Community Service. What does that mean to people? I have always felt that many people think of it as just a requirement for college or for a resume. There are very few people have I volunteered with who I think really appreciate or enjoy this type of work.
My most recent great community service project didn’t serve the LA population, but rather that of the slums in the outskirts of Lima, Peru. I have always felt that there are many other countries out there that are less developed than we are and have a greater need for our help. I believe that MEDLIFE, an organization focusing on MED (Medicine, Education, & Development), has clearly established that. Although only a seven-year old organization, they have mastered the ability to establish a community (with the help of medical brigades) that includes: clean running water, staircases to reach the hilltops, free medical services, and the creation of schools for education purposes. My involvement as Vice President and Secretary of the USC chapter of MEDLIFE, and my two trips to Peru, have allowed me the opportunity to understand the need for healthcare and the importance of health.
It has also taught me the value of basic necessities, what it means to be a community, and what little it takes to enjoy a happy life. These people, while earning only a couple dollars a day, will spend it all just to serve all twenty of us a full meal of potatoes, chicken, and rice, even though we’ve already eaten our own packed lunches. Just to show us what it means to be thankful. These people will place their trust in us even though we may not speak their language or understand their culture, and certainly can’t even begin to comprehend the daily struggles they go through.
The severe disparity between American standards for health and Peruvians can be easily seen when you realize it’s a good thing when children have at least half of their teeth filled with cavities (instead of all). I would call it lucky when a patient does not come in complaining of a simple cold or cough meaning they haven’t yet been affected by the tire burning smoke, dusty polluted air, or trash dump sites right by their house. Even basic instructions about healthy eating (ie. vegetables & fruits “yes”, carb loading & sugar “no”) are a necessary intervention for any child that comes through our doors.
MEDLIFE has educated me not only on how to become a better nurse and the type of relationships health care professionals must form with patients but also on how many factors (like the environment) are involved in health that make it important to tackle as well. Finally, this experience has made me realize that this is exactly what I love doing and want to do in the future. People like this make me appreciate the life I have and make me want to go back and make sure they can get the best life they can get as well. For we are all still humans listening to “Gangnam Style”, trying to make our way in this crazy world we call home.