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. 


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.