November 15, 2016 2:54 pm

Intern Journal: Brittany Cook

Written by Brittany Cook


The morning meeting came to an end when I learned about the four follow-up patients Beatriz was scheduled to see for the day. Beatriz is one of the four exceptional nurses that works for MEDLIFE in Lima and I was able to go with her to see how she completes the MEDLIFE mission in her daily work. We set out towards Maria Auxiliadora Hospital in San Juan de Miraflores to help the first patient during a doctor's appointment. As we walked through the metal entrance gate, an energetic young teen ran towards us and hugged Beatriz. It was Gaby (*name changed), a patient of another MEDLIFE nurse who had a dental abscess and an external fistula. Beatriz asked her how she was doing and, after a short chat, said goodbye to continue our journey to meet with our first patient of the day. 

We made our way through the long, white hallway, down the winding staircase, and back into the corner designated for surgical and specialty consultations. The waiting space was buzzing with activity. Every seat was filled and the walkways were like the streets of Lima during rush hour. We took two laps through the waiting area but we could not find the first patient. As if she read our minds, Gaby and her family popped up behind us and Beatriz solicited her help in finding our elusive patient. With only a description of the patient, Gaby returned within five minutes with a location! While she was away, her mother expressed concern to Beatriz that Gaby would not get a much needed consultation because she had misplaced her DNI (National Identity Document-similar to a social security card in the United States).

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After Beatriz had worked with the first patient to figure out the next step in her treatment, she set out to help Gaby. Gaby needs jaw surgery soon so it was imperative that she had a consultation within the week. Without the DNI, the hospital was unable to make the appointment for her but Beatriz found another way. She went to a doctor that she had previously worked with and asked if he had any availability. He had an opening for later that day but he first needed her patient history. Beatriz went to the registrar to obtain the history but she was unable to access it without Gaby's DNI. After zig zagging her way around the hospital and filling out various forms, Beatriz found a way to get Gaby a temporary hospital DNI that expired at the end of the day. She went back to the doctor who was then able to access Gaby's medical history and fill out the paperwork necessary to schedule the appointment, much to Gaby's mother's relief. Gaby had the consultation and is now scheduled for her operation next week!

As I watched this all unfold, I realized two things. First, our nurses are dedicated to their patients and the MEDLIFE mission:

Our mission is to help families achieve greater freedom from the constraints of poverty, empowering them to live healthier lives. Our patients did not choose to be poor, but they have chosen to strive toward a better life; MEDLIFE stands beside them in this pursuit.

Beatriz already had a full schedule for the day but when a patient of another nurse came to her for help, she made the time to get her what she needed. Beatriz stood beside Gaby (when she was not busy running around the hospital) to get her the appointment that would enable Gaby to lead a healthier life.

The second thing I realized is that the MEDLIFE mission would be incredibly difficult to fulfill without the knowledge the nurses bring to the team. The medical system in Peru is difficult to maneuver which is why so many people are wary of seeking medical attention. The nurses are talented at getting our patients government aided health insurance, helping them work within the system during the treatment, and keeping the process moving when roadblocks arise. Without the nurses' abilities to work within the system to keep everything moving smoothly, many patients would not be able to get the care that they need.

The best part is, the nurses are motivated to do this work due to their own dedication and joy. Many of the patients live far away from our office in San Borja but there is no distance Beatriz and the other nurses are not willing to cover to bring the patients the aid they need to live healthier lives. Every day I come to work, I am surrounded by an incredibly selfless and dedicated group of people from different places and backgrounds. We have Beatriz, our nurse from Lima; Renato who lived in Honduras most of his life and studies International Business while working in Administration; Sarah from Britain who studies foreign language and European studies and works in communications; and me and my 10 fellow Volunteer Affairs interns who hail from eight different states in America and have varying educational backgrounds. Seeing first-hand the lengths Beatriz was willing to go to in order to help a patient was a great reminder of how fortunate I am to be a part of the MEDLIFE team during my internship.

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October 25, 2016 3:22 pm

Meet Student Advisor Board Part Two

Written by Jake Kincaid

          My name is Alexa Friedman, I am from the University of Connecticut. Working for MEDLIFE this past summer as a Volunteer Affairs Intern was one the most eye-opening and life changing experiences I have ever had. I learned so much about healthcare, global health, and human rights. I will forever be grateful for the experiences I have had thanks to MEDLIFE. I decided to become an SAB because I believe connection and inter-chapter discussions could benefit the members of all chapters and MEDLIFE as a whole. The connections I have made through MEDLIFE will be friendships I will have for the rest of my life. I hope that I can help others feel the way I do.


         Nidhi Aggarwal is a third-year student at the University of Georgia completing academic focuses in genetics and public health, focusing her experiences on examining the intersectionality between modern medicine and public health. Her involvement in MEDLIFE has allowed a platform for studying the diverse components that influence human health in her local town of Athens, Georgia, USA, as well as abroad on a mobile clinic to Cusco, Peru. Beginning as a Family Head in her university chapter of MEDLIFE, continuing as a member of the Mobilization Committee, and currently serving as a Co-Service Chair, Nidhi is enthusiastic to work with fellow members of the Student Advisory Board to spread awareness of the MEDLIFE Mission and continue to develop the organization. Upholding the fundamental ideals that allow MEDLIFE's operations to be so successful—sustainable, development, provision of healthcare, education and awareness—she is confident that her work alongside this group of bright and motivated students will allow positive contributions to the vast expanses of the MEDLIFE community.

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         My name is Ryan, I am at the University of Iowa, in the Midwest region. I chose to be involved with SAB because I wanted to continue working with MEDLIFE even though I am in graduate school. I think MEDLIFE is a really amazing organization that changes someone's life each and every day. I wanted to continue being involved in the process of helping the lives of those abroad as well as leading students here in the states, to open their horizons to the great work of volunteerism and hopefully steer them in that direction in more than just a one time function.


         My name is Ellie Sidler and I am a Junior at Miami University in Ohio. I am part of the Northeast division. I love MEDLIFE because it is focused on making a lasting impact on the health of communities throughout the world. I joined the SAB because I hope to start new chapters in order to reach students and spread the MEDLIFE mission.

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          My name is Ramanjia, I am from the University of Toronto. I first heard about MEDLIFE through one of my friends during the first year of my undergrad. Since then, I have been very interested in the work that MEDLIFE does and really admire what MEDLIFE stands for. Not only has MEDLIFE helped me identify my passion for medicine and global health, it has also given me the opportunity to help many families in my community and around the world. By joining the SAB, I hope to continue my work with MEDLIFE and bring awareness to this great cause.


         My name is Fouad, I am from the University of Michigan-Dearborn in the Midwest . I am the current president and founder of our chapter here and we have been an active chapter for almost a year now. I am a Biological Sciences major and a Psychology minor on a Pre-Med track. I have attended a Mobile Clinic in Lima,Peru and I plan to attend many more in the near future. Since my trip to Lima, Peru my eyes have been opened and I have now seen first hand how MEDLIFE operates. I can say now that I am truly aligned with MEDLIFE's mission. I became a SAB member to further my involvement with MEDLIFE and to get others involved too.


          My name is Kaavya, I am from the University of Michigan. Why MEDLIFE is important to me: MEDLIFE offers those who would otherwise have minimal to no access to healthcare culturally sensitive and sustainable solutions that attack the root of these issues, which is something I have always aimed to embody as I grow as a young medically-based professional.  MEDLIFE has taught me so much about public health, international work, and the numerous ways we can use whatever privileges we may have to help others and I can't wait to work with MEDLIFE and give back the skills and knowledge MEDLIFE has offered me as a chapter and SAB member.  


          Hey my name is Kevin and I'm the student advisory board member responsible for Europe. MEDLIFE is currently increasingly expanding and I hope to give my small contribution to communities experiencing poverty worldwide by being part of that expansion right here in Europe, where we are just getting started. My main areas of interest are Governance, Economics and Development (yup, that's also what I'm majoring in); which essentially boils down to a deceptively simple question: what are the current structures of the world  and how can I make an impact? I got interested in MEDLIFE whilst searching for new opportunities to engage with NGOs and also come back to Latin America, experience the culture I was so familiar with yet through new eyes as I had already completed a year of my studies. I spent my summer break in the grey skies of Lima and learnt first-hand the work MEDLIFE does, its sustainable approach and got to personally know the volunteers and community members that are connected through MEDLIFE's mission. I am passionate about the simple ways I have found to counter root issues of poverty and am looking forward to see MEDLIFE as it continuously grows and improves as an organization.

October 25, 2016 3:09 pm

Meet Student Advisory Board Part One

Written by Jake Kincaid

Hi! My name is Yash and I am currently in my second year of the Health Sciences Program at McMaster University. I was a MEDLIFE Volunteer Affairs Intern for the summer of 2016 and am now participating in MEDLIFE's Student Advisory Board, representing the Midwest region. Over time, MEDLIFE has become a very big part of my life. Spending 2 months in Lima for the VA Internship really allowed me to appreciate the work that MEDLIFE is doing. I was able to see the impact that staircases, sandwich carts, and ramps can have on people's lives. Not only did mobile clinics deliver care to inaccessible communities, but they also inspired volunteers to make a difference in their communities back home. I think that MEDLIFE's sustainability and vision set it apart from other NGO's, and this is why I chose to be a SAB member.  



My name is Alexi. I graduated from the University of Georgia and am a part of the South region of SAB. MEDLIFE is so close to my heart because of the genuine compassion all the workers and volunteers show to the patients abroad. Providing culturally-sensitive care is increasingly important when in different countries, and the great effort that MEDLIFE puts forth to make that happen is very important. Also, the excitement volunteers show, whether abroad or in the local chapters, is always so palpable when working with MEDLIFE, which makes helping the community so much more exciting and rewarding for ourselves and the people we serve.


 I'm Alysha, a third-year Medical Sciences student at Dalhousie University in Halifax, Nova Scotia. I'm passionate about sustainable, community-based approaches to addressing global health inequality, and that's why I was so excited when I learned about MEDLIFE's mission and values. MEDLIFE listens to the communities it serves, protects them from voluntourism, and empowers them to address the root causes of their health problems and break cycles of poverty. That's a mission I can get behind.  
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My name is Connie. I am a recent University of Washington alumna and am excited to continue my MEDLIFE experience as a part of the SAB (Western region)! During my college career, MEDLIFE helped me develop a greater passion for healthcare, opening my eyes to a different perspective and more holistic approach to addressing the issues of inequality.

My name is Tatiana, I am a student at University of Florida. MEDLIFE is important to me because we share the same vision. I believe in equality despite social and economic standing in terms of healthcare as well as in all aspects. Working with MEDLIFE this past summer has shown me the difference that a few determined individuals can make and I want to continue making this difference back home.

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My name is Damaris Joubert Miranda from UPR Rio Piedras in Puerto Rico.  MEDLIFE is an organization that has impacted and changed my point of view of seeing life.  Many times we complain about the way we live but around the world there are many people with more needs than us, and yet with the few things they have, are the most happy and grateful people in the world. Helping people both here in Puerto Rico and other countries brings me satisfaction that I cannot express in words, because it is so great. I joined the SAB because I want to impact more people in the same way I was shocked and to recruit people to join MEDLIFE to help all or most of the needs either through medicine, education and/or development to communities with low incomes.


My name is Jay Wook Jun and I am currently a junior undergraduate at Cornell University. I'm from a small town called Closter in upper New Jersey and am excited to be serving on the MEDLIFE Student Advisory Board as a representative for the Northeast! I'm proud to be a part of MEDLIFE because as volunteers, we are helping improve health care accessibility for everyone. Even when the volunteer trips come to an end, the organization constantly has medical teams working in the field to help poverty-stricken communities. I joined the SAB because I wanted to become deeply involved in working with high schools, university MEDLIFE chapters, and volunteer teams abroad to spread awareness about MEDLIFE's mission. I am always thankful to the organization because being a part of MEDLIFE has not only deepened my interest in global health issues but also inspired me to become a doctor involved in international medicine someday.


My name is Jordyn and I go to the University of Arizona! I will be working with chapters in the West this year and couldn't be more excited to further promote MEDLIFE through this region. I wanted to be on the SAB because over the past three years working with my own chapter, I have really fallen in love with the MEDLIFE mission and the work we do internationally, as well as the opportunities we have to make a change in our own communities through work with our local chapters. I have been able to see the incredible impact we can make on the lives of families living in poverty and am looking forward to helping to expand and support our chapters in order to reach and impact even more people.

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My name is Nina Bracciano. I am Senior at Florida State University, studying Biological Sciences, aspiring to become a Physician. I am apart of the South SAB region. I have been apart of MEDLIFE FSU-Health for 3 years, and have attended 2 Mobile Clinic trips. MEDLIFE is important to me because it brings like-minded students together to strive to make a difference on campus and abroad on clinic trips by providing the necessary healthcare and education to low income communities. I joined SAB in hopes to expand the MEDLIFE mission to more students in the south. 


Hi everyone! My name is Alex Hatke, I'm a second year student at The Ohio State University studying Public Health, and I'm an SAB member for the Northeast Region. I joined the SAB because I'm always looking for ways to get involved with MEDLIFE, and after being a Volunteer Affairs intern this past summer, it seemed like a great way to stay involved after returning home. Being a part of MEDLIFE is important to me because I really believe in the organization, that healthcare is a human right, and that each person deserves equality and equity.


         My name is Nisa, I recently graduated from UPR Cayey Puerto Rico. I decided to join MEDLIFE SAB to continue being a part of their work. I want to help impact more communities and help broaden the organization in Puerto Rico so that we can keep spreading the word, educating and improving our surrounding communities for the better.



October 20, 2016 10:00 am

Intern Journal: Sarah Bridge

Written by Sarah Bridge

         Last weekend, we held two volunteer days to help get materials up the 150 steps that lead to the site where we are building a two story home for MEDLIFE patient Soledad and her son José.  A signup sheet was sent around the office and put on Facebook to register for the volunteer days.  As I was looking at the sign up sheet, a friend of mine who has worked here for a year and a half now told me “these volunteer days are really fun, you should definitely sign up for both!  I loved it last year.”  So I trustingly put my name down to work at 8am on both Saturday and Sunday, only to find out later that my so called ‘friend' was actually away the entire weekend.

         That is how I found myself regretting all my life decisions as I hit snooze on my alarm for the fifth time at 7:15am on Saturday morning.  Eventually I managed to drag myself out of bed and head to the bus station to begin the first days work.  To my surprise and delight when I arrived at the meeting point there were over 30 keen volunteers ready in MEDLIFE t- shirts to start the day ahead.  In my time with MEDLIFE, I have ‘subired' a fair number of materials up hills but I can safely say, Saturday is the fastest I have ever seen it done.  It was some kind of superhuman effort, we got 500 bricks to the top in less than an hour and at one point I had five men passing me each holding a 50kg bag of cement on their backs.  By midday we had finished and were all sitting around drinking Inka Cola and laughing about possible future careers in construction.


14231323 1178251912213849 692982551812709733 oThe MEDLIFE chain passing materials up to Soledad's house.

Following Saturday's success, Sunday morning seemed full of optimism.  As my alarm chirped it's happy little tune, I sprung out of bed, eager to begin the day ahead! (Some artistic license may be being used… after all it was still 7:15am on a Sunday).  However, my optimistic mood came crashing down somewhat when I reached the meeting point that morning and realised there was a grand total of around 10 volunteers… and 1,000 bricks.  I somewhat begrudgingly climbed into the bus, my friends words “you should definitely sign up for both!” ringing hauntingly in my ears.  

And so we set off again, the empty bus rattling around and echoing eerily from the dramatic lack of people (again, artistic license may be being used). However, before reaching the project, this time we made a detour to the site of another MEDLIFE project.  The bus stopped where Carlos Benavides, director of MED Programs Peru, was waiting for us.  We all got off the bus and he took us to the site of the project.

Quick context note:  I had visited this site a few weeks before.  It was a staircase we were hoping to build for a patient who had suffered an accident which hindered his ability to walk.  However, due to the nature of the community, Carlos was struggling to get enough man power together to build the staircase.  


2016 10 18The people of Laderas building a staircase for MEDLIFE patient Pompinchu.

Therefore, it came as a huge surprise to me when I rounded the corner to see around 50 people stood up and down the staircase mixing cement, pouring it into the frame and shouting to pass up more buckets.  I turned to Carlos and asked him how he had managed to convince the community to help.  He told me he didn't.  “None of these people are from this community,” he explained. “They are all from Laderas, the community where we were building a staircase a few weeks ago.” I was amazed to realise he was right.  Laderas is about a twenty minute drive from where this project was taking place and yet all these people were the same faces we had been working with just a few weeks earlier.  

Incredibly, there were so many people from the Laderas community working on this project that Carlos was able to solicit about twenty of them to help us with the materials for Soledad's house.  So we all piled back onto the bus, which this time round was packed full, and headed to the site of Soledad's house.  With the help of the reinforcements, we once again managed to pass the bricks up in record timing, forming an efficient chain and getting everything up the hill by lunchtime.  I asked one of the community members why it was that they were so readily keen to help with this project and the staircase they were building, neither of which would affect their community.  He told me “whenever we have come to Carlos with a problem, he has found a way to solve it for us.  It seems only fair that that works both ways.”


IMG 9109The MEDLIFE team working in Laderas.

I have been working with MEDLIFE for nearly five months now and in my time here, the importance of our relationships with the people we work with is the thing that has stood out the most for me.  We invest so much in individuals and communities to make sure that they can trust us and they know they can rely on us.  However, it never occurred to me that they are doing the exact same thing.

Working with MEDLIFE, I have got to know the bravest, strongest and most impressive people I have ever met.  This story of the people of the Laderas community is just one example of that.  These people often have so little and yet will give us so much, not because they want to assure we help them but because they want to assure we have a real relationship with them.  That for me is the most amazing and single most important thing about the work MEDLIFE does and is the reason that I would say to anyone thinking to volunteer next time: “these volunteer days are really fun, you should definitely sign up for both!  I loved it last year.”       

October 18, 2016 11:18 am

Intern Journal: Marissa Reinhart

Written by Marissa Reinhart


          What is your initial thought when you look at this picture? It's okay if it is negative. If I looked at this picture from an outside perspective, my initial thought would probably be critical. There is something that creates a negative reaction about this white, privileged girl posing with a child she probably knows nothing about. Something that makes people think this girl was feeling the “savior complex,” rescuing a child of color from their plight. Or, maybe you had a positive thought about how cute that baby is and how beautiful her mother in the background is. Nonetheless, I want to take this opportunity of writing this blog to talk about perspective, MEDLIFE and my experiences.

          So, as you may know, the privileged white girl in this photo is me, Marissa, and some of those criticisms are probably true about this photo and similar photos you've encountered of friends and family who have gone on service trips abroad. Luckily, the organization I chose to commit to, without doing a lot of research, has a mission far removed from the ideas behind the “savior complex.” To me, this photo represents my discovery of this mission in action during the mobile clinic week in Moshi, Tanzania that would change my life in more ways than I ever could have imagined.

         For those of you non-Ohioans, I should explain that the Ohio State Buckeyes are a huge part of the Ohioan culture, especially in my family. I was born and raised to be a buckeye fan, going to “The Shoe” at a young age to watch the cheerleaders of course. With that being said, seeing this precious child with an Ohio State outfit on 8,000 miles away from home evoked many thoughts and emotions within me that I wanted to capture in order to remember and look back on.

       First was the excitement and disbelief that we just so happened to wear Ohio State gear on the same day. Did the mother know Ohio State students would be at this clinic or was it just a complete coincidence? Then, I felt an immense sense of humanity. Knowing that when her mother dressed her in this outfit on that hot Tanzanian summer morning, she looked into her daughter's eyes with the same love and hope for her future as when my mother dressed me in the same outfit as a child. Although this child and I may have been born into completely different environments with different access and opportunity, our parents both wanted a fulfilled and healthy future for us.

        I see this in the communities we work with here in Lima. Almost every time community members propose a new project, they mention wanting it to improve the health, safety and environment of the community for their children. When I listen to these community members, I hear and see the same hope for a better future as the parents of the child in Tanzania had and that my parents have for me. These experiences have helped me realize that we are all just humans trying to survive and thrive in our lifetimes in order to better the world for future generations.


          This is why I believe in a better future for the pueblos jovenes surrounding Lima and communities experiencing poverty throughout the world. With the commitment of these communities and NGOs like MEDLIFE who are committed to working WITH those experiencing poverty rather than FOR them we can improve overall quality of life. I believe that the individuals living in these situations did not choose to be there, but rather were placed there through a complex system that we have created over thousands of years. Although this may seem like an impossible circumstance to reverse, through generations of people aiming to improve the quality of life for the following generation we can make a change. Mano a mano (hand in hand), poco a poco (little by little) we can transform the world and if enough people believe in this transformation it will become a reality. I would like to end this brief excerpt by urging you to join the MEDLIFE Movement in whatever way you see fit in order to play your role in global development.


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