For my project, I volunteered in mobile health clinics in Lima, Peru through MEDLIFE. MEDLIFE is a nonprofit organization that strives to provide access to healthcare to low-income families. My project took place from May 30, 2015 to June 7, 2015. During the trip the volunteer group was split into smaller groups. Each group would spend one day working on the developmental project and three days volunteering in pop-up health clinics in different villages shadowing local doctors, pharmacists, and dentists. In the mobile clinics I was able to help the pharmacist fill prescriptions and organize the medication and assisted the dentist in filling cavities. In Lima, the main developmental project is staircase building. Staircases are needed in regions with steep terrains, and construction of improved staircases greatly reduces the number of health problems related to stair related accidents. In addition to the mobile clinics and developmental projects, the MEDLIFE group leaders gave us a “Reality Tour” to show the harsh living conditions the low-income families face. These families not only have limited access to not only proper healthcare, but also to basics needs such as steady electricity and clean drinking water. In addition to volunteering, we were able to experience the culture of Lima as we explored the city in the afternoons after working in the mobile clinics. On the weekend, the group took a tour to Paracas where we took a boat ride around Ballestas Islands to see sea lions and marine birds and rode dune buggies through the sand dunes in Huacachina.
Through this trip and MEDLIFE, I learned that to make a lasting impact on a community, the people of the community have to be wiling to put in effort to improve their quality of life as well. For example, MEDLIFE workers speak with the community members to plan and organize a staircase project in the community, and the community members and the MEDLIFE volunteers work together to build the staircase. Interacting with the patients and community members while working in the mobile clinic I learned that they were really grateful that we were able to come and offer medical services.
This experience gave me the opportunity to work directly with people in need of medical care and gave me a first hand experience of working closely together with doctors, pharmacists, and dentists. Through this trip I was able to improve my interpersonal communication skills by communicating with other volunteers, MEDLIFE staff and the people of Lima. In addition, this trip showed gave me a first hand look at global healthcare. It showed me how much inequality there is in health care policy and has encouraged me to not only pursue a Doctor of Pharmacy degree but also a Masters of Health Administration to improve my understanding of the different disparities and solutions in health care. Participating in this MEDLIFE trip made me realize how much I enjoy volunteering and reinforced my desire to help others as much as I can.