Taking part in a humanitarian trip can be a life-changing experience. Jeremy Levett, a full-time Vanier student in health science, now in his final semester, took part in one such trip to Peru over the winter break. This trip was organized by Dawson Medlife, and Jeremy was sponsored by the VCSA on this trip. Medlife is a foundation that was created to support low-income families in developing countries, and provide them access to important resources such as food, water, and shelter.
College students were invited to take part in this humanitarian voyage, and they had the opportunity to work out of a mobile medical clinic that traveled between communities surrounding the city of Lima in Peru. The trip lasted two weeks in total. One week of the trip was spent visiting the country and doing a “reality tour”, where the volunteers would travel to very remote villages and would experience the harsh realities of the people living there. While on the other week, students would organize mobile medical clinics in different villages.
Jeremy and the rest of the team would travel to a different village every day, and there would be various stations set up for the volunteers to run; triaging, education, tooth brushing, medical, dental, OB/GYN and pharmaceutical. The Vanier Foundation and VCSA generously provided 1500$ of equipment such as gloves, gauze compresses and urine dipstick tests, which were distributed as needed in Peru under the Medlife project.
One important accomplishment that the volunteers made on this trip was the construction of a staircase in a rural village. The village was built on a steep incline, and residents were required to descend the slope from their settlement at the top to obtain food, water, and other resources. Pregnant mothers in the village were required to go down the slope daily to get water, and sadly they often fell and injured themselves and the child in their belly. The women’s’ falls would often result in miscarriages due to the trauma. The staircase that was built in the village was painted in a vibrant red, and it provided a safe way down to resources for families, the sick and the elderly.
An experience that particularly struck Jeremy on the trip happened on the “reality tour” when he was introduced to the home and story of a woman who needed urgent follow up medical attention. She was very old and frail, and she had to go all the way to the bottom of the mountain in her village to receive care. Her husband is blind and diabetic and needs medical attention as well. They have a son, but he has a mental illness and is suicidal, and therefore cannot provide for the family. The family did not have any money for electricity or running water, let alone for a helper, so the old woman could not support her family.
Medlife sent a social worker to the home, and the foundation decided to build her and her family a home with electricity and water, allowing her and her husband to live the remainder of their lives peacefully and without worry. Medlife looked into her individual circumstances to ensure her and her family’s survival. Jeremy said, upon reflecting on hearing this story and meeting the old woman that: “hiking all the way up to the house, seeing how she and many others like her live every day, really put things into perspective,” adding that “this made me aware of all of the privileges we have living in a prospering country, and how much we take for granted the basic necessities like food and water. Seeing the impact of Medlife’s contributions tremendously impacted my view on the power of social activism abroad”.
Jeremy’s motivation for going on this trip was sparked when his friends from Dawson who were organizing the trip told him about it. He wanted to go on the trip not only for the learning experience but also for the ability to be able to learn from and help people living in different circumstances. When asked about what Jeremy learned on his trip to Peru, he said, “I learned to work sustainably; to be careful about how to distribute limited lifesaving supplies. I also learned how to personalize each patient’s care to their circumstances in order to provide them with the attention they need”. Jeremy also said he was inspired by the powerful doctor-patient relationships he experienced and is looking forward to applying what he learned to his aspiring future career in the medical field.
Jeremy is very grateful to The Vanier Foundation and the VCSA for supporting his endeavors and sponsoring the incredibly valuable amount of equipment that was brought over to Peru, stating that “my experience and the great things we accomplished would not have been possible without their help”.