This past winter, I spent my Christmas vacation in Trujillo, Peru under the auspices of a wonderful non-profit organization called Vive Peru. Vive Peru has a variety of programs to aid Peruvian communities such as Clinical Medicine, Public Health, Teaching English and Music, Social Work and Engineering. I volunteered under the Clinical Medicine program, which was very exciting with lots of opportunities for hands-on experience.
I was very nervous about the trip, because I had never traveled out of the country before, plus I had never been in an airplane for more than an hour. After almost 2 days of traveling (by car, airplane and bus), I finally made it to Trujillo. Since Peru is on the opposite side of the equator, it was summer there while it was winter in Arizona. However, they did still celebrate Christmas with Santa hats and hot chocolate, even in 90¬o weather.
In my brief 3 weeks there, I shadowed pediatricians, lab technicians and gynecologists, observed a surgery, gave injections and even enjoyed ceviche with a dentist! To learn more about medical techniques, such as suturing and taking blood pressure, we had an evening class with one of the doctors. It is amazing how young their doctors are. In Peru, med school starts right out of high school.
One of the most valuable components of this trip was the bonds I made with the other volunteers. They were from all over the United States; there were others from UA, some from ASU and the rest were from Boston, Reno, Berkeley, Texas and New Jersey. Even though we had just met each other for the first time, we were all instant friends and went on many adventures together. On our weekends, we explored ancient ruins, toured botanical gardens, hiked the roads of rural Otuzsco where we met llamas and tried Cuy (Guinea Pig), celebrated New Year’s Eve on beach in Pacasmayo, tried several bakeries at the Plaza del Armas, and we all figured out how to use the bus/taxi system together. We also celebrated several birthdays and even got to see the new Star Wars movie while we were there!
My favorite project that we did was the medical campaign. At that event, we provided free medical care to a neighboring town in need. We set up a clinic outdoors and met with nearly 100 patients. I am personally interested in pharmacy school and gladly volunteered to run the pharmacy station. I took inventory of the medications, filled the prescriptions and gave injections at that event. I really enjoyed the sense of community and even gave the patients hugs after giving them their instructions. It was at this event that I had met a very young boy who reminded me of my little brother. He was very excited to talk to me and was very intrigued about the United States. After talking to him, it made me realize how much we take for granted and how little is needed to be truly happy.
Being in Peru was an unforgettable experience. We all missed our families very much during Christmas, but I wouldn’t change a single minute of my experience there.