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!


¡TIMBERRR! at Pull San Pedro

DAY 4 –  Pull San Pedro.

by Vanessa Sunahara

Today, I was placed on project duty. It consists of helping the locals of Pull San Pedro build a bathroom for their school. Surprisingly enough, we ended helping in other ways. Emily, Esther, Francois, Kate, Yang, Sonja and I were dropped off at Pull San Pedro while the rest of the MEDLIFE brigade moved onto the next village to set up the clinic.  At first, we stood in the courtyard waiting for instructions and watching the village men wrestle down a few trees. The children were hiding in the entrance ways, giggling at us gringos. (Their teachers realized what a attraction we were for the kids and eventually let them come out and meet all of us.) We felt like parents at a Justin Bieber concert, taller than most and not completely sure what we are there for.

After a few minutes, the women of the village started working on expanding the courtyard, using hoes and shovels to break the old field. It was then, through much miming, we managed to ask if we could help. I’m not sure if it was because they actually needed the extra hands, or because they just wanted to see strange foreigners have a go at manual labor, but they accepted our offer.  I have the utmost respect for the villagers that we worked along with. Their tools were primitive, but had a certain simplicity to them. All the women worked in traditional Ecuadorian clothing (long skirts, a hat, several layers of sweaters and rain boots). I even saw one working the entire day with an infant strapped to her back. The general mood of the group was relaxed. There was no rush to finish, yet there were no breaks in the workflow.

The first half of the day consisted of breaking down concrete, shoveling, making inappropriate hoe jokes and wheel-barrowing tons of dirt and rocks. These were unlikely tasks for a party of out of shape university students whose most recent idea of heavy lifting meant carrying a biology textbook to class and doing cardio meant climbing up to the fifth floor of the library. After a few hours, we heard the “gringo alarm” (a loud siren usually used to signal the start of the clinic), and the teachers invited us into their lounge and treated us to a local snack. It consisted of bread, boiled eggs and an amazing drink (soy, grains and many other nutritious ingredients). Yang was kind enough to teach us the fastest way to eat a boiled egg (ask him, if you´re interested).  After our snack, we went back to work.

The men were moving the remnants of the pine trees that were cut down earlier. We jumped right in to help; pine sap ended up everywhere. Once that was done, we moved onto extracting stones from a pile of dirt and subsequently used them as foundation for the soon to be larger courtyard.  By 1300, the bus arrived to pick us up. We were saddened that we were unable to cover the entire courtyard in stone, but still satisfied by the amount of work accomplished during the course of the day. While the day was rewarding, I am very excited to head back to the clinic tomorrow, and more excited to see the new bathroom after the week is done.



Aji solves everything, especially soy allergies.
A note from Yang: We helped pull down a large tree (just so you know).


¡Hola! from Ecuador!

DAY 1 & 2 – Riobamba, Ecuador.

Seeing as that is essentially the extent of my Spanish when I arrived in Quito yesterday night, I was a little apprehensive about how I was going to survive. While I’m still a little concerned, I feel more confident now that I know more about how the clinic is going to work. I won’t go into detail now to leave some room for everyone else to blog, but I don’t think my lack of detailed Spanish language skills will be extremely detrimental to my experience.

I’m so thrilled to be here; just getting to Riobamba was an adventure. After arriving at the Quito airport after 3 different flights and 12 hours, I rode with the rest of the brigade on a bus for another 4 until arriving at our hotel. Before we could even get on the bus, though, there was still one flight to wait for after mine arrived.  A bunch of people who had already landed decided that we would pass the time by finding food. We all wandered out into the teeming streets of Quito on New Year’s Eve and found the best (fast and cheap) meal that we could. This turned out to be chicken on a stick topped by a mouthwatering potato for me; others got pork or sausage instead of chicken.  We ate while we walked back to the airport to meet the last flight and get on our bus. About halfway through our bus trip, the clock hit midnight. 2011 was gone, and we all got off the bus to toast and eat grapes (12 – one wish for each month in the new year.) Another new New Year’s tradition for me, in addition to the grapes, was the burning of dummies; there were fires everywhere with people grouped around them, burning the bad of the old year away. Ecuadorians seem to celebrate New Year’s exuberantly. I like it.

We leave for our first clinic day tomorrow, and while I’m so excited, I really enjoyed exploring Riobamba and a neighboring city called Guano during our non-clinic day today. The landscape in both places was absolutely beautiful and not something I am used to seeing in Montreal or where I grew up – there are some pictures of this gorgeous place in our photo album, because a picture is worth a thousand words. There are houses and farms creeping up on endless mountains, and if you find the right spots, you can see entire cities at your feet. The depth and variety of the colors are fantastic, too. I feel kind of bland here next to these houses and lights, all lit up by sun on a blue sky. Even our sunburns are a very rich, vivid red.

If you are reading this and thinking about going on a brigade, I have some words of advice. First, definitely do. I can tell this is going to be an unforgettable week. Second, bring the strongest sunscreen you can find; we’re at the equator and the sun is unforgiving; we all started to get a little crispy around noon, and there is always a spot you neglect to apply sunscreen to. For me, it was my ears. Third: bring sturdy walking shoes, because you don’t want to miss seeing something incredible because your feet hurt.  And there is so much to see.

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See you tomorrow,