Two years ago I volunteered at a MEDLIFE mobile clinic, hauling cement with sixty other University of Michigan students, to help build a staircase in the community of 22 de Junio. I never imagined I would be standing on those stairs again, but this time as a MEDprograms intern.
After my experience working with MEDLIFE in 2014, I knew that I wanted to improve my Spanish and continue learning more about health disparities in medically underserved communities. I went back to school and declared as a Spanish major immediately. When I was getting ready to graduate, I was looking for more opportunities to continue to educate myself—to learn more about the world around me, and what I could do to serve others. Once again, MEDLIFE seemed like the perfect fit for me.
However, leaving the country for a week and leaving for a year are two very different experiences. I had been on a mobile clinic, and I had thoroughly researched the values of MEDLIFE, but you don’t really know what you’re getting into until you’re here. We spent our entire first week training (with Nick Ellis himself!): learning about MEDLIFE’s goals, how it is different from medical missions, and what factors contribute to Lima’s health and development disparities. It was such an amazing experience to be surrounded by people passionate about educating themselves on these issues and working to eliminate them.
The next step was to put it all into practice. I was able to spend an entire week in the field with the nurses and Carlos, our director for MEDprograms Peru. I visited communities and got to speak to them about addressing their needs, whether it was water projects, educational workshops, or staircases. I was able to sit down with patients and understand how our processes work to remove the barriers that separate them from accessing quality health care. I even rode in a mototaxi, which was honestly a little terrifying, but I did live to tell the tale.
The first couple weeks in Lima have been a whirlwind, but I keep finding myself thinking about returning to those stairs in 22 de Junio. After two years, I am so thankful for this opportunity to be back in Lima to continue learning about and serving these communities.