By Juliana Rice
Without electricity to light up the procedure, a dentist asked Kayla Delnero to hold a flashlight over a patient’s mouth while he worked.
Although Delnero, the secretary of MEDLIFE and a sophomore biology, was aware of the lack of electricity in Peru, it was still a reality check.
Delnero was one of seven members of the College’s chapter of MEDLIFE, or Medicine, Education and Development for Low-Income Families Everywhere, invited to travel to low-income areas in Peru over winter break, where they provided healthcare to more than 1,600 people.
“It was honestly one of the most incredible feelings ever,” Delnero said. “In total, we helped over 1,600 people. That’s over 1,600 people who no longer have to be in pain and now know the course of action for their condition.”
With the help of MEDLIFE, an international organization, students set up clinics to provide the community access to doctors, dentists and OB-GYNs.
Education stations provided individuals with pamphlets about common diseases such as diabetes, sexually transmitted diseases and high blood pressure. The dentist station provided families access to root canals and general cleanings, and the OB-GYN station provided women with breast exams.
Families were also able to see a general doctor and get prescriptions to essential medications. Volunteers assisted and observed the doctors at work.
“We traveled to the most remote communities to serve patients who would otherwise have to travel hours through the mountains to get care,” said Trina Salvador, a junior biology major and MEDLIFE member.
In a community where it is difficult to access medical care, the clinics even provided follow-up care when necessary.
While Delnero called her volunteer work tremendously awarding, she found it challenging to face the reality of everyday life in Peru.
“Seeing all those people with preventable diseases was pretty bad,” Delnero said. “Many of them were complaining about problems from their childhood, but could never get it taken care of earlier. It was just a slap in the face of everything we take for granted.”
MEDLIFE also sponsored a development project called “Lugares Saludables” or “healthy homes,” where volunteers rebuilt homes in Peru.
According to Delnero, many homes were originally built poorly. Each time stoves were turned on, houses would fill with smoke. Volunteers helped to correct this.
Delnero helped rebuild a woman’s house. Despite having next to nothing, the woman was so grateful, according to Delnero. She offered the volunteers food and soda for the work they had done.
Delnero also had a connection with a young boy named Albin. Grateful to be given a toothbrush, Albin continuously thanked Delnero, giving her presents, such as flower rings, a flower crown and bouquets.
Everyone was grateful, Delnero said.
“The people radiated happiness and just couldn’t say ‘Thank you’ enough,” Delnero said.
Gianna Barreto, treasurer of MEDLIFE and a sophomore chemistry major, also appreciated the community’s kindness.
“The people who we helped were so grateful, kind-hearted and happy,” she said. “Meanwhile, they live in poverty stricken communities and do not have access to things we think are human rights, such as proper health care. This experience helped me appreciate life in a whole new way.”
The trip wasn’t just a great experience for volunteers, but it was life altering for members of the communities.
“We just did what we could to see as many people as possible,” Delnero said. “The reality of our work didn’t hit us until the last day, when they showed us the numbers and how many patients we actually saw.”
Thousands of people all over the world don’t have access to the kind of healthcare they need. By getting involved with MEDLIFE, Delnero and the other volunteers provided families with the medical care they would never have received otherwise.
“The whole experience definitely humbles you and makes you take a look at everything you take for granted,” Delnero said. “These people happily waited up to 45 minutes to speak with the doctor for just five minutes. If we could all learn to be grateful for everything we have, the world would be such a different and better place.”