"My MEDLIFE experience in Lima, Peru was truly an eye-opener. I got the chance to see “unseen” parts of Lima, mainly Miraflores, and how the locals live there-not just the “touristy” places people see in brochures. It was devastating to see the living conditions in some parts of Miraflores where locals have to climb up to their small houses made of thin wood without staircases. I experienced this myself and it was a very tiring and dangerous thing to do. I don’t think I realize how much a staircase can be helpful until that point. There is also lack of access to basic necessities like clean water, food, and medicine. Because of these depressing conditions, I come to realize that they are not truly living, they are surviving. And hence by volunteering, I learned that a small act of kindness can make a difference in other people’s lives more than we can imagine.
As an individual who has traveled and volunteered extensively, I can say that this volunteering experience is one of the most hands-on and educative experience that I have ever had. I got to shadow doctors and healthcare workers in rural and medically underserved communities and learned some medical practices. One thing that struck me the most was watching the gynecologist perform pap smear as I have never seen the process of it in first person. I also learned about the importance of education and development in Peru. A lot of locals there were not aware of some serious diseases and what causes them and so having an education station in our mobile clinic is very helpful. In addition, I learned that the best way to help people is actually to sit down with them and listen to their needs and ask what changes they want to see in their community. This gives them a voice that allows them to channel their aspirations and problems to be heard.
Volunteering made me realize that there are so many less fortunate people out there who are still struggling in fulfilling their basic needs and that I should be grateful of what I have now. I am also in awe of the people of Lima and their resilience and selflessness-that even in such depressing conditions, they are still in joy and grateful of what they have. This trip has given me a new perspective on the world and I am forever grateful for that."
Vice President for UTSG MEDLIFE 2020/2021
"One of my favourite memories/experiences was assisting the local dentist at one of the mobile clinics. I was able to watch him fully reconstruct a patient’s front tooth that had be cracked. Using only composite, a UV light, and a metal spatula, the dentist rebuilt the man’s front tooth and when he was finished it looked like new. I was particularly surprised by how much I enjoyed my time with the dentist because it wasn’t something I expected to see. I expected that the dentist would to the bare minimum to fix the tooth so that the patient would have full function when eating, etc. However, it was really unexpected to see the dentist do such incredible work to fix an (ultimately) aesthetic issue. It was interesting to consider that while these people may be experiencing poverty, they obviously care about visual appearance as well. These people care about how they look and what people think when they see them. I also noticed that many of the locals were very clean, groomed, and properly dressed. After noticing all of this and considering it, I actually felt I had been very naive assuming that these people in poverty would not care about their appearance. While they may not have all the same facilities or products as people in developed countries, there’s no reason that they would care any less about they appearance.
Something else that I also found really interesting was being able to see the health consequences of pollution. There were many young children that came to the clinic with symptoms that the doctor explained were related to allergies caused by pollution in the air. Young children had grey spots in their eyes, coughing, and other breathing difficulties. At home, pollution and global warming is often emphasized as seriously affecting the environment, however it was very interesting to physically observe health issues directly caused by pollution that otherwise would be very rare in the western world.
One other starking contrast is the issue with water cleanliness. As a global health student, I study these issues from a classroom in Toronto, but it was very insightful to actually experience it in real life. While they may have “improved water systems”, the water is still contaminated and there are many locals, not just tourists and foreigners, that contract parasites from drinking the unsanitized water. While it may be a fact of life for the locals that they must always boil their water before using it, it shows people like us (students) how unfair the living conditions are in other countries.
Honestly, I found the trip difficult while I was there. It was hard for me not to feel pity for the people we saw. For someone like me who has unlimited opportunities, financial stability, general safety, and an effective government and authority figures, it was difficult to understand the situation that the locals are in. They are very limited in their opportunities and they must work slowly, one step at a time, to reach even just a safe, stable place in their society. For example, many of the people who came to the clinics were warned of diabetes and told they must change their eating habits. However, junk foods are one of the few material things that many of those people can afford and look forward to. Overall, it was difficult for me to feel hopeful when I was able to experience what life is like for the locals in poverty.
As a whole, I really enjoyed the trip and found it very insightful. I find myself able to apply the experience to my studies and I feel as though I have a better understanding of the things I read about in my textbooks and on the news. I absolutely loved having the experience to have hands on interactions in medical assessments and I learned a lot from the health professionals."
"This trip to Lima, Peru with MEDLIFE was far more than I could have asked for. What I expected was a simple service trip, but instead it was eight days of learning moments, genuine friendships, and rich cultural experiences. During mobile clinic days, we were able to shadow healthcare professionals in procedures such as pap smears and cavity fillings. We were also able to see an array of medical conditions from parasite infections to type 2 diabetes and even breast tumours. The patients and staff were patient while answering my questions and always went the extra mile to explain diagnosis’ to me. In addition, being able to interact with the patients at the triage and tooth brushing station was really rewarding and reinforced the importance of communication and trust in the health care field.
One of my strongest memories of this trip was being able to experience the challenges the people in local communicates faced on a daily basis. Climbing up the steep hillside without safe architecture was far more meaningful than seeing pictures online. However, what surprised me was the overall sense of hope and happiness of the people who lived there. It made me realize that despite their poverty stricken circumstances, a positive outlook and the cooperation of many like-minded individuals is what is needed to help make a difference.
Our participation involved project day where we worked side by side with the community to help build a staircase. Despite obvious language barriers, I was moved by how enthusiastic and grateful the members of the community were. What they didn’t know was how grateful I was to be a part of such a special experience. Overall, I am very appreciative of this trip and would recommend it to anyone who is interested."
Former MCO for UTSG MEDLIFE
"The service learning trip with MEDLIFE was really amazing. I learned and experienced so many things on this trip. The biggest learning experience for me was the reality tour that we went on the second day of the week. The MEDLIFE staff took us around to the different towns in Lima to show us what the living conditions and the every day lives of the people living in poverty is like. That was definitely an eye-opening experience for me, and I realized how different it was learning about poverty back in Canada and seeing it with my own eyes there. Clinic days and the rotations at different stations were really fun and I was so engaged the whole time I was there. Being able to shadow the doctors, dentist, nurses and pharmacist was so amazing! If I could go back on another service learning trip to Peru, I would definitely study some Spanish before I went because that was one thing, I had trouble with. It was hard to communicate with some of the doctors and nurses because my Spanish was very limited and so was their English.
My favourite part of the trip was project day. Our group helped build a stair case in one of the towns MEDLIFE has been working in for some time. I was so surprised by how hard working and happy the community members were. Even though we had a problem with the cement machine, and they had to eventually mix it by hand nobody was complaining, and everyone helped to complete the staircase with all their energy. It was a really great experience for me, and I am so grateful I was able to learn so much from the people there. Their happiness and positive energy still reside with me today!"
"The trip to Lima, Peru with MEDLIFE was all I could’ve hoped for. The whole trip was a surreal experience and it was definitely one of the best weeks of my life. It was inspiring, novel and life changing to say the least. Not only was it an opportunity to learn and grow, but an outlet to educate others and apply what I’ve learned to help better improve others. Despite the lack of resources, individuals showed up with the biggest smiles and that was an eye opener, to see that a little can make a huge impact and bring upon that much happiness.
As this was a Mobile Clinic Trip, the three days of clinic provided the opportunity to shadow doctors, dentists, gynaecologists and pharmacists. We learned so much from different medications to taking blood pressures and diagnosing patients. We got the chance to interact with children and teach them how to brush their teeth and wash their hands all while practicing Spanish. In addition to medicine and education, MEDLIFE stands for development as well which is what makes this organization so special. I never would have thought that I would get the chance to help build a staircase. It seems so simple but climbing up and down those steep hills for yourself puts a completely different perspective in mind. It felt so rewarding to know that we left a piece of us in the community that is a necessity for everyday life and important in striving towards a better life.
The whole trip was so organized with the week planned out but most importantly, it felt safe. The great part about MEDLIFE is that even though you’re there to volunteer, there are days before, after and during the clinic week to explore the city, learn about the culture and try new cuisines. This gave the chance to build friendships with colleagues from other universities that have a common goal in mind which was a part of how the trip exceeded any expectations I had. It was a truly humbling experience and I would hands down relive it again.
Thinking back, I feel more than grateful to have been able to build a staircase for such a great community and providing others with the healthcare they need. To say that this trip was an amazing experience would be an understatement. I highly recommend everyone to go on a trip with MEDLIFE. It is a one-of-a-kind opportunity to learn new things, gain new experiences and create lasting memories with incredible people. Life is about challenging yourself and I felt that this was the perfect way to do something I love while also helping make a difference."
Past MCO and Co-President for UTSG MEDLIFE
"This trip to Cusco was eye opening. One thing that I really loved about this trip was that MEDLIFE made sure that the volunteers got an understanding of the complexity of issues that lead to underprivileged people in communities outside of the main city. I appreciated that the trip allowed me to see and feel the conditions and situations that people live in, rather then being treated as a laborer that would just get the job that needs to be done at the clinics. In addition to the tours offered outside of the MEDLIFE, the reality tour given on the first weekday was very informative and helpful to receive some sense of what the situations are like in a rapidly growing city like Cusco. One thing I learned on this trip is that inaccessibility to healthcare is not simply a problem of poverty of wealth. Even with a house and a large farm to sustain a family, people who live outside of cities do not live in places where hospitals or health care professionals are available to them nearby. To access healthcare, these people would have to travel dangerous streets for a long distance. One thing that I did not love about the trip was the hotel arrangements. The hotel was very cold during the nights and I saw many volunteers get sick. The food was also below average at the hotels and couple nights me and my roommates went out to restaurants because the quantity that was served was not big enough. Overall, the experience was amazing and I am sure that I will make another trip next summer to another location."
Former MCO for UTSG MEDLIFE
"Having lived all my life in Toronto as a privileged individual, this trip has opened my eyes to the pervasiveness of poverty and the huge impacts it brings to entire communities. During project day at the rural outskirts of Cusco, I entered a local woman’s house to help paint the walls. I was shocked at the amount of grime and dust that littered the entire area. The floor was so dirty that it felt unsanitary to even sit down on. The roof had gaps that were covered with intertwined twigs. Despite all this, the local woman’s eyes gleamed with pride as she showed us around the house. At that instant, I was astounded at how happy one could be with so little. I felt ashamed that I complained about the lack of heating in my modern hotel room.
The local healthcare and medical services were even worse than the state of the houses. I passed by a deserted hospital that had its construction cancelled halfway through. The next nearest hospital was miles away. Exacerbating the underperforming medical services, many locals had next to no basic healthcare knowledge. At the mobile clinics that we ran, there were many patients with easily preventable conditions such as tooth decay. Children as young as the age of six had black, rotten teeth simply because they were not taught to brush their teeth.
Even in the urban heart of Cusco, there were still telltale signs of poverty. When I went to buy souvenirs, none of the stores had enough change for a 100 soles bill, roughly the equivalent of 30 USD. I saw many children walking aimlessly around the streets all day, probably because some of them could not afford the tuition or transit fees to go to school, which is considered one of the highest luxuries in Cusco.
The recurring theme of this trip was the constant realization that many privileges I had taken for granted were unobtainable by a vast number of Peruvians, such as a clean house with heating and air conditioning, basic healthcare education, and being able to attend school. Overall, this was a very eye-opening and fulfilling trip. If there were any aspect that could be improved, it would be the small portion sizes of the hotel dinners. On several occasions, I went to sleep feeling slightly hungry. However, I have no regrets attending this trip and will forever remember my experiences at my first ever time staying in an impoverished area."
"Going to Cusco, Peru was one of the best decisions I've made recently. Even though I was nervous to go in the beginning, I can't think of a better way to spend my summer.
Preparing for the trip couldn't have be easier. MEDLIFE is such a student friendly organization and guided me the entire way, from tickets to hotel accommodations. MEDLIFE also allows volunteers to set up a donation fund through their 50:50 campaign, in which the collected funds are put towards 50% of the cost of the trip and the other 50% goes to MEDLIFE to pay for medicines and payment to local doctors for better services to our local communities. Once I had my visa (as I do not hold a Canadian passport currently), I was ready to go to Cusco!
Our group and MEDLIFE leaders were so nice, I had no problem making friends. In an instant, all my nervousness disappeared and all that was left was excitement for the days that were to come. Our clinics were truly the best place to learn about community medicine and see the barriers these communities have to face on a daily basis. We did our best to learn and appreciate. MEDLIFE is different from other mission trips because of their follow up program so we knew that the patients we saw would receive continuous follow up care if they needed it. It was not just a week of work. I will continue to help and do what I can to remain engaged in community medicine and I encourage every single person reading this to consider a trip with MEDLIFE. It doesn't require any medical knowledge, just the determination to help others!"
This past summer I was lucky enough to go on a medical service trip to Cuzco, Peru with MEDLife, an organization dedicated to enhancing the lives of individuals in underdeveloped societies by promoting medicine, education, and development. As volunteers, we were required to partake in all 3 initiatives, by shadowing doctors and dentists, teaching children hygiene methods, and helping build much-needed kitchen stoves in a village where consistent water and electricity sources are scarce. Being in a country where I couldn’t understand or communicate in the language everyone spoke (Spanish and Quechua) was a challenge. Learning the essential “tourist” words was difficult let alone impossible when working in a medical environment. Nevertheless, being in such a state of communication-vulnerability really opened my eyes to the health challenges of our society and the need to disperse our knowledge and raise awareness regarding communities that do not have access to appropriate and life-essential health care. Maybe I only found it troubling that so many individuals could be health-deprived because it had never struck me before, but this trip was life-changing. It made me want to do more and help more simply because I was provided with an opportunity to see things from a different perspective, a perspective I only think I would have been able to acquire with MEDLife.
When looking back, the entire experience was phenomenal, yet the beauty behind such a trip was realizing that there is an underlying similar goal that all volunteers and organizers had in mind: the want to help improve the lives of others in whatever capacity they can. It paved way for good friendships and good times, making this trip a truly unforgettable, genuinely rewarding, and one-of-a-kind experience.
Last summer (2015), Anita and I had a great opportunity to visit Lima, Peru for one week and immersed ourselves into the intriguing culture that they had to offer. Simply put, it was an unforgettable experience for the both of us! Throughout our journey, our eyes had experienced firsthand the huge differences in medical services provided at our location compared to the health care that we are provided here in Canada. We were able to shadow the doctors, nurses, dentist, gynecologist, and a pharmacist. This was a very hands on experience and we enjoyed interacting with the patients. Although language was a barrier, that did not stop our passion in helping the people from very young children to the seniors. We will be sharing some of the photos of our experience and our hope is to add every one of you to the picture as well!
The everlasting friendships we have built amongst our colleagues from various universities around the world, while exercising our ability to communicate Spanish; it was truly the journey worth remembering. MEDLIFE provides students the opportunity to explore medical practice beyond the borders of your comfort zone, while simultaneously integrating an aspect of community service to the local communities.
Last summer, we were able to accomplish building a community stairway along with colleagues from various universities all around the world. This may seem quite a miniscule service project, but in fact we realized the impact it left for the local community was ever so huge! This stairway allowed the communities to come together, whereas without it, would have been a physical barrier to the community. In addition, we were able to build a local cafeteria to allow subsidized meals for children who attend school. What we take for granted here in Canada, were a luxury for these students at Peru. The donations you make help us accomplish the funding required to provide facilities such as these to those who need it the most. We must admit, the journey was quite tough, however, when we accomplished the program, most of us, if not everyone was left feeling proud of themselves for the service we were able to provide to the communities. It was an honour representing Canada, and the University of Toronto during our journey.
.... this was our story... What will yours be?? <-- We can help you with that!! Join our UofT MEDLIFE Chapter and get updated on events and trips we have planned for you! Looking forward to an amazing year!
Chirag and Anita
(Co-Presidents at UofT MEDLIFE)