Aftermath Feelings and Thoughts!

Aftermath Feelings and Thoughts!


As the March 2012 Brigade pulled to an end, the MedlifeMcGill Brigade returned home to Montreal. Tired but Satisfied, all they wish for is to share their emotions and stories with family and friends. Here is what some had to say!

A recap some of the students’ favorite moments from their week with MEDLIFE. From heart-warming moments to chuckle-worthy memories, here’s what some students had to say

“My most moving moment was during my afternoon dentist rotation at Manchay on the fourth day. Claudio and his team of eager, but sleep-deprived helpers were operating on a 9 year old boy named Ronald. I had previously met him at the toothbrushing station in the morning and he was among the very few with rows of clean teeth. The reason that he was also at the dentist was because he had a fang jutting out above the gumline. In North America, this problem would be ameliorated with braces, but here, in the slums of Manchay, one does not have the time or the resources for visits to the orthodontist. The more straightforward solution was to simply yank the fang out. As the anesthesia was applied, Ronald shifted uneasily in his chair. Claudio told us to hold onto his hands to prevent him from trashing around during the operation. I gave him my hand for support and felt a tight grasp as Claudio forcibly broke the fang into pieces and removed them. I remembered my operation when I got my premolars removed, during which I cried like a baby. I was 12. Ronald, this 9 year old boy from Manchay, shed not a single tear or even complained. This moment really stuck with me because it is a reminder that our problems pale in comparison with theirs. We complain about our internet speed in rez; they risk their lives to obtain electricity. We howl in agony after we get our braces tightened; they are grateful to even have a visit from the dentist. The Peruvians really do live in a completely different world from ours, and it was only living and experiencing this world first hand these last 5 days that I have been able to fully realize that. I will never forget the Peruvians’ hardships and appreciation, as well as Ronald’s bravery. Thank you Medlife Brigade ’12 for showing me this :)”

– Dantong Jia

“This may not be my favourite memory from this trip but definitely one of the funniest. I was helping at the toothbrushing station on Day 2, and trying my best to communicate with the children and parents in Spanish. I had asked someone for help on how to say “return the cups” and was told it was “devuelve el vaso”. The only problem was, I misheard it to be “devuelve el beso” which means “return the kisses”! No wonder all the parents and children snickered every time I said it. I, of course, did not find out til hours later the silly mistake I was making.”

– Taiji Wang

“First, some background in Spanish. “Me llamo” = “My name is”. “Te amo” = “I love you” at the highest level of love, for your significant other for example.Someone (whom I will let introduce themselves) wasn’t quite pronouncing the “y” sound in “llamo”, so it came out as “me amo [name]”, which means “I love myself (a lot), [name]”. Not quite what was intended :)”

– Kim Apperley

“One of my best was when Claudio said I played soccer like a Peruvian boy.”

– Heather Johnson

Celebration Time in Pamplona!

Final Clinic Day!

Celebration Time in Pamplona!

On our fifth day of the mobile clinic we went to Pamplona, which is one of the largest slums in the Lima area. Pamplona is also the neighbourhood where we have been building stairs all week. In total, our team managed to build two entire staircases. Another 150 patients were provided with medical services today putting our grand total to approximately 1400 people helped this week alone.

The end of the day was a huge a celebration as we held the official inaugurations for the two stair cases built by our McGill brigade. When we arrived, the stair cases were painted the signature MEDLIFE red and decorated with balloons and streamers everywhere. Community members greeted us with smiles, Inka Cola, and crackers. The area was filled with music and dancing as we celebrated our “muy grande” accomplishment.


The village leaders gave heartfelt messages of thanks and appreciation to everyone involved conveyed by our very kind translators. The common message from all of the people of Pamplona was one of optimism for future generations and of awareness of the world that exists outside our own comfortable lives. One man talked about fate and how we were meant to be there to help them and realize the conditions that these people live in. He expressed sincere hope that we would never forget them and the lives they lead. Other community members wanted to ensure that they could continue to count on MEDLIFE to help their neighbours and friends in the future. There is still much to be done but every little bit really does make a world of difference for them.

A few volunteers got the chance to give their take on their experiences over the past week. The stairs were a huge highlight as most of us have never been able to take part in something that is so permanent and life-changing for another human being let alone so many. Going back to see the finished project we all could look at the stairs and know that we were a part of that. It was truly wonderful.

Gracias to all of the communities that allowed us into their lives. We certainly never will forget you.

Hasta que nos encontremos de nuevo.

Until we meet again.


Back to School in Virgen de Chapi!

Fourth Clinic Day!

Back to School in Virgen de Chapi!

On day four of our mobile clinic we visited the people of Virgen de Chapi and Manchay. The clinic in Virgen de Chapi was in a tiny open schoolhouse. It was incredibly fun to see the brightly coloured handprints all over the walls and the “Feliz Cumpleaños” paper signs with children’s names in each room. It was such a fun atmosphere for our clinic and everyone’s mood reflected that.

One little boy in Manchay stood out the most to the volunteers for being so intelligent at such a young age. He was impressing us with his incredible Spanish to English translations that he had learned in school. We really hope that this child is going to have opportunities available to him in his future because he has all of the potential in the world. It’s difficult sometimes being here and seeing these children and not knowing what their future may hold for better or for worse.

Paula is one of our brigade members and as a native Spanish speaker she is able to have a much different experience than the rest of us who suffer from the language barrier.

Coming from Venezuela, I had seen the unfortunate conditions in which some people still live in to this day. I had always wanted to do something about it and MEDLIFE gave me the opportunity to come to Peru and contribute to improve people’s lives. It has been an unbelievable experience that I will surely never forget.

My most memorable experience from this brigade so far had been interacting with the children. In every village we have been to, they have brightened our day with their smiles and irresistible cuteness. Being in the toothbrushing station allowed me to talk to the children and learn about their lives. I remember this 12-year-old girl who was telling me how she is learning English at school because one day she will travel all over the world. I realized that just like us, these children have dreams. They should have the right to pursue them, but without the essentials they might not even have the chance to finish high school. That is what MEDLIFE is about, helping bring these people the primary care they need to provide a better life and better opportunities for the next generation. It was touching to see how we all became so close with he children at each clinic and how they would wave us goodbye, asking when we would be back.

I also had the opportunity to talk to Señor Carlos, an active MEDLIFE member. It was truly through his explanations that I saw how MEDLIFE actively involves the people in the village and cater to their needs when they ask for help. He described in great detail how the stair project works. He is in charge of bringing the community together in order to put the project forward. The people in the village start working on it two to three months before the brigade starts. The men have to miss work days to help break the rocks and build a way for the staircase to be built. Some areas are deep into the mountain where no cars can pass so they also have to carry cement and the necessary materials to the construction site. They are all very hardworking people and it is humbling to set how they all come together to work towards the same goal.

We learn so many great things from these people and I am extremely grateful to have had the opportunity to meet them. I hope to come back again, but next time for longer.

Hasty pronto y gracias por todo!


¡Stairway to Heaven in Paraiso!

Third Clinic Day!

Stairway to Heaven in Paraiso!

Today is day three of our brigade in Peru and unfortunately, we’re now at the halfway point. 

Our two brigades went to Paraiso again today. Due to the fact that the shacks cover the entire mountain we went twice so that we can offer services to as many people as possible. The first day of our mobile clinic we were more towards the bottom of the mountain but that area is inaccessible to many families living at the top who can’t make the the journey down often. Hundreds of patients were seen and treated and it was apparent that, again, the clinic was a huge success for this new community. Volunteers, as always, learned a lot and loved playing with the children.

Big progress was made for the stair project today. Here is Rebecca Jones‘ and Heather Johnson‘s take on this part of the day.

“Today the stairs were finished! On the third day of the stair project for this small, 15 family community we cemented approximately 400 stairs. Ten of us left the hostel this morning to go to Pamplona Mita. We were all very excited as this was a day we had all been really looking forward to taking part in. When we arrived in the neighbourhood we took in the vast array of the wooden and tin roof homes that seemed to have no end. It was, in a way, very beautiful, each shack has its own unique character expressed in different colours set against the brown clay background. The roads through the shacks can only be described as a one-way street on the brink of a cliff. Despite our incredibly talented driver not a single one of us dared to move in the van for fear of inducing a drop-off. As we rocked back and forth the distinct smells carried by the breeze wafted in through our windows that further contributed to the overall experience of these villages. On our journey, we saw many previously built MEDLIFE stairs made obvious by their red paint. We became very excited to see what we were about to contribute to.

When the van could go no further we began our trek towards the construction site. Before MEDLIFE had arrived, the community members built the wooden scaffolding in preparation for us. It’s incredible to see how tight-knit of a community this really was as each household had to contribute at least one worker to help with the construction even if it’s not their own house that was benefiting from these stairs in particular. Over the past two days it was very apparent that our friends had also been hard at work as over half of the stairs had already been filled with the rocks and cement.

The only way to accomplish a daunting task such as this was by working as a team, side by side in an assembly line, with the buckets of water, sand, and cement passing constantly from hand to hand. We worked smoothly together even though we did not all speak the same language. However, we did spend the majority of our manual labour learning relevant Spanish phrases. By the end of the day we were screaming “uno mas balde por favor!” (one more bucket please) and “oh look at the perro!” (dog) like any true Peruvian. When we were almost at the top of the stairs and we knew exactly “quantos” (how many) buckets of cement we needed, each one that was passed up through the line was accompanied by a triumphant “quatros” or “duos” from every single person there. The excitement reached a peak when we were anticipating the completion of the top stair and finally (finally) getting our lunch as we had been hard at work for six hours. There was a muy grande celebration had by all… mostly us….wanting those sandwiches.

There was nothing but very kind and welcoming people in this community. They always made sure we had enough “agua” even though they may not have had much to give. When one member of our group felt faint it wasn’t long after that a bottle of Inca Cola was provided. (This local delicacy is a shocking neon yellow pop which tastes of bubblegum.) At the end of the day we all stood on the ledge at the top of the stair case and just took a moment to look down at what had been accomplished over the past few days. It was a really touching moment just taking in the view of these communities in the hills and the small contribution we were able to make.

Speaking for the two of us, it was definitely a trip highlight and not something soon to be forgotten. It struck us, however, that by the end of the day we were so exhausted, hungry, and our muscles were absolutely shaking but we got to come home, shower, lie down and massage our bruises. We realized that these people work that hard day in and day out and despite the fact that we worked side by side all day we certainly wouldn’t be ending the day in the same way.”

Ciao señores y señoritas!


First Impressions in Pachacutec, Peru.

Second Clinic Day!

First Impressions in Pachacutec.

Day two began with a very early and very long bus ride to Pachacutec, a neighbourhood on the coast of Peru. This was MEDLIFE’s first visit to Pachacutec and all of the community members were very excited to be included in our mission. Pachacutec was added to the list of villages in need when one of MEDLIFE’s central figures was approached by a man in downtown Miraflores who was selling handmade crafts in order to support his family. The man, recognizing the organization’s logo, requested our assistance for his family and friends back home. Despite the distance, MEDLIFE could not refuse to lend a hand.

Again, students had a chance to shadow a different doctor and learn each specialty’s tricks of the trade for the day. Pachacutec was an especially fun location, as community leaders played Latin music over the speakers all day which contributed to a very relaxed and enjoyable experience for everyone involved. Members of this village were extremely engaged in the entire process and showed great appreciation for the work we were doing.

Today, Michelle, one of McGill’s members, began the day in dentistry and spent the afternoon shadowing one of the volunteer doctors. Here is her take on the day:

“Today we had to drive about an hour and a half to get to the community we worked in. I was in the dentist station in the morning. It was interesting because A LOT of teeth were pulled and one cavity was filled. I thought it was cool because we got to really get a good look into the mouths as the dentist removed teeth. The teeth all belonged to very young children. It is kind of crazy that all of these little kids had such poor dental hygiene.

In the afternoon, I was with Dr. Paolo. He was very interactive and did a great job of getting myself and the other two volunteers at his station involved throughout the day. We were quizzed (I got +1 point!) and we were able to examine the patients ourselves! We were made to feel like residents. [Shadowing Dr. Paolo allowed us to see the conditions that most affect these low income neighborhoods of Lima, and how medical professionals go about treating these various cases when they can.]

I really love the doctors we get to work with here, they’re definitely making the experience that much more enjoyable. I would really like to stay involved with McGill’s MEDLIFE chapter. Overall, another great day, and the nap on the bus ride home was refreshing [and definitely necessary!].”

Each night, MEDLIFE provides all of us with the opportunity to partake in various local activities to get a feel for Peru life. Tonight, Diego, Ricardo, and Fernando were kind enough to come and teach us how to Salsa dance! We stepped on many a toes at first, but by the end, with much practice, we blended right in with the locals. Olé!

Hasta luego mis amigos!

From Villa Maria to Paraiso!

As the New Year starts, a new MedlifeMcGill Brigade is already on its way to South America. This time around, they are heading to Lima, Peru. This time we have pictures, we have stories, we have Vlogs and much more to share their experience with you. So please enjoy, share, follow and like us on FB! I present to you…The March 2012 Brigade!

From Villa Maria to Paraiso

The McGill MEDLIFE chapter has arrived in Lima, Peru to begin a five day mobile medical clinic. There are 45 students here to volunteer and we have been divided into two groups so that we can reach as many patients as possible. Monday February 20 was our first on field day and we visited the people of Villa Maria and Paraiso. Together we provided medical attention to approximately 275 people.

Students are able to assist local Peruvian doctors and nurses by lending a hand in multiple stations. The process for the patients begins by checking in at the inscription tent, followed by checking their vital signs, and then heading over to our education station to watch various videos describing how to live a healthier, safer lifestyle. From there, based on individual need, patients visited a dentist, an obstetrician, and/or a general practitioner. The final stage concluded with a visit to the pharmacist where patients received free prescriptions for their conditions.

A general consensus for the day’s highlights involved teaching the children of these villages how to properly brush their teeth. In fact, most of us just loved playing with these adorable Peruvian children in general. Overall, everyone was very appreciative of our efforts and despite the language barrier meaningful connections were formed. It was incredibly rewarding to meet these people who showed us just how lucky we are.

Ten of our comrades began working on a stair-building project. Most of the people living in these neighbourhoods live in very rocky terrains. By building the stairs we are providing an easier access to clean water sources as well as allowing children to reach schools safely. Over the course of the week everyone will contribute to this important stepin a better direction. Stay tuned to see our progress!

Tomorrow we’ll be heading to a new village to help new people. After such a successful first day we are very much looking forward to what tomorrow will bring!

Enjoy day one’s picture and video highlights!

Gracias y ciao!