLIFE, it is that helping individuals is more complicated than what it is actually portrayed out to be.

Their non-profit efforts do not merely aim to help people. The organization tries to build relationships with communities, ensure that the help they are providing is sustainable, and emphasize on community development initiatives so the current struggles people are facing in terms of healthcare, education, and development could be prevented permanently for generations to come. In this way, the several projects the organization executes are ones that are stepping stones towards making progressive change – something I have learned takes time and patience.  

The great complexity in this kind of work is something that came as a surprise to me. When I realize the many steps and precautions that need to be taken to make a viable difference, I find myself losing the sense of integrity I had coming to Lima. Yet, every time I talk to my sister, I feel optimistic. Thinking about how much the past eight years of my life has changed and how content I am with my reality right now only makes me feel hopeful about the next eight years as well. I believe that my experiences here working with MELDIFE and living in Lima are ones that are not only testing my capabilities but also expanding them. I feel more educated about the field of global health as well as about helping individuals in the ways I want to. I am certain that my current experiences as an intern are ones that will most definitely play a transformative and pivotal role in my future endeavors and I could not be more thankful for this opportunity.



Hear it From MEDLIFErs

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Reya Seby
Western University

This trip motivated me more to pursue a career in the healthcare field so that I can use my resources to help those who need it the most, similar to MEDLIFE’s mission.

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Victoria DiCanio
University of Connecticut

It was most enjoyable to finish the hard work and see how big a difference a group of individuals can make. It was such an amazing experience.

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Anita Woo
University of Toronto

I enjoyed the mobile clinics the most, especially the dental and triage portions. I would definitely recommend a MEDLIFE trip, it was a great experience.

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David Saff
Maclay High School

The most enjoyable part of my trip was hanging out with the amazing group of kids I was with. I would highly recommend a MEDLIFE volunteer trip to others.

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Sydney Sansone
Nova Southeastern University

This trip made everything that I was learning in my public health courses come to life and immersed me in a new culture while also learning about medicine.

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Abygail Youmans
College of Charleston

Being involved with MEDLIFE is not like joining another club - its bigger than that. It is about joining a movement that seeks to help change people’s quality of life for forever.

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Emi Hofmann
University of Central Florida

Not only was I able to participate in a week long Mobile Clinic, shadowing doctors of all types of specialties including pharmacy, dentistry, gynecology, and more, but I was also able to learn about the culture and visit incredible places.

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Julian Takagi-Stewart
University of Toronto

One thing that I really loved about this trip was that MEDLIFE made sure that the volunteers got an understanding of the complexity of issues that lead to underprivileged people in communities outside of the main city

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Hannah Van Hofwegen
University of Ottawa

Whether it was basketball with the local kids, assisting the doctors, talking with families, building washrooms, holding babies, or spending time with the people who were on the SLT with me, this was an amazing opportunity that I would do over and over again.

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Isabelle Holt
Cornell University

I loved learning about the patients MEDLIFE has followed and how they offer real help to people with chronic/urgent conditions. It is amazing how the organization formed real connections with the communities.

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Valerie Lindeborg

Our family had the privilege of participating in multiple trips with Nick [founder] and his amazing staff. Their expertise made the trips unforgettable while instilling in my boys the fundamentals of good character: selflessness, compassion, and empathy.

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Harry Vildibill
University of Georgia

As an aspiring physician, MEDLIFE motivated me to further continue my goal of becoming a doctor. In fact, I enjoyed the Tanzania Service Learning Trip so much that I decided to go on another trip to Cusco, Peru.