Rosali Vela

Rosali Vela

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Meet our new MEDLIFE Summer Interns 2014 Part 2!

2014-dom-2Name: Dom Grisafe
Hometown: Fontana, California
School: Cal Poly San Luis Obispo
Major: Biochemistry
Why did you decide to become an intern?: One of my friends was starting a chapter at my school two years ago. He invited me to an informational meeting describing the mobile clinics in Lima, Peru, and I've been hooked on MEDLIFE ever since.
What was your first impression of Lima?: I was excited to be in the middle of a thriving metropolis when I came to Lima for the first time two years ago. It was more of a dream-like feeling then. My mobile clinic only lasted a week, and I was disappointed to leave so quickly after arriving. When I returned for the internship this last July, I was once again in awe of Lima, but also invigorated to finally be able to get an in-depth experience in the city.

My favorite part so far: A few days ago I visited an impoverished beachside community with Janet, one of the local nurses that works with MEDLIFE. We delivered bundles of medical test results to local community leaders that volunteered to distribute the results to each individual patient. It was incredible to see the local Peruvian people rally together to take care of their own. I realized that our organization only begins with the nurses, office staff, college students, and doctors. I discovered that MEDLIFE runs deeply through each of the people that live in the communities we serve. 

2014-diana-2Name: Diana Isabel Sotomayor
Hometown: Lajas, Puerto Rico
School: University of Puerto Rico at Mayaguez
Major: Biology

How I got involved with MEDLIFE: I discovered the organization through friends that participated in Mobile Clinics.  When I read the organization's mission, I knew this was somewhere I wanted to work in.

Why did you decide to become an intern?: I knew I wanted to contribute to MEDLIFE since I learned about the organization and how it incorporates education and development in its medical clinics.  I could relate immediately because I aspire to contribute towards the improvement of global health by addressing education and development issues (among others) at local and international levels. These three pillars are fundamental to create change in a long-term and sustainable way.  
My favorite part so far: By constantly being exposed to different settings and people with individual needs I have learned to approach issues in a more comprehensive and holistic way while understanding and respecting socio-cultural differences.  In this process I have learned more about myself: interests, weaknesses and strengths.  Also, that I have definitively reassured my professional aspirations to continue working within the public sector towards achieving a healthier society.

Meet our new MEDLIFE Summer Interns 2014!

2014-suzy2Name: Suzanna Kane
Hometown: London, UK
School: Sussex University
Major: Development studies and Sociology
Why did you decide to become an intern?: Being able to combine both my passions with a job has always been a dream. Having the opportunity to do that with MEDLIFE seemed more than ideal!
What was your first impression of Lima?: Having spent 2 years living in Hong Kong I couldn't help but keep comparing it to there! It was more built up than I had expected and so much bigger than Hong Kong. 

My favorite part so far: My favourite part has been meeting my new colegues and my first trip into the hills. It was so special meeting some of the girls MEDLIFE have helped, I had so much fun hanging out with them and getting to see their lives. 

2014-aaron2Name: Aaron Sanfield
Hometown: Ann Arbor, Michigan
School: University of Michigan
Major: History/Pre-health

How I got involved with MEDLIFE: I became involved with MEDLIFE after a friend from home, Melanie Askari, transferred to the University of Michigan from the University of Vermont.  MEDLIFE had a chapter at UV and she said that she wanted to start a chapter here at U of M and asked if I wanted to be a part of creating the best global health organization on campus.  She made me an offer I couldn't refuse

Why did you decide to become an intern?: When I visited Lima for the first time last spring, 10 days was just not long enough and I really enjoy living abroad so I decided the only way to experience Lima organically was to apply and work for the organization that really kick-started my love of helping those less fortunate and showing others how "caring is cool," a quote I learned from the MEDLIFE Tanzania director, Terry Mulligan.

2014-tom2Name: Tom Stephens
Hometown: Hertford, UK
School: Leeds College of Art
Major: Digital Film, Games & Animation
How I got involved with MEDLIFE: My house mate from Leeds introduced me to the charity, we saw MEDLIFE as an opportunity to travel the world while helping the poorest communities in South America. We both applied for the media internship hoping to travel together. We were delighted when we both received an invitation to work for the charity.

Tell us a little about yourself: I would consider myself an opportunist with a passion for adventure and exploration. Kind hearted, openminded and spontaneous I am always seeking new experiences and memories to tell my grandchildren. I am a budding documentary filmmaker with a devotion to representative film. In my free time I feel most comfortable gliding through the air, whether that be on a skateboard, or a bicycle. I hope to leave a mark on the world, in changing the shift of inequality that is embedded in our planet.

Name: Hima Patel
Hometown: Germantown, Maryland, USA
School: University of Maryland
Major: Behavioral and Community Health
How I got involved with MEDLIFE: I volunteered in a MEDLIFE volunteer trip to Lima, Peru in 2012 when a few friends of mine asked me to come with them over the summer. After the fantastic experience, I got involved with the MEDLIFE chapter on the UMD campus so that I could continue helping this wonderful cause.
Why did you decide to become an intern?: At my first volunteer trip, I realized the importance of public health work to an entire community, and as a Public Health major, I wanted to continue gaining experience working with communities to enact a positive health change. I also wanted to further my involvement with MEDLIFE while gaining insight on how such an organization runs.

2014-dileep2Name: Dileep Mandali
Hometown: Naperville, IL
School: The Ohio State University
Major: Biochemistry and Biology

How I got involved with MEDLIFE: I became involved with MEDLIFE my sophomore year of college back in 2011, when my ‘Big' in my medical fraternity persuaded me along with few other members to travel with an OSU group to Riobamba, Ecuador; I stuck with this chapter ever since then as an active member, as the Membership Director, and as the President this past year.
Tell us a little about yourself: I grew up in India for nearly half of my life and moved to US at a time when I barely spoke English. Through some ups and downs, I eventually became a US citizen, now aspiring to become a physician. While the life of a double-major does keep me busy, you can frequently find me speed-walking from a meeting to another meeting as a (primary) leader for more than one student organization on campus.

Name: Alex Troyer
Hometown: Sammamish, Washington
School: Eastern Washington University
Major: Therapeutic Recreation with an Emphasis in Leadership
How I got involved with MEDLIFE: At my university we don't have a chapter, so this is the first time I have ever been involved with MEDLIFE. I learned about the organization when I was reading a local Peruvian blog and was hooked from reading just one article. And now I am an Intern!
Tell us a little about yourself: I consider myself to be an open minded and adventurous individual. I love trying new things- food, activities, places or whatever. I look for potential positive change in any given situation and try to encourage people to think critically.
Why did you decide to become an intern?: One of my values in life is to volunteer whenever possible. I did not have any summer plans, so what could possibly be better than volunteering in a country I love, with an amazing organization, for people in need. 
June 3, 2014 1:40 pm

Making a dream come true!

Last year our summer interns Eleanor Dickens and Lara Chambers were touched by the story of Adela, a community leader from Pamplona who suffered an accident while walking through the hills looking for solutions to the water problem at her community. The accident disabled Adela from walking long distances and from continuing her hard work. Being a single mother and widow has made Adela the breadwinner of her family, so she has always been concerned about providing everything her children need.


With the little savings she had, Adela bought some fabrics and ribbons to start doing what she does best: handicrafts. Adela began making handbags and wallets to sell, but it wasn't enough. In order to sell more of her products, Adela needed to buy the right equipment to produce greater quantities with better quality. Unfortunately such equipment was too expensive and buying requires an effort that she could not do in that moment.

In an effort to help, the girls started a campaign to raise funds for Adela and help her take on her business more seriously.  With this, Adela is able to have more income for her family and a better quality of life. Once the campaign was online it was amazing how fast people started collaborating with them. “Every time I could, I went to a cyber café to look at the campaign. I was really excited,Adela told us.


After a long effort, MEDLIFE is proud to announce that 100% of all money donated to Adela was used to buy all the materials and machinery she needs. Now she can start working without complications.
“Thanks to Eleanor, Lara and all the MEDLIFE team for making this dream come true for me,” said Adela after we finished buying all the materials. 

We are glad that like Eleanor and Lara, our volunteers and supporters are taking action and making real changes in the lives of thousands of people in need. Together, we are making it possible.



The first time that we went to the San Judas Chico Orphanage, the astonishing noise of the airplanes deafened us for a few seconds. A strong, deafening sound made the whole place shake so hard we felt it in our bones and the same question came to everyone's mind: How was it possible to live next to the take-off runway of an airport without going crazy?  

One week later, none of us noticed the thunderous sound that we heard every day during our work shifts. Like they say, man is a creature of habit. 

We can get used to a new country, new friends, and even a new family, but where is the boundary between habit and conformity? When is the moment in which we become so used to a specific reality that we stop hoping that new and different things can happen to us?


A year ago, we asked Joanna about her future. The beautiful, barely-11-year-old girl looked at us and without hesitation gave her answer: singer. She wanted to be a famous music singer that would travel all of Peru and around the world. She even had some designs for future dresses. Joanna had been living in the orphanage for less than one week. 

Two weeks ago we asked her the same question, but this time she hesitated a little before answering. It seemed like the word just wouldn't leave her mouth, until with a sigh she said, Cosmetology. 

Cosmetology is the only technical career that the orphanage can afford to pay for these girls that are never adopted and can't return to their parents.

Joana will soon be 13 years old, and in spite of maintaining her beautiful smile so characteristic of her, she realizes that her age combined with the fact that she has already been in the orphanage for one year, makes her chance of being adopted very slim. She doesn't dream about entering the university either. She knows all to well, just as the rest of the girls do, that when she is 18 years old, she will be forced to leave the orphanage and begin to study cosmetology one way or another because it is all that she will be able to afford. And, in the meantime, there isn't much she can do but wait for that day to come.

We also met Jessica, who in a few months will leave the orphanage behind. She turned 18 faster than she thought she would, but she's not afraid. Since she's the oldest of all the girls, she's the substitute mom on Sundays when the tutors and teachers rest. She wants to study law at the public university in Cusco and while she knows it won't be easy working as a cosmetologist to pay for her dream at least it will be hers. And, she will be able to use her degree to defend the rights of all the girls she saw growing up who were hurt from by people surrounding them.

joana4Dreams, hopes, customs, and resignations intermix in this small place hopelessly located beside the take-off runway in Cusco's main airport. Sad and dark memories are lightened by the warm rays of sunlight that occasionally illuminate this place, a place of refuge where all the abandoned girls end up thanks to social services. Maybe the food isn't the best, or maybe the beds aren't that comfortable, but Joanna knows that her bed now is amazing compared to the one she used to have before. 

It's those small things, like a wall well-painted, a new auditorium, a renovated playground, things that remind us that the new and interesting things can keep happening. That one day, someone could give you a new hat, like Judith who never thought she would ever receive a gift like that from a volunteer. Or like Letizia, who fulfilled her dream of having a Korean boy, like her k-pop idols, giving her hugs...small things that bring out smiles when we think of them.

The orphanage shines bright and new today, thanks to the volunteers' work from MEDLIFE. Even the old basketball hoop on the playground shines. Even Aslan, the old dog that just showed up one day and never wanted to leave, seems brighter. The auditorium is almost finished and all the girls will be able to use it soon. 

Without letting her arms away from all the good-looking boys who visit the orphanage, Joanna smiles and then starts to braid all the girls' hair. Maybe she will be a cosmetologist, but she'll be the best cosmetologist in Peru and in all the world. 

This year we will have gone ten times to the orphanage to construct, paint, repair, and bring happiness to these girls who have stolen all our hearts. 

Joanna, Maria, Judith, Letizia, Jessica...These girls have learned that life isn't easy and that sometimes the best family isn't necessarily the one you share blood with, but rather the one that brings you love and warmth. And maybe the San Judas Chico Orphanage isn't the biggest or the best, but the shared dolls are enjoyed more and the second hand clothes provide just as much warmth as new clothes in the cold Cusco weather.


Something that defines the children and adolescents from the current generation is a passion for being connected. They like to be in constant contact with those around them, especially their friends. Daniel is no different, at 13 he has his own opinions and ideas, and a strong desire to participate in the world around him, typical of boys of this age. This is very apparent from the way he interacts with new activities, particularly if these are with family or community members.


But Daniel has not always had this confidence; he was very ill as a baby, with fevers and terrible headaches, the medication his parents gave him stopped helping, and by his second birthday his mother was very worried about his health. He was eventually diagnosed with Meningitis, this illness permanently destroyed his hearing, and as a result he now finds speaking very difficult.

Given how sociable Daniel is, the shock of losing his hearing and being unable to speak at first greatly affected his confidence and happiness. He was depressed and confused, as any child whose health and happiness are damaged so severely by sickness, would be.

Daniel's family have never had very much money, so buying him a special headset was impossible, as these are very expensive, the same applied to speech therapists. But they never stopped looking and thanks to his mother's efforts they eventually found a school in Barranco, Lima called La Inmaculada which children with hearing problems can attend, here Daniel was taught sign language and lip reading which allowed him to interact with the world again.

The whole family fully supports Daniel: all of them have learnt sign language too so he can be involved with everything going on around him. And today with much love and patience they have managed to teach him how to pronounce some words too.


But the advancements he has made have not quenched Daniel's thirst for life and knowledge, he has learned to read and write and has acquired a new hobby: surfing the internet. The vast reaches of the world wide web have provided him with an endless amount of new information and ideas.

However the school he attends only admits students for primary education; Daniel is now 13 years old and can not advance his studies any further in this school. But he dreams of going on to secondary school and maybe even univeristy: he wants to complete his education so he can become a professional and look after himself as an adult.

When one of Daniel's uncles found out about MEDLIFE and the work we do, he encouraged Daniel to write and explain his situation, and with the help of his sister Flor, Daniel contacted MEDLIFE and told us his story; the difficulties he has faced and the problems he has overcome, and what he wants to achieve with his life.

Daniel is now one of MEDLIFE's official follow up patients. Janet Ludeña is one of our field nurses, she has a brother with a hearing problem similar to Daniel, and as a result she knows sign language. She has been talking with Daniel using sign language and is looking into the best options for his future education.

We cannot fail Daniel: he has the hopes and dreams of any other 13 year old boy, he is charismatic and charming and has the drive and ambition to go far- he just needs the tools of education to help him. MEDLIFE is going to help him achieve this goal and support him in every way we can.

Walking through the "pueblos jovenes" of Lima is never an easy task either physically or emotionally. Working in these areas you will learn about people's stories and situations that can make you feel small and powerless, yet at the same you get to know incredible people who are full of hope and a desire for change.


During a Lima summer, it is excruciatingly sunny. The ground is dry and hot, and the relentless sun never lets you forget that you are in the center of a desert. Winter by contrast is humid and seemingly endless. Filled with grey skies and rainy days, the humidity brings the cold directly into the local homes and a chill cuts straight to the bone. For many of these families they have only a thin wall to protect them from these elements. 

DC2-2Such are the winters for Kiara, for which being inside or out of the house is the same; both places are wet, cold, and smell of garbage. At six years old, Kiara has learned to make due with her surroundings. Pretending that large stones are her own personal ponies, that the flowers she used to water are actually cactuses, and that her secondhand dolls have seen better days. Kiara's imagination has no limit, she continues every day smiling and doing her hair like a princess.

Dakota is different. She does not smile as much. At age four she does not understand much, but knows that things are not good. She knows that there are children who sleep in dry beds and whose houses are not full of holes in the walls. If you ask her if she prefers summer to the cold winters, she does not know how to respond. The heat is overwhelming, especially when you share the only bed with three other people. 

They are two different children but at the same time are equal, as both have infinite love for their mother. Their mother tries daily to get ahead, to better her family's life. Mónica Coquinchi came to Lima from the Tigre River in the Amazon at age 18, after a five day boat ride and her first and only ride in a plane. They told her that Lima is full of jobs, success, and was her best option. 

Love can at the same time be a blessing and a curse. Carlita, two years old, is proof that love forgives all, but can also be blind. Once you take off the blindfold, the truth can be painful. Two years of trial and tribulation to obtain sufficient food is the result. 


But Monica's dreams and her preservation are what we really love about her. Her desire to improve her life is so strong that when she enrolled in a free course on Geriatrics. She was such a good student that her teacher let her bring her three daughters to class. Come graduation day, a friend gave her a new pair of shoes, another a nice blouse. But Mónica did not use either; she is keeping them for a more special occasion.

When it comes to beautiful things, perception is relative. For some it may be the sky at sunset, for others it is colorful flowers. For us, it is when we see Monica's eyes after telling her we would build her family a new house. A house without holes and with windows. Cool in the summer and warm in winter.

The Development Corps volunteers are changing lives, fulfilling dreams, and giving hope to people that things can get better. It reminds us that we should not give up and that we need to continue our efforts. We are proud to say that this Friday we will not just be inaugurating a house; we will be inaugurating a home.


"Laderas de Nueva Esperanza” is a community that has never disappointed us. Full of hardworking, honest, and eager people ready to move forward for a better future.


We found out about a problem they had with the playground when Nancy Helguera, the community leader, asked for our help. Our assistance was important as this playground was used by dozens of children in the area.


We don't think twice about writing a blog and publishing the project on our "sponsor a project” section in the website. Never did we think that this recent project would be completed by our first group of Development Corps .

Participating Development Corps is demanding but very rewarding. This new form of project allows you to be a participant and to leave a mark that changes the lives of people for a long time.


For us who work with MEDLIFE it is a amazing to be able to meet old friends again in the community. We have recently been able to build 7 staircases in a single community and that allows us to remain much closer to its inhabitants.

Working in the communities allows us to meet amazingly humble people like Reynaldo, father of our patient Jimena. Reynaldo did not hesitate to leave his job as a delivery man for a week to be able to support our Development Corps without expecting anything in return.


Or like Mr. Fonseca who always full of wisdom and no doubt one of the leaders in all construction to occur in his community. If you ask him kindly, he will teach you all the tricks of the trade that he knows about construction.


This is our first group of Development Core participants and while they still have all week to complete their projects, we are sure there will be many new experiences for both the participants and the community.


Written by Rosali Vela and translated by Ebony Bailey

Throughout these eight years in which MEDLIFE has worked with low-income communities in Latin America, we have always thought that the volunteers should be recognized for their hard work during the volunteer trip. With that in mind, we have dedicated ourselves to improving the conditions for our volunteers, starting with giving each participant a variety of materials that will help them after their experience in Latin America or Africa.

We know that a volunteer trip with MEDLIFE is more than simply a touristic trip. A trip with MEDLIFE is an experience that involves bringing help to communities that normally don't receive it; it is visibly improving the lives of hundreds of people in need by bringing medicine, education and development to them. Because of this, every volunteer will receive a participation certificate that recognizes his or her work and service during his or her trip.


These participation certificates can be used on personal resumes, CVs or any other purpose that the student requires.

Apart from this, the volunteer trip folders contain materials such as brochures on how to stay involved with MEDLIFE, postcards, participation and destination stickers, among other materials.

50:50 campaign participants who raise more than $100 for the MEDLIFE fund ($200 overall) will receive an honorable mention, granting them a scrub and a special certificate that highlights the amount they raised for the organization. The 50:50 campaign rewards will vary based on the amount fundraised. Volunteers who raise more than $175 for MEDLIFE ($350 overall) will also be issued a special certificate and will receive an official hoodie that includes the MEDLIFE logo and a 50:50 reference logo. For more information the 50:50 campaign, click here.


For all of the volunteers that come from universities where there is not yet a MEDLIFE chapter, we will give you an expansion folder. Essentially, it is the same folder that all of the volunteers receive. But it also contains instructions on how to start a new chapter, along with posters and a MEDLIFE banner to help you get the word out about your MEDLIFE chapter on campus. We are very happy to meet new students who have the passion and drive to start chapters in their universities.

These improvements are being applied little by little to the volunteer trips, and we are happy to have the opportunities to recognize all of our volunteers for taking action and involving themselves in changing the world.


Part of our Mobile Clinic routine at MEDLIFE is the dental station, where patients are able to receive dental treatments such as cleanings and extractions. Many of the communities we serve are in very remote areas, so even the simplest tooth cleaning can become complicated if the tools and resources to perform it are not available. Another important station at Mobile Clinics is the toothbrushing station, directed at children. Here, we teach them how to brush their teeth correctly, how to use fluoride, and give them a brand-new toothbrush.

However many adults also come to this station discretely, listening in the back as our student volunteer give toothbrushing lessons to the young ones. This is because many of these adults have never received dental hygiene education and are unaware of the importance of brushing our teeth on a daily basis.

In the past few months, we have heard several stories from patients that have inspired us to take a step further and add a new segment to our educational workshop: dental health.

Stories like Giovanna's and Selvestrina's have showed us that the lack of dental education and preventive measures can end in the loss of all of one's teeth, such as in their cases. Selvestrina and Giovanna went several years without being able to fully smile until MEDLIFE gave them the necessary support. Now it's time to go further.


Doctor Jorge Vidal accompanied us to our last educational workshop to hold our first presentation about dental health. The workshop was held in the Marco Polo Educational Center in Villa María del Triunfo. About 80 community members attended to hear presentations on nutrition, domestic violence, diabetes, breast cancer, cervical cancer, and now dental health.  

“We have plans to create an area of MEDLIFE specifically for patients who have dental problems, and the first step is holding these dental health presentations at our workshops,” said Carlos Benavides, Director of MEDLIFE Peru.

Jorge Vidal, Orthodontic Doctor, has supported MEDLIFE since the beginning when Jorge was just a dental student. He has seen the growth of this organization and is very proud to have an active role in MEDLIFE's mission: bringing medicine, education and development to communities in need.


Workshop participants remained very interested throughout the presentation and even took the opportunity to ask questions to Dr. Jorge about preventative dental health. Deemed a success, “this is the first of many workshops,” Benavides said.

At MEDLIFE we are proud to be able to take the extra step and bring more support to people who need it.

November 21, 2013 11:23 am

A Step Closer to Those We Serve


Since MEDLIFE's operations began in Lima, we have always dreamed of building an office close to the people we serve. Now, thanks to your support through the MEDLIFE Fund, this dream is finally coming true.


Unión Santa Fe is a community located in Pamplona where we have brought more than ten mobile clinics, seven staircases, and both water and road projects. Additionally, this community is where our daycare center is currently being built. Throughout our years working on various projects with community members of Unión Sante Fe, they have always shown commitment, collaboration and unity.


Now, we are proud to announce that Unión Santa Fe will be the site of our first MEDLIFE operations office!



This new office will be used as the headquarters during Mobile Clinics, Mobile Schools and Development Corps. The space will also be used for meetings with community leaders, follow-up patients, and educational workshops. Finally, the new office will also create jobs for locals such as our future neighbor Selvestrina, who will maintain our gardens.


Thanks to everyone for all of your support! As MEDLIFE expands, we become more able to deliver more medicine, education and development for communities in need.


Stay tuned for updates!

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