Becoming a Global Citizen: Intern Journal by Brandy Collum - MEDLIFE

Becoming a Global Citizen: Intern Journal by Brandy Collum

“Why are you helping abroad and not back at home?” 


This question haunted me throughout the summer, but I knew it would follow me the rest of my life since I have a desire to live and work in another country after graduation. It was hard for me to answer, but interning with MEDLIFE for a summer helped me find clarity.


I devoted three months of my life to uncertainty. I had never been away from home this long, never been to Lima, Peru, and never met the thirteen other interns I would be living and working with. It was definitely scary, but it’s through these moments of uncertainty that I learned more about who I am and about the needs of the world, specifically Peru.


14 12 2620Brandy, along with several of the other 2017 summer interns, work with community members in Unión de Santa Fe to fill in the roof of the MEDLIFE WawaWasi.


I remember the first time I went on a reality tour, an educational walk through underdeveloped areas in which MEDLIFE works, and how I felt completely overwhelmed by how much needed to be done. There were an endless number of houses that lacked proper access to water, electricity, and sanitation. Overall, things were just unsafe, with the electrical wires hanging, waste alongside the street, and  unpaved roads. There was a moment when I thought to myself, “this is too much”. It would have been easy just to leave then and there, but I found too much significance and value in the work that MEDLIFE does. It is really easy to feel discouraged; however, I know that the effort we put forth really benefits the communities. It changes the life of a family, of a person. For example, the staircases we built will not only provide a safe pathway, they will also allow community members to apply for a land titles which will essentially give them easier access to food, education, health services, work, and other basic necessities. 


14 12 9887The Wall of Shame: a wall that separates Pamplona and the richest neighborhoods in lima as well as a stop on the MEDLIFE reality tour.


Staircases are only one example of the numerous projects we completed this summer. I also had the incredible opportunity to participate in several mobile clinics. One that was particularly impactful was MEDLIFE’s first clinic in the Lima women’s penitentiary. We performed pap smears and gynecological consultations. What’s most astonishing to me is that MEDLIFE created this opportunity from scratch. Obviously, the women inside the prison had no way of attending a MEDLIFE mobile clinic on their own, so MEDLIFE took action and sought them out. 


14 12 0381Women of the Santa Monica Penitentiary in Lima attend an education session on cervical cancer hosted by MEDLIFE staff.


So why serve communities internationally rather than domestically? Because a person is a person. I am not diminishing the necessity of helping people those in need at home. Help is needed everywhere, and no one person is more valuable than another. If a plane ticket is necessary, I will take the initiative and go. I am not going back to “the real world” when I return home; I’m returning having experienced another part of the real world. Now, I can continue to assist people who are only a walking distance away from me. The most exciting part is knowing that the knowledge and insight I have gained through my experience in Lima will be shared wherever I go, even my own community back in Sweet Home Alabama.


Sometimes we do not take the first steps because we are overwhelmed, intimidated, and think our goals are unachievable before we even start. I desperately want each person to live a better life, and I needed to remind myself that small steps are essential to a larger movement.


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Brandy studies Marketing and Spanish at the University of Alabama and plans to start a MEDLIFE chapter when she returns.