Lots to catch you guys up on. First off all, I just updated some photos below to show you guys what we have been seeing. Ill try to add more photos however the internet is pretty slow. So today was the first day of clinics! Every day, all the MEDLIFE participants get split up into different groups and work with either the dentist, orthodontist, regular physicians, OBGYN (for the women) and also work in an education station of the clinic, tooth brushing station for children, a community project and also a 5-hour TOUR of the whole entire region of Pueblos Jovenes.
Today, myself and 8 other students were taking the tour of San Juan de Miraflores. It was about a ~5-hour walk with difficult terrain as we learned about the poverty struggles of the communities we will be working in for the next week. We learned about the lack of schools, clean water and education that exist in these poorer regions.
First off all, there is a lack of educators and buildings that exist where we are working. In fact, out of about 80,000 residents of our community, (30,000 of which are kids from 10-18 years old) only a handful will make it to college. Also, since a lot of people in these regions don’t know people who have successful careers such as doctors, professors, lawyers, etc- they cannot see the positive benefits of having a college degree which makes it hard for them to see why they should send their children to school when they could be at home watching the kids or cooking food while the parents work. Since I have been a child, I have been told that I have to work hard in high school, so I can attend a great university so I can obtain a great job. My parents have always been a great support system to myself and my siblings and questions such as “ what did you learn in school?” were common dinner table conversations. Can you imagine if your education was never pushed in a positive direction? If you mentioned university or advancing your education and your parents said, “ Why bother, its not going to help you in the long run.”
The second major problem is the water issue that exists in Peru. In the part where we are working, clean water is not an option even though the majority of the people drink the dirty water that contributes to the medical problems that we see in our clinics. There are private water companies that exist in Lima however due to the fact we are working in the outskirts of Lima, the companies charge more for the distribution of water. In essence, the poorest people in Lima are paying the most for their water. In addition, the water that they do bring is not even up to our standards by any means. Finally, the containers that the residents dump their water into were used for ethanol previously so essentially they are making their own drinking water even worse by allowing the water to become so dirty. L
Finally, the last issue is lack of education. Due to the fact that many people are not educated, it is hard for them to change their mentality about certain ideas. They see us ‘gringos’ walking around & think we are all born into wealth from the time we are born. Several believe that by being American means that you are automatically ‘rich’ which can be difficult to explain to them at times since they already have this preconceived notion about this. On another note, we have an education station at the MEDLIFE clinic and we try to explain certain things about hygiene and pro-active actions they can complete in order to live a healthier lifestyle. However, its frustrating at times to give a 4 year old a toothbrush lesson and show them how to apply the toothpaste, give them a toothbrush to keep, and then two minutes later see them digging in the sand with it with the other children. Hopefully, by educating them more, we can create a better system and give the people more information to help them with their general health.
All in all it was a great day. We are back at the hotel now and everyone is chatting to others about what they saw, the people they spoke to and how much sun block they are going to wear tomorrow. In short, this has been another day in Peru, which has given me time to reflect on my own life and all the great things I have in it. I think others in the group are in the same boat.