We have some exciting news - the Wawa Wasi has grown so much that it has officially become our MED Center for Primary Education! Though this is only the first branch of what will eventually be a much larger scale project, this is a key step in progressing toward our ultimate goal of the MED Center and we are thrilled to tell you about it.

The Roots of the Project: The Wawa Wasi

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MEDLIFE worked with our longtime partner community of Union Santa Fe on the outskirts of Lima, Peru to build a physical structure to meet their self-identified needs: the Wawa Wasi. An effort in sustainable development, the idea for the building came from concerns expressed by community members that there was no safe place to leave their children while they went to work.

Rather than building a parallel educational system, we worked hand in hand with government programs already in place. In Lima, the government has a designated education program called CUNAMAS for children from 1 to 2 years. This program provides food, childcare, and education to children in low-income communities. Unfortunately, to qualify for the program the community must have a physical structure in place that offers a suitable and safe environment for the children. That is where MEDLIFE came in.

We constructed a building that could serve as a childcare center on the first floor. For a period of time, we operated hand in hand with CUNAMAS to offer childcare to families in the area. But as the community has grown and changed, their needs have also grown and changed. And to properly meet those needs, the Wawa Wasi has transitioned into to what is now the MED Center for Primary Education.

Becoming the MED Center for Primary Education

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The building has grown from a 1-floor day care center to a 3-floor multi-purpose center with workshops, professional services, and more. Through this growing process, it has become the first physical step in the development of our MED Center in the area. The full-scale MED Center will be a community center focused on particular development issues that the communities face. For example, some of our goals for the MED Center include offering a trade school for children and adults, basic medical and dental services, and providing a safe space for community meetings.

Between its physical growth and expansion of educational offerings, the former Wawa Wasi building and its services have truly embodied our first major step towards the MED Center, via the MED Center for Primary Education. So we thought it was time to officially change the name.

Currently, the MED Center for Primary Education is operating in a variety of ways, all rooted from listening to communities share with us about their needs and priorities. Though CUNAMAS is not currently running a childcare center, we are using the first floor to offer law consultations and psychology appointments from local professionals. We are hopeful that the partnership with CUNAMAS will resume in the coming months. On the second floor, we are offering unique and immersive workshops for children in the area. After school or during summer months, they can come to the MED Center for Primary Education to learn new skills and hobbies like karate, painting, and dance. Additionally, on weekends we have partnered with a local university so that students can volunteer their time to teach supplemental workshops.

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Finally, we are in the process of constructing a third floor for the MED Center for Primary Education and plan to work hand in hand with the community to decide what to offer in the space. It may be a computer area for teenagers to do their school work, a small business workshop for locals, or potentially an area for fun activities like movie nights!

Thanks for all of your support as we continue progressing this project. More updates to come soon!

July 24, 2013 5:02 pm

Patient Story: Jimena Sarango


We encountered 5-year old Jimena Sarango in the hills of Laderas Nueva Esperanza one afternoon playing hopscotch she had scratched into the dirt. Her father Reynaldo hacked away at the rocky hillside nearby, carving out stairs. "A little girl fell down here last week," he told us. 

Even before the family brought Jimena to a Mobile Clinic, we knew Reynaldo because he was one of the most involved community members at several staircase projects in the area. "I have faith that things are going to continue to get better," he says. 

Reynaldo drives a mototaxi at night to support his family, though business has been suffering lately because the vehicle is too old and weak to make it up the rocky hills in the area. His wife Edith stays home with Jimena and her eight-year old sister, because they don't feel safe leaving the girls home alone, and there's no one else to watch them when school gets out at one in the afternoon. They do their best with what they have, says Edith, though sometimes it's difficult, especially when Reynaldo can't find work. "On those days I go with the girls to find things to recycle, and we can make a few dollars to buy ingredients at the market for lunch," she says. "My older daughter already understands that some days, we just don't have enough, but Jimena will complain that she's hungry."

Their lack of financial resources was also the reason that Jimena's ptosis, or drooping eyelid, went untreated for so long. "I was taking her to therapy when she was a baby, but I had to go all the way to the children's hospital every day on a bus," said Edith, "and we just didn't have money for the bus fare." Despite her eye condition, Jimena's grown into a bright and energetic little girl, well-liked among her friends in kindergarten. But when she came to a MEDLIFE Mobile Clinic earlier this year, her parents learned that her condition had worsened and needed to be corrected with an operation while she's still young, or she could lose vision in one eye.

Since our Mobile Clinics don't include optical specialists on site, MEDLIFE's patient follow-up team took over. Meri has been accompanying Jimena and her mother to doctors' appointments and helped her to get new glasses. Now they're trying to schedule an operation, though a nationwide strike in Peru's public hospitals has slowed them down.

Miss Lucy, Jimena's teacher, says that she already sees a change with the new glasses. "I used to sit her in the front of the classroom so she could see better, and I noticed her eyes would tear up," she said "But she's always been a very good student, very intelligent and helpful." Miss Lucy also told us that Jimena, who wants to be a doctor when she grows up, volunteered to serve as the medical brigade in the five-year old classroom. "When another girl fell and scratched her leg, Jimena came running with her first-aid kit to help out," she said.

Jimena's mother is proud of her precocious younger daughter. "Sometimes she has whole conversations like an adult," she says. For her part, Jimena says she likes to pass the time drawing, playing volleyball, and chatting with her four best friends. "I can't read anything yet, but my sister's trying to teach me," she says.

Click here to learn how you can help Jimena and her family by sponsoring a staircase near their home. 

This latest batch of MEDLIFE summer interns comes to us from all over the world! Learn more about them in the second edition of Meet the Interns:


Name: Hailey Bossio
Hometown: Lonsdale, Ontario
School: McGill University
Major: Physiology, Minor Psychology

How I got involved with Medlife: I attended my first clinic in Lima in May 2011 and this experience completely changed my outlook on life. I returned from the clinic and wanted to get more involved so that other students could have the same experience. This past year I have held the position as the Canadian Expansion Chair and I worked with a team of students to expand MEDLIFE into Canada and the UK.

I'm looking forward to...seeing the results of MEDLIFE's cervical cancer prevention and detection program. The MEDLIFE follow up program provides women diagnosed with cervical cancer the medical and financial support they require to undergo cancer treatment. I would like to observe how a typical oncology center operates in Peru in comparison to the state of the art facilities we have in Canada.

My favorite part so far...I had the opportunity to attend a mobile clinic in Ecuador shortly after I arrived in South America and I really enjoyed working with the staff there to understand the root causes of very common diseases seen in the indigenous tribes of the Amazon.


Name: Swathi Varanasi
Hometown: Flemington, NJ
School: Carleton College
Major: Spanish and Neuroscience

How I got involved with MEDLIFE...When I was looking for summer opportunities online, I found the MEDLIFE internship, and after checking out the website, I applied and here I am!

I'm looking forward to...working with and making a difference in the communities in Lima.

My favorite part so far...getting the chance to work at a MEDLIFE Mobile Clinic in Cusco and then going to Machu Picchu afterwards!


Name: Benjamin Ostrander
Hometown: Kenwood, California
School: University of California, San Diego
Major: Bioengineering & Global Health

Fun fact: I play five instruments - piano, guitar, ukulele, mandolin, and didgeridoo!

I'm looking forward to...Getting to know MEDLIFE interns and staff, digging the Peruvian culture, traveling, and working with impoverished communities to improve their lives.

My favorite part so far...Visiting los pueblos jóvenes, especially working with one of the local communities to plan a staircase project and seeing their livelihoods: driving mototaxis, baking sweet bread in a handmade wood-fired oven, and selling knick-knacks, among other things.


Name: Lara Chambers
Hometown: Belfast, Northern Ireland
University: The University of St Andrews, Scotland
Major: French and Spanish

Fun fact: I worked at the London 2012 Olympics on the protocol and languages services team!

Why I'm here: I was looking for an opportunity to work in South America this summer and I came across MEDLIFE on the internet. I really liked the ethos of the organisation and this internship will provide me with an excellent chance to get to know South America whilst also giving something back to the community here in Lima.

I'm looking forward to...practising my Spanish, particularly mastering the Peruvian accent so that people will stop laughing at my European Spanish accent! I am also really looking forward to visiting the communities where we will be working this summer both in mobile clinics and fieldwork. I have a particular interest in the mobile schools project, having worked as a teacher in France this past year on a study abroad programme. I am also really excited to see Lima and some other parts of Peru as it is the first time I have ever been to South America!

My favorite part so far...I have really enjoyed getting to know everyone in the office (even if I can't remember everyone's name yet!). In particular I enjoyed my first visit to the field, as an introduction to the development project we will be doing, the people in the community were so warm and welcoming!


Name: Karolien Astrid Celie
Hometown: Gent, Belgium
School: University of York
Major: Social and Political Sciences

Fun fact: I'm a Belgian that was born in Bolivia, grew up in the US and now study in the UK.

Why I got involved with MEDLIFE...Nick Ellis and his wife came and gave a talk about MEDLIFE at my university a couple of months ago. I was really impressed with the organization and its goals so I wanted to get involved. I explored the MEDLIFE website and found the internship a great opportunity, I applied and that's how I got here!

I'm looking forward to...participating in a mobile clinic and testing out mobile schools, which I think is a great idea and hope will soon be running as often as mobile clinics. I'm really excited to help communities and interact with the members, as well as meeting passionate volunteers from all over the world!

My favorite part so far...It has been great meeting the lovely MEDLIFE staff and getting to know my fellow interns. I also really enjoyed one of our field days where we went on a patient follow-up visit on the outskirts of Lima.

eleanorName: Eleanor Dickens
Hometown: Overland Park, KS
School: Kansas State University
Major: Anthropology, Political Science, International Studies

Why I'm here: I had done a lot of research on MEDLIFE, and I loved everything that they stand for and for the work that they do. The way that MEDLIFE comes alongside works alongside the communities is beautiful. As I learned more, I decided that I would apply for the internship.

I'm looking forward to...learning more about the beautiful culture in Lima, to seeing the historical and archaeological sites in Perú, and to building relationships with the people here.

My favorite part so far...I loved going to our first project. It was a wonderful experience to meet the community members while working together.

It's summertime, and you know what that means: a fresh crop of MEDLIFE interns! Sunita, Galen, Cristina, Chanee and Ashlan join us in Lima, Peru, to help out with Mobile Clinics, projects, expansion and patient followup. Get to know our first group of summer interns: 


Name: Cristina Salvador
Hometown: The Americas. I was born in Miami, and moved every three years to countries including Ecuador, Peru, Colombia, Mexico and the United States.
School: Pomona College
Major: Psychology and neuroscience

I'm looking forward to... Talking to the community members and learning from them to develop a more comprehensive world perspective. I am also looking forward to seeing how some volunteers may grow and find a different way of thinking thanks to what the communities and their experiences in Lima have taught them.

My favorite part so far... The inauguration of the staircase last Friday was by far my favorite part. It was where I felt the most genuine happiness I have ever felt by seeing the volunteers, community and MEDLIFE staff take the time to dance and appreciate each other.

Name: Sunita Kheterpal
Hometown: Montreal, Quebec, Canada (Yes, I'm Canadian)sunita2
McGill University
Major: Physiology with minors in management and international development studies

How I got involved with MEDLIFE: I went on a Mobile Clinic to Riobamba, Ecuador on New Year's Eve of 2011.  I then went on to become the Vice President of Fundraising for MEDLIFE McGill; this upcoming year, I will be our Vice President of Operations.

I'm looking forward to... Meeting students from around the world. Learning to speak better Spanish is my goal. If I succeed, then I will be able to speak five languages.

My favorite part so far... How can I possibly pinpoint my favorite part so far? I've loved every moment of being here so far. I've had the opportunity to spend time with people who work for MEDLIFE, meet follow-up patients, be on the other side of the MEDLIFE experience (not as a volunteer, but as an intern), and live in Lima! 

galenName: Galen Burns-Fulkerson
Hometown: Chapel Hill, NC
School: UNC
Major: Nursing

How I got involved with MEDLIFE: I heard about the club at my school and came across the application for the internship and thought it sounded like a really amazing opportunity.

I'm looking forward to... Testing out the Mobile School model and the Project Corps. model and just seeing how everything works.

My favorite part so far... I love meeting the patients and hearing their stories. I think medicine has the potential to be such an interactive profession but that people sometimes forget that those being treated are people in addition to patients. MEDLIFE allows many opportunities to be reminded of this through direct interactions with people who attend clinics.

Name: Chanée Massiah
cheneeHometown: Brooklyn, New York
School: Rutgers University
Major: Public health with minor in Spanish

My goals this summer... I really hope to establish a sound understanding of how poverty affects people in South America on a daily basis. In the few months that I am here, I hope that this internship gives me a little insight of what it will be like to pursue a career in global health.

My favorite part so far... Taking the tour of Pamplona has been my favorite part of my stay so far. Not only is physically attending to the needs of the community awesome, but it was a great educational insight to learn about the origin of the communities and experience the daily trek in the mountains.

ashlanName: Ashlan Bishop
Hometown: Boca Raton, FL
School: College of Charleston
Major: Public health with minor in neuroscience 

How I got involved with MEDLIFE: I helped start the MEDLIFE chapter at CofC this past semester and now serve on the executive board.

I'm looking forward to... Improving my Spanish language skills and helping the organization grow!

My favorite part so far... Interacting with all the patients and community members at the Mobile Clinic and project sites, especially with all of the kids.

April 26, 2013 11:59 am

Patient Story: Ariana Muñoz

arianaAriana and mom Nelly at home in Oasis of Villa El Salvador

Ariana Muñoz has already seen more than her share of excitement in her 18 months of life, starting with the unusual circumstances of her birth. When her mother Nelly felt she was going into labor, her husband was away at work, and she hailed a mototaxi, the cheapest and most common form of transport in her sandy settlement of Villa El Salvador. Nelly laughs as she recalls how the driver, seeing her pregnant and in obvious distress, told her, “Just don't give birth in my mototaxi, lady.” But the baby couldn't wait; before they reached the hospital, little Ariana was born. At the hospital, doctors cut the umbilical cord and declared her a healthy baby, weighing in at just over 3 kilos.

But not long after taking her home, Nelly had a nagging feeling that something was not normal about her baby. “My heart told me that there was something wrong,” she says. “She snored like a cat in her chest, and she would drink milk and go to sleep for long periods of time without waking up to eat more.” She took Ariana to the hospital at six days old, but doctors again assured her that everything was fine.

babyOne month after Ariana's birth, Nelly noticed that she was having trouble breathing and rushed her to the hospital. When the doctor saw her, he told Nelly to run home and prepare a suitcase of clothes for her and Ariana, because they wouldn't be leaving the hospital for a while. At one point, she went into respiratory distress, and had to be revived with a defibrillator. X-rays revealed that her heart was malformed from birth. She had to receive an operation immediately, and the doctor assured Nelly that they would do their best, but that she might not survive. “I had to leave her because they wouldn't let me go into the operating room,” Nelly said. “But first I went to her, and I held her hands, and I told her ‘I love you and you will always be in my heart.'”

After hours of agonized waiting, the doctors emerged to tell Nelly that the operation had gone well and that Ariana was recovering. They wondered why Nelly had waited so long to bring her in; her heart was so tiny and weak that her organs had become agitated by breastfeeding. “They told me that I have grounds to sue the first doctors,” Nelly said. “If they had detected the problem earlier, it might not have gotten so bad.” In the overcrowded and underfunded public hospitals in Peru, this situation is sadly not uncommon.

Because of the heart defect, her development is delayed compared to other children her age. At one year and six months old, she spends most of her time lying down quietly, because the strain of walking and sitting up tires her out too quickly. Nelly tears up when she regards her younger daughter. “It hurts to know that she may never be like other children and able to do more things,” she says.

Ariana still needs a more complex corrective procedure for her heart, which will hopefully take place with the arrival of foreign surgeons to Peru's children's hospital this fall. If the operation succeeds, doctors have told her, she will be able to lead a normal life, though she will still have to be careful not to overexert herself. MEDLIFE field nurse Meri is hopeful after the success of a similar operation for our patient Eloy earlier this year. 

Before she can go through with the surgery, Ariana has to reach a healthy weight of 12 kilos, a challenge in a home where the family eats just one meal a day, usually potatoes and rice. On a recent home visit, Meri brought pediatric nutritional supplements for Ariana, and negotiated with the local comedor to allow the family to take home a free meal every day. Ariana is now up to 9 kilos.

munozhouseThe family home from outsideProviding even the basics for their daughters is difficult for the Muñoz family, who have lived without electricity in a decaying shack in Oasis for six years now. Both husband and wife are from the mountainous provinces of Peru; Nelly came to Lima for a job as a domestic employee and met her husband here. Now she stays home with her daughters, Ariana and four-year old Maricielo, and collects junk and recycling to make some extra money. Nelly's husband, Seferino, finds work in carpentry and construction when he can; it pays 30 soles (about $10) a day, with no health benefits. Seferino has epilepsy as the result of getting hit by a car when he was a teenager. The money paid as a settlement by the driver was spent by his family members before he turned eighteen, and so he endures occasional seizures with no medical treatment because he can't afford it. “Any day he takes off of work is a day without food for our daughters,” Nelly says. Making matters worse, he risks losing his job and serious injury if he experiences a seizure while at work. Seferino is also entering MEDLIFE's patient follow-up program, and we will be connecting him with neurological treatment for his condition.

In the midst of all this tragedy, Nelly struggles to remain positive. “Sometimes when I see Ariana happy, it makes me happy,” she says. “But sometimes I cry alone thinking about how we are going to survive. Ariana can feel when I am sad, and she touches my face to check for tears.”

April 3, 2013 10:43 am

Meet the Interns: Nandini

Nandini Razdan, a recent graduate of the University of Delaware, joins us in Lima, Peru for an internship this month! Learn more about Nandini and how she got involved with MEDLIFE in the Q&A below: 

meetnandini1Tell us a little bit about yourself.

I graduated from the University of Delaware (Go Blue Hens!) in Spring 2012 with a degree in Biology and a minor degree in Spanish. I grew up right outside of Philadelphia in good 'ol Wilmington, Delaware. My passions include going out with friends, watching political and social documentaries, eating pizza every day and all day, and dancing. Dancing was a huge part of my collegiate life, as I danced on two different South Asian/Indian dance teams. I aspire to become a bilingual primary care physician working in underserved areas in the States, as well as hopefully becoming involved in global humanitarian work.

How did you get involved with MEDLIFE?

In Winter 2011, I volunteered in a MEDLIFE mobile clinic in Cusco, Peru. I initially signed up for the clinic because I felt that humanitarian aid was something I wanted to become involved with as a future doctor, so I wanted to get a taste of what it actually required. My experience there was absolutely unforgettable. Being able to actually work hands on with patients in a way that you usually can't in the States was a treat, and being able to help intervene in the health of 751 patients in one week was a true gift.

Why did you decide to become an intern?

I applied to be an intern for MEDLIFE because I felt that as a clinic volunteer, I had only scratched the surface for the amount of impact I personally wanted to make on the poor communities and how much I wanted to learn about global health. What stood out to me the most as a clinic volunteer were the reasons that many of the health problems existed and how preventable they were. In Obstetrics, it was shocking to see case after case of pap smears potentially positive for cervical cancer. The high levels of cervical cancer in Latin America are partially attributed to the lack of women's health education, but also ignorance of consequences of promiscuity in relationships. While assisting the doctors, I saw that common gastrointestinal issues were a result of unclean drinking water. Additionally, many patients' painful headaches were often associated with poor dental hygiene. Preventative health education is currently being highlighted in the United States healthcare system, so I think it is important for pre-health professionals to become exposed to that aspect of healthcare. Two things that stood out to me about MEDLIFE were the health education presentations and materials that were handed out during the clinics, and also patient follow-up when the clinic was over. As an intern, I wanted to be involved in researching some of the relevant health problems and hopefully helping to present these to the communities. Also, I wanted to see what happens behind the scenes once the clinic weeks are over through patient-follow up.

What was your first impression of Lima?

Coming back to Lima was like falling in love with South America all over again after having previously travelled to Chile, and Lima and Cusco in Peru. I landed in Lima around midnight and woke up the next morning at 6 am on a summer day (escaping the winter in the USA) to the sound of chirping exotic birds and a fresh glass of juice, and pleasant weather. I was immediately immersed into helping with the clinic. The bus driver blasted salsa and reggaeton music during the commute to the clinic, which was even more effective than a morning coffee. The best thing about Peru in general is that the people here are extremely friendly. The friends that I had made before welcomed me back with open arms, and the new friends I have made both in MEDLIFE and otherwise have made my stay so far amazing.


Tell us an anecdote about your experience with MEDLIFE so far.

I've only been in Peru for a few days now, but every minute still has given me an opportunity to learn something new and to gain appreciation. The clinics in Lima are set up in the "pueblos jovenes," which are densely populated communities built on the outskirts of the city in the hills. Peruvians from rural areas migrate here to take advantage of the opportunities of the city. The final day of last week's clinic, the community whom MEDLIFE volunteers built a staircase for held a small party for us to show their appreciation. The volunteers played a game of soccer with the community on their hand built field which they had toiled for 5 years carving out of the dusty mountain. The community members were very hospitable, offering us snacks and drinks, even though they themselves had to work very hard to afford these things. This experience reminded me of how hard those within limited means work in order to be able to afford the things that we take for granted, yet they are the people with the most generous of hearts. The people were proud of their dusty mountainside soccer field with boulders for stadium seats and they were happy to offer the American volunteers humble snacks of Inka cola and soda crackers.

What do you look forward to about your internship?

I am looking forward to assisting doctors and nurses during patient follow-up because each medical case fascinates me and I appreciate that MEDLIFE takes the time to make sure that the patients get care outside of the clinic. Also, I am looking forward to being involved in preventative health education. Hopefully my experiences will help shape my medical journey to becoming a public-serving physician and hopefully MEDLIFE's audience will gain more perspective on the worldwide issues and be motivated to become involved.

We just received these photos from Ccaccaccollo, a community outside Cusco, Peru, where we constructed new bathroom facilities starting in August. The community has been putting the finishing touches on the project, and school director Maria Teresa Flores tells us, "The bathrooms look great, and the kids and I are very grateful to MEDLIFE for completing this project." 

October 26, 2012 2:32 pm

Meet the Interns: Inge

Inge1Our first Peruvian intern has begun her week at the MEDLIFE offices in Lima.  Ingeborg Lopez-Torres, or Inge as she prefers to be called, is a recent graduate of the communications program at the Design Institute Toulouse Laurtrec and is looking forward to honing her craft while helping out those most in need. 

Tell us a bit about yourself:

I grew up in a beach town called Pimentel which is part of Chiclayo, a district in the North of Peru. The summers there were amazing; horseback riding in the afternoons and relaxing under the sun in the evenings.  Although it was a very quaint place to grow up, there was still poverty around us, and so my family participated in annual christmas drives and parties for the poor.  I also participated in the Rotary Club, donating food and clothes and providing medical attention.

Why did you decide to become an intern? 

I Iiked the idea of doing social work and helping out people that I would've never met otherwise. Working here has made me more sensitive to those in need and made me realize that there really are a lot of people in Lima who need our help. Working hard towards improving the lives of others is a gratifying feeling that is like no other.

How do you think the internship will help you with your future career goals?

This internship will help me grow as a person in many ways. I don't think it matters how successful or intelligent or wealthy you are; you will never feel fulfilled if you don't have a good heart. As long as I'm mindful of that, I'm sure that I will do well and be happy in any career I choose.


Tell us an anecdote from your experience with MEDLIFE thus far:

The first time I went to the slums of Lima with Carlos Benavides, director of MEDLIFE Peru, I was humbled by the kindness and warmth we encountered amongst its residents. Before then, I had no concept of the amount of poverty that there is so close to where I live. The people we help receive us with open arms and so much generosity; it was definitely an eye-opening experience.

What do you hope to learn at MEDLIFE? 

I hope to really get to know the people we help, find out their stories, get involved with them and not just be helping out for the moment. Even if I am not working with MEDLIFE in the future, I would love to continue to be a part of those peoples' lives.

So far, I have enjoyed getting to know the MEDLIFE staff and am looking forward to working with the student volunteers.

October 23, 2012 5:07 pm

Meet the Interns: Rachel H.

Rachel is a recent graduate from the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University and is barely five days into her media internship at MEDLIFE Ecuador in Riobamba. So far, the Jersey native has spent her time battling the dusty mountain tops of Guamote for photos of an upcoming school project, roaming the communities of the coast on a scouting mission, and identifying patient stories for compelling video footage. Now, let's get some background on our newest addition to MEDLIFE's communications team: 

MeetRachelH2Tell us a bit about yourself:

I grew up in one of the many suburbs of New Jersey shore. From a young age, I always enjoyed bothering people with questions about their lives and scribbling it down. I am stubbornly and strictly interested in documenting the human condition, mainly for social justice purposes. Though I am a visual storyteller, I hardly take photographs when not on the job.

How did you get involved with MEDLIFE?

I found MEDLIFE through a job posting the website, As a recent graduate of journalism school with a good dose of wanderlust, I thought it would be the perfect opportunity to use my media skills for a good cause while learning about the health care concerns of an entirely different region of the world.

What was your first impression of Riobamba?

I arrived in Riobamba at 2 AM, so therefore my first impression was "dark." However, the next morning I was pleasantly surprised to see the thin outlines of mountains beyond the city's borders. I've never seen more places to grab a quick meal of roasted chicken. I quite like the winding streets. I find the howls of stray dogs in the evening less favorable.

What do you like most about being an intern?

I like the open-ended possibility. Right now, I am not quite sure of where we desire to direct our media efforts here in Ecuador since I am the first longer-term media intern, and am enjoying the brainstorming process. I also am enjoying the excuse to follow anyone around at any given time on important business.


Tell us an anecdote from your experience with MEDLIFE thus far:

When we traveled to Esmeraldas, a small city on the coast, this past week, I met a girl while taking photographs of her community. She was thin and tall with a high pony tail of tightly curled black hair. She asked if I was taking photos, and I said yes. She told me she was 14 and lived in the house behind us. I attempted to chat with her in my broken spanish and she didn't seem to mind. She looked me straight in the eyes and didn't even seem to mind that I was pretty much the epitome of an outsider in her neighborhood. My first instinct was to take a photo of her, but it didn't feel right. I think it's important to see other people as just that -- people -- especially when you are outside of your element.

How do you think the internship will help you with your future plans / career?

I am hoping that this internship will provide me with more life experience in connecting with people entirely different than myself and continue to grow my media skills in foreign reporting.

October 17, 2012 9:50 am

Ecuador Intern Journal: Pedro

MEDLIFE Ecuador Intern Pedro Gonzalez writes about his relationship with a special patient in Riobamba:

journalPedro header

I have experienced a lot of meaningful events during my stay here in Ecuador. I have helped follow-up with a lot of patients and worked on multiple community development projects. None of them has had a bigger impact on me than the day I met Leslie Salambay.

Leslie is a one-year-old girl who lives in the community of Calancha in Ecuador. She had the misfortune of being born with her right ear completely sealed and is currently at risk of losing her sense of hearing if it goes untreated. I met this adorable girl one day at the MEDLIFE Ecuador office in Riobamba. I heard her laughing from the other room and had to came out to meet her. She is a ball full of joy -- as soon as she saw me, she wanted to play with me and I ended up taking many pictures with her.

journalPedro 1

I asked Martha, our director in Ecuador, if I could be present during her whole treatment processs and she gave me the OK. Since then, I have been with Leslie during all of her appointments. It has not been an easy ride. Some of the tests needed for Leslie's treatment have been postponed because the staff in the hospital have not been careful enough to schedule a correct time for her; mistakes like this happen at public hospitals all the time. It's frustrating when you want to help someone but it's made difficult by poor administration of practices. As always, I am a positive person and try to get the best from each experience. I have used this time to bond more with Leslie and her family, and enjoy her laugh.

Leslie is always accompanied by her mother on these visits. One thing that I value about Leslie's mother is how caring she is for her child. She is always there and really attentive towards her daughter. It reminds me a little bit of my mother. I don't want the smile of this little girl to ever disappear. I know that I will keep working hard to make sure Leslie receives all of her treatments so she can live a normal and happy life.

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