On monday March 27th, during our Spring 2017 season, MEDLIFE held a Mobile Clinic in the Chipsa community, located in Guano City, an hour and a half away from the city of Riobamba, Province of Chimborazo, Ecuador. As soon as the Mobile Clinic started, a woman appeared with a child who couldn't walk, and the two of them directly approached the doctor. The little girl was complaining about pain that was caused by a "'ball" putting pressure on her stomach. When the doctor was attending the girl, she could recognize that the girl wasn't in fact very well, and that she needed to get to the hospital. Martha Chicaiza, director of MEDPROGRAMS Latinamerica and Ecuador, was present and determined to help the patient. She hired an SUV, and that same day Miria Rosero, and her daughter, 14-year-old Kassandra Muyolema, were taken to the Hospital Docente de Riobamba. Once they arrived and were attended to, doctors confirmed Kassandra needed an emergency surgery. 
 
IMG 9227
 
In May of 2017, many weeks after meeting Kassandra and knowing that she was finally being treated, we visited her and her mother, Miria, to see how they have been.
 
The weekend before the Mobile Clinic which Kassandra attended, Miria heard that there would be a medical mission happening in their community soon. Today, Kassandra's mother informed us that she decided to wait for MEDLIFE to get to her community to seek the healthcare her daughter needed, because even though they have a health post close to them, she felt that the post could not provide the proper care that the little girl needed. That same day that we met Miria and Kassandra in the clinic, around 8pm, Kassandra went into surgery. The doctor previously said that her stomach was getting stiff, stating that it was about to burst and that it was best for Miria to mentally prepare for what was going to happen. The girl stayed in the hospital for eight days, unable to eat anything during that time period. She received an injection to stop the pain and shortly after that, she could walk and eat again. Now, Kassandra wants to jump and run, but her mother must always remind her to stay calm during the recovery process. 
 
Kassandra is part of a family of 6. She lives with her mother, father, and sister, while her two older brothers live in Quito, Ecuador. The family is originally from the Cahuají Alto community. Kassandra's dad had suffered from apendicitis years before, which is what would eventually happen to Kassandra. Thanks to the healthcare she received, Kassandra is now healthy and completely cured.
 
Miria works in the fields of Chipsa. She is very thankful that MEDLIFE was able to provide the support she needed to treat her daughter. The hostility which Miria had previously encountered in the hospital was what she was most afraid of. Miria felt that her daughter was getting worse by the minute, but no one was really taking care of them or treating Kassandra's illness. To this day, she is still thankful for Martha Chicaiza's patience and company during Kassandra's time at the hospital. 
 
"To all the patients who might suffer from the same illness, I encourage you to take the opportunity to get checked when doctors come with the Mobile Clinics. We might not all have the means or resources to go to the city (Riobamba) for healthcare, so we should appreciate all of the effort and time that the people of MEDLIFE put in just to come here just to heal people," Miria says. 
 
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This blog is part of a series showcasing chapters that won awards in this year's MEDLIFE Awards. Each week we will be talking to a chapter to hear about their keys to success. Find out how to start a MEDLIFE chapter at your school HERE.
 
This year, the University of Pennsylvania was awarded the MEDLIFE Social Media Award. MEDLIFE UPenn uses their social media as a tool to effectively communicate with their members to educate and spread awareness. They have held initiatives such as "Public Health Week" in which they created a short video series explaining various public health issues. They have their own website, blog, and even a youtube channel!
 
We caught up with the president of the University of Pennsylvania chapter, Santosh Nori, to hear more about their recent success as a chapter. 
 
14 12 6400Members of the University of Pennsylvania Chapter of MEDLIFE
 
How did you start to work with MEDLIFE? Why did you choose MEDLIFE?
 
I started to work with MEDLIFE during my freshman year of college. Coming into college, I knew that I was interested in global health, and really wanted to get involved with some service oriented activities related to this subject. I joined MEDLIFE, and a couple of other global health clubs, just to get a feel for which one was the best fit. In the end, I chose MEDLIFE because of all of the service opportunities our chapter provided that allowed us to actually make a difference both within Philadelphia and internationally and because of the awesome people that made up the chapter!
 
What new strategies have you used as President of your Chapter to gather support and inspire students to work with MEDLIFE?
 
As the recently elected president of MEDLIFE Penn, one my main goals was to foster a sense of community within MEDLIFE on campus. My exec board and I strongly believed that this was one of the most important things to address, insofar as a sense of community lends itself to more engaged members and a more enjoyable and meaningful experience for students within MEDLIFE. We have implemented a “family group” system, where students across different committees  are essentially grouped into different “families” that are able to bond outside MEDLIFE. As such, there is more connection between students in different committees. This has also drawn in a number of general members, increasing our recruitment interest for next semester.
 
In your opinion, what is your chapter’s greatest achievement?
 
In my opinion, our chapter’s greatest achievement this year was our Community Engagement committee’s recent initiative on inner city education. Our community engagement committee has put together a global health curriculum to present to students in inner city schools, particularly in underprivileged areas of Philadelphia, to inform students more about facets of public health and to inspire them to explore studies and careers in these facets. They have just successfully piloted the initiative this semester, and plan to open up the project to all MEDLIFE members and more schools next semester.
 
What did you do to get people engaged?
 
One thing that my exec board and I felt was crucial for member engagement was connecting members to the different health issues that they were working on in MEDLIFE. In other words, we felt that students really did not know a lot about the health issues that they were tackling within the Philadelphia community and that MEDLIFE as a whole was tackling internationally. As such, we wanted to educate our members, as well as Penn’s campus, about these efforts and issues through a number of lectures by reputed public health experts on campus, MEDLIFE staff who Skyped in from Lima, and even other students.
 
14 12 1993Members of MEDLIFE UPenn attending the "Mindless Medicine" Lecture event
 
What is your most memorable experience working with MEDLIFE?
 
My most memorable experience working with MEDLIFE was volunteering at a homeless shelter in Philadelphia as a freshman, where other members and I were able to cook a meal for the poor that were at the shelter. It was a very fulfilling experience, and I was able to meet new members and really bond with them over the experience.
 
What plans do you have for the future of your chapter?
 
With regard to the short term future, I am looking to improve the general member experience at our chapter through more engaging campus events. In the long term, I would really like to have our chapter of MEDLIFE start a global health and international development oriented journal. A number of health organizations have done this on campus, however, such a journal doesn’t exist for students interested in global health, international development, and service. A thirst for knowledge and information in these areas on campus, both on an academic and pre-professional level, provides a niche for a journal focusing on these areas. Putting out a journal can help raise awareness for MEDLIFE, our chapter’s efforts, and our cause. 
 
Do you have any advice for other chapters?
 
One of my biggest pieces of advice based on my experiences thus far is that MEDLIFE should be approached from a perspective of what makes your members gain the most out of their experiences with the chapter. If students really enjoy being a part of the chapter and are interested in the work that the chapter does, they will remain committed to the chapter and really give their best, leading to better service and awareness.
 
14 12 0719Volunteer from MEDLIFE at the University of Pennsylvania

This blog is part of a series showcasing chapters that won awards in this years MEDLIFE Awards. Each week we will be talking to a chapter to hear about their keys to success. Find out how to start a MEDLIFE chapter at your school HERE.

University of Tampa has had a successful year as a new chapter. They quickly picked up the ball and ran with it. They recently received a reward from their University acknowledging them as the best organization on campus! In total, they have completed 2,000 volunteer hours including volunteering at Habitat for Humanity, St. Joseph’s Children Hospital and at a local outpatient clinic in Tampa.

We talked to Nichole Laggan, external President, and Veronica Martinez-Brockhus, internal president of the chapter, to hear about their involvement with MEDLIFE.

IMG 4625University of Tampa Chapter members

How did you start to work with MEDLIFE? Why did you choose MEDLIFE?

Veronica: The past president reached out to both Nichole and me last summer and asked if we  would be a part of MEDLIFE’s new chapter at UT. I had never heard of MEDLIFE but after much research, I found how amazing the organization is. I chose to be part of  University of Tampa’s founding executive board because I believe in all that MEDLIFE stands for. I feel as though people do not realize the need and value for service work throughout the world and in our local community. Through MEDLIFE, we are given the opportunity to give back through various events and types of volunteering.

 

What new strategies have you used as President of your Chapter to gather support and inspire students to work with MEDLIFE?

Nichole: Veronica and I have taken many opportunities to speak to the students across our campus at organization tabling events such as freshman orientation. However, gaining support is often an easy task. Most students fall in love with MEDLIFE’s mission and immediately want to join our chapter. Along with our service work and awareness projects, we place focus on fun events for our members. We feel it’s important to give back to the community, but also reward our amazing members for their efforts!

 

In your opinion, what is your chapter’s greatest achievement?

Veronica: I think MEDLIFE UT’s greatest achievement was participating in the Remote Area Medical Clinic (RAM) where 70 of our members were able to help provide thousands of dollars of free medical, dental, and optometry care to about 2,000 people around Florida who do not have access to health care. Our chapter compiled over 1,000 volunteer hours in just one weekend. Other great achievements were being awarded the University of Tampa’s Outstanding New Organization of the Year as well as MEDLIFE National’s Best New Chapter.

 

What did you do to get people engaged?

Nichole: When choosing service events, we try to find the most hands-on volunteering opportunities for our members. These may range from building houses with Habitat for Humanity to working a local Meals on Wheels route. We want our members to have a personal experience where they can work face to face with those in need. These interactions are the most impactful and allow our members to become fully engaged in their service work.

 

What is your most memorable experience working with MEDLIFE?

Veronica: One of my most memorable experiences working with MEDLIFE was participating in Paint Your Heart Out, Tampa Bay, where over 100 homes of those in need were painted. Our chapter painted the home of Dorothy, the sweetest old lady. She was extremely grateful and truly reminded us how important and impactful service is, even  in our local community.

14714947 332010713822387 9011338261986410291 oAside from volunteering in MEDLIFE Mobile Clinics, University of Tampa Chapter members volunteer locally regularly with organizations like Habitat for Humanity.

What plans do you have for the future of your chapter?

Veronica: Our next plan is to work on our chapter’s travel proposal so that MEDLIFE UT can  travel to international mobile clinics as a group, as well as participate in internal fundraising. We are also hoping to work on our social media to help continue to spread the word about MEDLIFE’s mission and our chapter.

 

Do you have any advice for other chapters?

Nichole: My advice is to find a cause and go for it. Listen to your members interests and find a way to satisfy them. Our members love the work that they do and it drives our organization. We have a group of incredibly motivated and dedicated individuals working to make a difference in the Tampa Bay Area, but it all starts with passion and a goal.

 

Find out how to start a MEDLIFE chapter at your school HERE

Dr. Gustavo Arnao García found his motivation to study medicine in his father, rheumatologist and former president of the Peruvian Society of Rheumatology. This example lead Dr. Gustavo to pursue his career of medicine at the Universidad Mayor de San Marcos, the oldest university of the Americas.
 
The MEDLIFE Mobile Clinics working model is similar to what Dr. Gustavo does at the Peruvian Red Cross, a society he's been part of since 2011 and which allowed him to become an expert at attenting patients. MEDLIFE relies on local health care practitioners, like Dr. Arnao García, to engage best with the communities we work in and give volunteers a valuable learning experience.
 IMG 3671Dr. Arnao García is one of several doctors who works regularly with MEDLIFE in Lima.
How long have you been working for MEDLIFE?
For almost three years. A professional colleague that used to work for the Peruvian Red Cross asked me if I was interested in working for MEDLIFE. I met the people from the NGO, did some tests, and I’ve been working for MEDLIFE since then.  
 
What experience impacted you the most when working in Mobile Clinics? Any particular case or patient? 
I had the opportunity of seeing a case of decompensated diabetes with a patient that had a very deep ulcer in his lower leg. Luckily, with the right treatment and our patient follow up system, the patient got better. This experience was very impactul for me. 
 
What do you enjoy the most in the Mobile Clinics? 
 MEDLIFE's work is completely assistance-based and requires a lot of work in the field. Basically you go to places where there's extreme poverty and help the people that live there. I feel very grateful to help MEDLIFE in their mission.

 IMG 3624Dr. Arnao García is able to connect and communicate well with patients, as well as the volunteers that assist him. On mobile clinics, he can often be seen seen giving volunteers a hands on lesson in identifying symptoms common to patients around Lima.

May 18, 2017 3:32 pm

Renovating a school in Ecuador

Written by Sam Roberson

Last week, MEDLIFE staff and volunteers worked with the Atahualpa neighborhood in Tena, Ecuador to paint and restore the local day care school in the area. Volunteers worked for 4 days sanding, repainting and In addition to the volunteers, many parents of children in the nursery came out to work in afternoons and weekends.

At work 2A volunteer sands a wall to be painted in the day care school.

The day care is run by the Instituto Sumak Kawsay Wasi, a government social program whose mission is to attend to the province’s most vulnerable and low-income sectors. MEDLIFE has worked with Sumak Kawsay Wasi to facilitate relationships with local communities around Tena.

The day care school is a valuable resource for the community where many mothers have children at a young age. Ecuador has one of the highest rates of teen pregnancy in Latin America with an estimated 21% of women giving birth to a child before the age of 18 (UNFPA 2013).

Before Outside 3Outside of the school before working on the clean up effort.

Talking with women around the area, the lack of access to proper healthcare and low wages are apparent. Mothers will skip meals to feed their children. The government provides subsidized food to children in schools however the quality and nutritional value of these has dropped in the last two years.

Yadira Tacoamán grew up close to Tena and works with Sumak Kawsay Wasi. She says the school is important not just as a relief for parents in the area, but also in helping the children acheive a better future.

After Inside 2The inside of the school after cleaning, sanding and a fresh coat of paint.

2017 05 18Thank you to the volunteers who helped make this project possible.

“This is very important work being done to benefit the most vulnerable people such as the Kichwa people,” Tacoamán said. “There’s an organization to provide the necessary help to the most vulnerable people of Napo.”

MEDLIFE will continue to work in the Atahualpa neighborhood with mobile clinics and the day care school to benefit the people there.

After Outside 1A girl enjoys the yard of the school after volunteers and parents finished the renovation project.

 
This blog is part of a series showcasing chapters that won awards in this years MEDLIFE Awards. Each week we will be talking to a chapter to hear about their keys to success. Find out how to start a MEDLIFE chapter at your school HERE.
 
University of Nevada Reno’s MEDLIFE Chapter has made strides in expanding members and was this years runner up in MEDLIFE Awards for the social media category. In it’s second year, Anisha Chedi, Marketing/Advertising Chair, implemented social media strategies for the chapter like creating daily promo content on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram and creating their own graphics to promote events and activities.
 
We caught up with Christina Chen, UNR MEDLIFE’s co-president, to talk about her chapter and work with MEDLIFE.
 10551708 988382614510135 3734612100353194608 oUNR Chapter members on a project work day in Lima, Peru.
 
How did you start to work with MEDLIFE? Why did you choose MEDLIFE?
 
One of my close friends, Lucia Sanchez, first brought this chapter to the University of Nevada, Reno and built it from ground up. I had heard about it, but was not very involved. Until the end of Spring 2014, my sister and I decided to jump right into attending a mobile clinic in Lima and from then on forward, we've constantly been involved with MEDLIFE UNR. I fell in love with what MEDLIFE stood for and had to offer, embracing both community service locally and abroad, providing medicine to communities worldwide, and educating and assisting communities/people develop. 
 
What new strategies have you used as President of your Chapter to gather support and inspire students to work with MEDLIFE?
 
Since this school year was geared towards restructuring and rebuilding of the chapter, we utilized the University's resources, especially our club fairs to promote the chapter. A lot of our activities were revolved around local volunteering, which gained a bit of attention from our campus. It wasn't until a recent early transition of executive board officers did we really utilize our social media, thanks to our new marketing/advertising chair, Anisha Chedi. She has been very diligent about posting MEDLIFE Nevada's activities, along with embracing campus events.
 
Also, during meetings, making them more activity based and interactive. We would prep snack packs for distribution and was a great way to socialize with the members. At the same time, we would include icebreakers and activities to keep the members more engaged, rather than just staring at a powerpoint. 
 
I definitely turned to my MEDLIFE liaison, Emily Gardner, a lot for advice and monthly meetings for inspiration. She always kept me motivated and encouraged me to keep my head up when it came to difficult times of rebuilding the chapter. So shout out to her and a big thank you!! 
 
In your opinion, what is your chapter’s greatest achievement?
 
Being such a small chapter, in a small city, I'm very proud that we've managed to send members on mobile clinics. Although they are minimal number of participants, every year we've managed to send people to either Lima, Peru or Riobamba, Ecuador.
 1546Volunteers pose on a completed staircase in Lima, Peru.
 
What is your most memorable experience working with MEDLIFE?
 
A personal memory is my mobile clinic experience back in 2014. It was a life-changing experience that I loved! On a whole scale level of the chapter, I would being able to finally work with a new full executive board with members who were very adamant about promoting MEDLIFE was a great experience. Passing on the torch to the newly transitioned executive board makes me hopeful about leaving the chapter in a stable stage to keep growing. 
 
Do you have any advice for other chapters?
 
General advice: keep things fun and exciting at meetings. It's hard to keep member attendance when meetings are merely powerpoints. Add activities, competitions, create families, etc...get to know your members.
 
Find out how to start a MEDLIFE chapter at your school HERE
2017 05 11
 
For five years, Dr. Jose Luis Rodriguez worked in the Amazon as an infectious diseases expert. When he returned to his home in Lima, he reached out to MEDLIFE and has been working with the NGO ever since.  
  

Dr. Jose Luis’s commitment to medicine began with his family. When his siblings fell ill, his father always asked Dr. Jose Luis to care for them. This motivated him to study medicine, which eventually led to a passion for attending patients.    

  
 What inspired you to work in MEDLIFE's Mobile Clinics?  
  
There are only a few organizations that dedicate their time to help poor patients like MEDLIFE does. Also, it is an opportunity for doctors to meet other professionals, new people, and students that come here bringing new energy that refuels us every year. 
  
Where do you work when you are not attending patients in the Mobile Clinics? 
  
When i'm not working in MEDLIFE, I work in the San Juan de Dios Hospital. I've also been studying oncology for the past two years in order for it to become my specialization.
  
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What experience impacted you the most when working in Mobile Clinics? Any particular case or patient? 
 
I'm the oldest doctor at MEDLIFE: I have worked here for nine years and have had a lot of experiences. The ones that impacted me the most are probably the most painful. In one case, we detected breast cancer in a patient named Carmen Solano. We helped her and followed her treatment but unfortunately she passed away. Despite the sorrowful moment, her family was very thankful for us. We attended Carmen’s funeral and MEDLIFE nearly took over the procession.
 
One rewarding experience was the case of Mr. Pineda, who has diabetes. We got him a prosthetic leg. He wanted to work again as a taxi driver and it is wonderful to see him working now.  
  
What do you enjoy the most in the Mobile Clinics? 
  
I enjoy spending my time with students. They have a positive energy that renews us all. I like teaching them and sharing our Peruvian culture with them. I also like being an inspiration for those who have decided to study medicine.  
  
What would you tell to the future volunteers that will come to a Mobile Clinics?  
 

Students leave their country, they invest money in something new and give their time to people they don't know anything about. I believe it's important that volunteers, as well as MEDLIFE staff, understand the value that this holds for patients.

 

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Nadine Heredia is a community in Lima, Peru established in 2012. MEDLIFE has been working in Nadine since its founding and this week we will complete our eight staircase project. 
 1Nadine Heredia Community.
 
Fabiola Rosales (age 29), is a member of one of the 350 families who have benefited from this project. She has been living in Nadine since 2014 at the highest part of the hill, next to the “Wall of Shame”, a wall emblematic of the class divide in Lima, separating the district of San Juan de Miraflores from Surco which is one of the wealthiest areas in Lima.  
 
2Fabiola Rosales holding her baby.
 
Three days after giving birth to her son Alonso, Fabiola fell on the steep hillside. She believes the community will be better once the staircase is built because it will be easier to climb up and down to her house, and most importantly, it will reduce the number of accidents that occur when children go outside to play with their friends.
 
The first staircases in Nadine were built by each manzana, or block. This reflected a fragmented sense of unity, community members would only participate in the staircase that was benefiting their street, they would not help other blocks build their staircases. This attitude became toxic to the community; it created hostility between neighbors and also limited their progress. Building a staircase requires a lot of people to mix the cement to form a chain to pass buckets up the hill and level off each individual step. Without the support of neighbors from all streets, building a staircase takes twice as long and may never be finished.
 
 IMG 3799Jose Sanchez (red shirt) working at the staircase.
 
When Jose Sanchez (age 30) became the community leader of Nadine last year, he set out with one goal: to improve the relationship between the neighbors so the entire community could work together towards a common good. “I think this can be achieved by applying something that I learned when I was in school in 2000. One of my teachers said that one of the best ways to motivate people to support you is through facts,” says Jose. Jose never misses the weekly Sunday community meeting and tries to involve people in the projects by telling the truth. In Peru, it is very common to find unfinished projects due to organizations who make promises they are unable to keep. In these meetings, if Jose says that a staircase will be built, the community members believe him. When people see you meet the demands of the community, they start to get involved. Jose's hard work is starting to pay off;  in the staircase we're building this week, we have more community members from all blocks participating than in any other staircase we have built with them.
 
Despite working night shifts, Jose supervised the staircase project every day and helped the community members and the group of MEDLIFE volunteers in Lima this week. He hopes that teamwork will prevail and that someday the people of Nadine will have the same motivation he does to accomplish every project. “To the community, to the ones who are parents like me, we are inspired everyday to accomplish our inner goal: to provide a better quality of life to our children so that they have a better life than we did.” 
 

 IMG 39578th Staircase inauguration at Nadine Heredia.

April 27, 2017 4:26 pm

Life after the Huaicos

Written by Sam Roberson

Tents provided by the municipal government line the streets, inside them varying levels of food, water and possessions. Some families have a car parked outside the tent, others have functioning kitchens with ovens and stoves powered by gas. Still many have little more than the clothes and belongings they managed to salvage from the flood.

Since after the huaicos that destroyed parts of the 27 de Junio community in Lima last month, there is no clear plan of recovery in place for those displaced from their homes. Those in the Encampments are in an inbetween state, living with the wake of the disaster.

IMG 8254Water is distributed from the truck contracted by MEDLIFE to 27 de Junio.

IMG 8281A stray dog interrupts the trip bringing buckets of water back to a tent.

When MEDLIFE arrived with a water truck, the residents flock to fill up any buckets and barrels they have. With no access to the water system of Lima the trucks filling up plastic tanks and barrels is the only way to get a large amount of potable water. Even then, the water trucks cost money and inconsistently visit the community.

The  Simeon Emiliano Ramirez Mendoza, who now lives in tent in 27 de Junio, says there has been little aid from the government and he expects little in the future.

Below the tents in the washed out river bed, the debris of homes swept away from the huaycos remains. Tempora Ventura Donato use to live close to the Huaycoloro River before her house was swept away during the huaicos. She now lives in a tent with her son, daughter in law and sisters up the hill from her old home.

IMG 8308Tempora Ventura Donato points to where her home once stood before it was swept away in the huaycos.

She stands where her home once stood with her family while some of them wash up with buckets in their bathing suits to bathe. Donato says her home was swept away in the middle of the night and they have lived in the tents since then. They are still able to use a well to get water for bathing, but the water is not potable.

In the camp, a comedor, a public kitchen serving discounted meals, operates off of food from the government as well as donations. Stocked with cans of tuna, dry pasta, chicken and potatoes, women living in the encampment prepare a large pot of atun con tallarine, tuna with noodles.

IMG 8344Women continue to cook for their community in the comedor, running off food from government and donated supplies.

The comedor functions like much of 27 de Junio now, where life attempts to carry on as usual through the inconsistent government aid and donations provided. After the Huaicos, many people are living as refugees in their own community.


MEDLIFE has been carrying out a special project to bring medical assistance, donations and water trucks to communities affected by the huaycos. You can DONATE to our efforts to aid the victims of the disaster.

April 27, 2017 8:19 am

The Beauty of the Andes

Written by Jake Kincaid

MEDLIFE has two separate destinations, Cusco and Riobamba, where we work in primarily in rural indigenous communities in the Andes mountains. These communities are in very scenic locations in the mountains. This post showcases that the incredible beauty of the Andean communities that we work in. 

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