As I am sitting in Rome’s International Airport waiting to get on my plane back to Beirut to see my friends and family after 1 year and 7 months, I started thinking of all the amazing opportunities that I have had this past year. All the great friends and professors that I have met. All the remarkable classes and projects that I have worked on, and mostly all the amazing student organizations that I have participated in and worked with. It really was an INCREDIBLE year! I learned a lot about myself, and about this world that we live in. A specific memory and experience that I will keep with me for the rest of my life is working with an organization called MEDLIFE.
A bit of background about myself. I have always enjoyed science, in particular, medicine. I am currently studying biomedical engineering at IIT, and I plan on going into medical school after I graduate. Working with MEDLIFE have changed the way I think about healthcare systems, and assured me that medicine is the track that I want to purse in the future. How? You may ask. Well, with the help of MEDLIFE and the school, I was able to go along with 13 other students to Lima, Peru to perform clinical and medical rotations to people in need. It was a liberating experience, an eye-opening trip, and a reminder of how much I love medicine.
Our medical brigade in Lima lasted 7 days starting with a “Reality Tour” day where we got to explore the real poverty in Peru. We visited Pamplona Alta located in the hills surrounding Lima, and there, we were shocked of the lack of clean water, electricity, safe roads, and essential services that any community needs on a daily basis. These severe conditions have pushed the people of Pamplona to get sick, suffer from communicable diseases, and leave most children with parasites and infections. After exploring the overwhelming conditions the community faces, we spent the next four days working in mobile-clinics that MEDLIFE set up in various locations in Pamplona. During these four days, I got to work with doctors, dentists, pharmacists, and educators to provide free healthcare to as many patients as possible. At the end of each day, you could see the smiling faces of the all the volunteers who carry the sole intention of helping others, as well as the people who were so grateful to see their children and themselves get better.
I could talk for days about the amazing lessons that I have learned during my time in Lima. All the friends that I have made there, and all the wonderful people that I have met. I learned how small steps can help an entire community, and that poverty exists everywhere in our world. We just have to encourage all college students to get involved and raise awareness to aid these communities that are in desperate need of our help. By the end of our trip, we were able to provide healthcare to 172 adults, 171 children, and build a staircase that will benefit over 460 people.
As a result, what I want you to take from this article is this: Help others. Be brave to fly to a different country to help complete strangers. Learn different cultures and embrace them. Try to go outside of your comfort zone, and explore the world. It opens up your mind and reminds you to be grateful of what you have and appreciate the people around you. It takes time and energy, but at the end it will be so worth it!
Omar Alhaj Ibrahim
B.S. Candidate Biomedical Engineering,
Graduation date: 2017