Thoughts of an IIT Student: MEDLIFE’s Medical Brigade to Lima, Peru

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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.

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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

Email: oalhajib@hawk.iit.edu

2 Comments Add yours

  1. gpdoyle says:

    WHAT IS MEDLIFE?

    Our mission is to help families achieve greater freedom from the constraints of poverty, empowering them to live healthier lives. Our patients did not choose to be poor, but they have chosen to strive toward a better life; MEDLIFE stands beside them in this pursuit.

    We aim to achieve this goal through partnering with motivated individuals in poor communities working to improve their access to MEDs: Medicine, Education and community Development. MEDLIFE believes access to quality healthcare is a basic human right.

    To this end, we commit our time, resources, knowledge and hope to bring Medicine, Education and Development to Low Income Families Everywhere.

    WHAT DO WE DO?

    MEDLIFE believes that in order to improve the overall health and welfare of families and communities in need, a comprehensive approach is needed. With this goal in mind, MEDLIFE seeks to deliver aid through three broad avenues: Medicine, Education, and Development.

    To learn more:
    http://www.medlifeweb.org/

  2. gpdoyle says:

    MEDLIFE in Lima, Peru

    ABOUT THIS DESTINATION

    With a population of 9 million, Lima is the fourth-largest city in the Americas, and one of the most important financial centers in Latin America. As a tourist destination, it is famous for its diverse gastronomy, historic cultural sites, and nightlife.

    WHY YOU SHOULD COME

    Lima is also home to extreme poverty, especially in the densely populated settlements on its outskirts. These areas, known as “pueblos jovenes,” have grown rapidly in recent years, as people migrated from the rural sierra of Peru to Lima in search of economic opportunity and an escape from the instability and violence of the 1980s. People also continue to migrate to Lima from rural areas of Peru in search of better access to basic services — such as health care, education, and work opportunities — that are often limited or completely absent in their home communities. While some of the older settlements have in time become incorporated into the rest of Lima, the rapid and continued population growth in these areas has left many communities plagued by low wages, high unemployment, and a lack of attention from the state.

    HOW YOU CAN HELP?

    Since 2010, MEDLIFE’s work in Lima has focused primarily on a set of communities known as “Cono Sur” (Southern Lima), where almost 1 million people live in conditions of extreme poverty. These communities consist of small shacks, often made of reed mats or plywood and built into the treacherous rocky hillsides around Lima. Most of these communities lack access to water and electricity. MEDLIFE addresses some of the most pressing issues in these communities through Mobile Clinics and community development projects.

    http://www.medlifeweb.org/where-we-work/lima.html

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