Sunita: First Week

After a long, crazy but fun week, I finally have a little bit of time to write for my “favoritest” (yes, I made that word up) MEDLIFE chapter in the world (McGill). My first day at el officina, I worked on drafting brochures, and writing down in detail McGill’s operations for its biggest fundraisers. I hadn’t realize how many different steps we go through to create a successful tutorials program. It wouldn’t be possible without our Tutorials team!!!


My week started with a clinic. 46 students that came from all over North America, many from West Virginia (of course, students from all the other universities have put in hard work as well). So far, we’ve toured the city (Pamplona), saw over 250 patients in four different districts, and built a beautiful brand new staircase. I’m really going to miss the students, even though I’ve only spent a week with them; I hope they find a way to keep in touch. It was a good first week. As tired as we all were, everybody was a trooper. Hopefully those students who do not have MEDLIFE chapters at their schools will be motivated, after this eye-opening week, to spread the message and start their own chapter.


I think my best moment this week was when a patient asked me what MEDLIFE stood for (which, by the way, is Medicine, Education, and Development for Low Income Families Everywhere), and I explained the acronym. The woman was so happy that we were there. She said that they did not get this kind of treatment or care from their own government, and that we should keep coming back to see them. I was touched; it drove home why we were all there – for people like her.

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.


¡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!