Heading into this trip, I had never been out of the country.
My parents were nervous about me getting around without any experience, but I was excited for what was in store. Anxious to get away, I rushed out of my finals week early in order to sightsee and travel other areas of Peru before my medical mission actually started. I traveled up and down the Sacred Valley, set my feet among the glorious Incan ruins of Machu Picchu, and even ate some of Cusco’s delicacies: Alpaca and Cuy (Yes, Cuy is a Guinea Pig, or in other words, a glorified way of describing a rat.) Although I really do recommend future volunteers to create extra time to go out and travel outside of your trip, my true growth came once the medical mission began in Lima.
We stayed in a hostel located in the heart of Miraflores. I couldn’t have asked for a better spot because there were so many different things to do around us. In our free time we were able to go to the beach, shop for souvenirs, and even got to experience a little bit of the nightlife that Peru had to offer. One night, the Peruvian national fútbol team had a game and it was really cool to experience the passion and intensity that was a part of their culture. We also biked up and down the coast, experienced the “Parque del Amor” in full effect, and spent valuable time at a nursing home in the city. We sure got to see a lot on this trip, but the most important things that I will be taking back are the relationships I built with my fellow team members and all of the families we were able to affect.
Our team was really able to connect with each other from day one.
A lot of this can be attributed to our beautiful coordinator, Laurita, who welcomed us all with open arms and treated us as if we were family. When I first met Laurita, she was so happy to see me. She was so genuine and I could tell that she was truly grateful for me being there to help out her community. Her excitement and love for life really was contagious and helped power our group to build a strong connection amongst ourselves. Our group was together 24/7 and I think this really helped us all get to know each other so well. Whether it was the countless hours stuck in Cesar’s van, waiting to leave a restaurant, or getting lost in Huacachina, we always made the most of our time spent together. By the end of the trip, I felt as if I had known a lot of my group for years rather than the one week that we were together.
As for the clinic days, those were all really special. I knew from day one that these were the days I was going to enjoy the most. When we first arrived at the Elementary school in Ventanilla, all of the kids came running up to us as if we were superstars. Some would hug us, some would stare, and others would try to mutter out a friendly “hello.” Regardless, you could tell that all of the kids and their family members were extremely thankful for us being there. As a volunteer, it was our job to rotate through various different stations. These stations included history & physical with a translator, vital signs, lab work, pharmacy, clinic leader, and observing the medical providers.
On the first day, I was required to work vital signs and H&P.
When my first patient walked in, everything seemed to get so real. All of my life I’ve grown up going to the doctor’s office and being amazed at how professional the process is. A PA or nurse would always see me first and record my H&P, vitals, etc. I never really thought about actually being in the shoes of the people on the other side of a typical doctor visit and that got me a little anxious! They were trusting me, the same college student that got stoked on a McDonald’s McFlurry the previous night, to act as the same medical professional that I grew up admiring. But as the day went on, I felt as if I truly became that medical professional. I’ll admit I was a little awestruck at first, feeling all fancy and cool wearing scrubs and a stethoscope around my neck. Yet, by the end of the morning, I was taking blood pressure, heart rate, and temperature as if it were second nature to me. The H&P was also one of the most beneficial experiences from the clinic days. I put myself in the medical professionals shoes and started thinking as if I were them. I would ask the patients the same questions that I had always heard growing up, “How severe is your pain on a scale from 1-10? Does it hurt at specific times during the day? How long has this been going on for?” This experience really corroborated my passion for medicine.
As I looked around the room, I noticed everyone else in our group enjoying their time as well.
The best part about these clinic days was that everyone was ALWAYS busy. I saw Pim running around trying to organize the patients into their correct order. James was sitting over in the corner laughing with a little boy as his mom was busy taking a urine test. Silvia was beautifully comforting a patient in pain. Katie, our Physical Therapist, was busy working with patients and handing out exercise routines for whatever musculoskeletal issues they were dealing with. Ivan was killingggg it at the H&P station by himself. I mean, he did speak fluent español, but watching him work with the community members was a great learning experience for me. Even Erin, our Physician Assistant, was able to work Solo as she was able to bring back the Spanish she used to know and then would take time to explain to us in English what was going on with the patient. And don’t even get me started on Sara’s use of Spanish… Muy, muy bueno! In fact, the language barrier was honestly one of the coolest parts about this trip. I came in with a very brief background of Spanish, having only taken it in high school, but I left this trip knowing a whole lot more. It also really helped me work on my non-verbal skills. Simple gesturing can go a long way in terms of getting the patients to understand what you’re trying to say.
At the end of the day, we would always reflect on what we were able to accomplish. We saw 250+ people per day and I am so proud of the hard work and effort everyone put into this. We truly became the professional medical providers that I grew up admiring, and we were able to run a fluid and well-functioning health clinic. We saw everything from worms, to parasites, to highly infected wounds, and kept a big smile while we were at it. Although it felt like it was over 100°F in some of those rooms, I would do it all again in a heartbeat. Hearing that genuine “gracias” from every family and seeing them smile truly made me so happy. Many people come back from these types of volunteer abroad trips claiming that, “we are changing the world!” And I’ll be honest with you in saying that we aren’t. We’re hardly even changing the health of Lima as a city. But as for those 750+ patients that we saw, we made a difference in their lives. For that one patient who needed emergency attention, we may have saved her arm from being amputated. And although all of the vitamins and medicine that we donated will eventually run out, it makes me feel good knowing that it is being used where it truly needs to be. Perhaps, with some of the patient education, now these families will be able to make smart decisions on what to buy and when to use them. We made a difference in the lives of the people of that community in Ventanilla, and that’s what’s most important.
Not only did we help them, but they were the ones that truly made an impact on each and every one of our lives.
As I sit here, already struggling in week 2 of my Spring quarter, I think about Peru every single day. I miss Laura. I miss Sandro and Cha. I miss waking up at the Flying Dog Hostel and heading over to have my 3 pieces of toast, pineapple juice, one sunny-side up egg, and black coffee. I miss cramming into Cesar’s Van and listening to Rod Stewart and Enrique Iglesias, knowing that we’re headed out to see all of the community members in Ventanilla. And I really, really do miss my “sexellente” group members. This trip was something I will never forget, it has helped me understand what I really want to do in my life. From Rita, our local MD, all the way to Maca, el mejor hombre en Peru, thank you for everything. Thank you to Laurita, our strong, independent, older sister. Thank you to the members of Ventanilla, for allowing us to give care and get to know you. And a big thank you to all of my group members for allowing me to pick at each and every one of your brains. You all have a special place in my heart and I have learned so much from each and every one of you. I’ve been truly blessed to be a part of this program and cannot wait until my next iHelp Globally trip!
Muchos Besos y Amor,
Aspiring PT Student, Cal Poly San Luis Obispo
When going on a service trip abroad, many people will go for their own various reasons. I recently attended a “White-Savior” complex discussion at my school about the new concept of voluntourism and lessons from this talk have really stuck with me. Voluntourists are people like myself, someone who wishes to combine volunteer work with an exotic experience abroad. As Americans, we think that we can do so much in so little time. We’ll sign up for a one-week trip to build houses in Haiti and come back with pictures and stories to tell hoping that it’ll place us in the group of the kindhearted and selfless Samaritans. We choose to go abroad because we want to experience something that our affluent lives do not offer without realizing that the same type of problems exist in the United States. So why do we still choose to give service in a different country? It’s because we all feel the need to travel and explore in addition to the fact that other people’s problems seem so much less complex and easier to fix. Our lack of knowledge of other cultures makes it easier for us to perform basic community service thinking that “anything we do” will help. With our altruistic nature, we tend to seek our own quest for experience while forgetting about the real reason for going on the mission trip in the first place. Whether it’s building houses in Haiti or a medical mission trip like this one from IHG, our typical “White-Savior” approach can be very dangerous.
When looking at the quote, “the real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes, but in having new eyes,” the key thing to focus on is the concept of having new eyes. In order to truly make an impact on your life and many others it’s important that we stray away from giving preference to material possessions and instead work more towards empathy and compassion. The real lesson learned is going to be from the people, not from the traveling and scenery. During this program, I know that it’s going to be extremely important to try and get to know the culture of Lima to the best of my ability. The reason we travel is to gain a first-hand experience of another culture that is not like our own. Although we are going there to impact their lives and health, this experience in return will teach us more about ourselves and our own society. It’s going to be important for us to not only correctly diagnose and give care for their injuries, but to try and truly understand why these diseases and injuries are occurring in the first place. What is it about their society and culture that makes them susceptible to poor health? Is it how the government runs? Access to care? Food? Water? These are questions that all of us should be asking ourselves throughout our trip so we can try to find a solution to their problems. Everyone in this world has so much knowledge and experience to offer, it’s just whether or not people are willing to put themselves out there and try to be empathetic and compassionate. It’s going to take a lot of adaptability, respect, and communication, but I can guarantee you that the biggest thing I’ll take away from this trip is my relationships and experience with the people rather than the places I saw. In having a new perspective, or “new eyes,” all of us will be able to help promote a more powerful global interconnectedness than what exists today.
Cal Poly San Luis Obispo
It has been an ambition of mine to take a more active role in providing medical care to developing countries. In the past, I have volunteered in global relief aid with the HelpingHands organization (donating to earthquake and flood victims). However, iHelp Globally offered a more medically driven volunteering opportunity and a “doctors without borders” type of interaction and experience that I always wanted to partake in as a physician.
On a hectic yet exciting day in the Emergency Department as a Medical Scribe, I checked my email to find out that I was chosen to receive the IHG scholarship! Within the next few days, I was getting the proper vaccinations for travel and getting my passport renewed. The last time I had even left the country was to the Dutch West Indies for medical school several years ago. I bough the ticket: my dream was actually becoming a reality! Before I knew it, I was boarding the plane. I was anxious to get to my destination to set up the medical clinic for the patients. With only one layover in Texas and several hours later, I looked through the airplane window, and I could see through the clouds: We were slowly descending into Peru, South America! I was traveling to a country I always wanted to visit. I was passionate to serve Peru clinically because of their friendly people, rich culture, colors, music, food, and breathtaking natural scenery. More specifically I admire the amazing art, architecture, poetry, literature, civil rights and political history beautifully preserved and celebrated in the district of Barranco.
We began our journey in Miraflores, which is a very modern, hip and up to date mini-metropolis. Everyone was pleasant and kind, from the Peruvian city folk to visitors like my fellow clinic team members, mentors, and Spanish translators. I went out onto the balcony of our hostel and I saw people doing Zumba in the street. I came to find out that there is a health awareness movement going on known as Rejuvenate Peru, where all throughout the city everyone participated in physical activity such as walking, running, biking, skating, soccer, Zumba, dance, and salsa. I saw Spinning Classes and fitness centers with swimming pools, tennis courts and racquetball. I thought to myself: There are doctors’ offices and clinics here, quaint little pharmacies or "Mi Farmacia" and has all the medical care and facilities like any big city.... What medical assistance could they need? Did I come to the right place??
The next day, early in the morning, the team of student volunteers, pharmacists, physicians and clinic staff piled up into a van with all our suitcases full of medical aid.
We head out towards the mountains and desert like areas. The big buildings and fancy brand name stores of Miraflores are no longer seen within our vicinity. Houses are made of stone slabs and huge bricks in the middle of deserts with no other buildings and not much else. You can tell these communities are less developed. It becomes clear, we are now going to serve those that are less fortunate and do not have the same financial resources and modern advancements like cities and districts such as Miraflores, Magdalena Del Mar, and Barranco. We have entered Callao (a relatively long drive from where our hostel was comfortably and conveniently located).
The history of our patient population in itself was interesting and important to learn about. The patients were families of refugees that were displaced and started to make a home here during the political discourse and land struggle between Peru, Bolivia, and Chile. The residents of Callao are sort of the forgotten people that had to leave everything behind in their original homes and land because of the wars and political turmoil. Although that was many years ago, they currently do not get the best of health care, education, jobs or funding from the government. For example, a common person in Callao does not have any available plans for regular visits with primary care physicians to manage his or her diabetes or hypertension, and has a limited access to medicine.
It truly broke my heart when I learned many families with small children in this area did not have access to clean running water that is free of lead and coal deposits, as the Chilean mining trains would run through the town. In fact, every time I would listen to heart and lungs with my stethoscope, I would have to time it perfectly to when the trains would not be coming through. The trains ran through so often making loud noise and apparently dropping harmful substances into the air, water, and environment. I made a poignant effort to educate them about covering their water well with a seal to prevent the lead deposits ending up in the water, boiling the water and filtering it before drinking it to reduce the level of contaminants, minerals, bacteria, and parasites.
As clinic leader, I was motivated to keep the flow of the clinic going smoothly from history and physicals to vital signs to diagnostic screening and counseling. I was able to encounter, help diagnose and treat a wide variety of infections such us tinea versicolor, scabies, abscesses, chalazion, stye, strep throat, other cutaneous fungal infections, urinary tract infections under the supervision of licensed Peruvian medical providers. I remember from microbiology that Malesia furfur was a common fungal cutaneous infection in South America.
Reflecting on this journey, it was an eye opener and humbling experience. I quickly realized how truly blessed I am. I thought about the hospitals in the U.S. and how lucky we are to have diagnostic tests like x-rays, CT scans, and MRIs readily available. We did our best to provide the best health service we could, regardless of not having the advanced technology. With the help of the Spanish language translators (who played a significant role), and under the guidance of the Peruvian physicians, the clinic volunteers and staff leaders of iHelp Globally tended to an exceptionally high volume of patients in a timely manner. The people of Callao were always smiling, laughing, and amicable. I will never forget the patients and how welcoming, appreciative, and understanding they were of our efforts.
The most memorable moments included playing with the children: The running and playing kept them busy. We offered stickers, puppets, bubbles, coloring books, and little toys... which kept the environment lighthearted even though it could get stressful when the patient volume picked up. You wanted to give each patient the highest quality of care. It was challenging yet exciting to maintain the balance and flow of the clinic.
At the end of the journey it was the family bond I made with the fellow clinic volunteers that made that experience even more memorable. We were all one unit coming together for one goal: To help others, and to give back to humanity for all the things we have been blessed with. It was an adventure we all shared together... a great memory and lifechanging experience. I got to do yoga, run and walk on the beach, meditate, free my mind, be around nature, swim, ride bikes through the city, sandboard, sand dune riding, and enjoy Peruvian food!! I hope to volunteer again through iHelp Globally after completing my medical residency as I want to continue to contribute to a loving and deserving community! Thank you iHelp Globally!
Imran Hasnuddin, MD
Graduate of: University of St. Eustatius School of Medicine/American University of Integrative Sciences at St. Maarten
I wiped the sweat off of my brow as I escorted a patient to get her vitals checked and proceeded to the waiting area to call out “número noventa y ocho.” A woman with 5 children walked up and gave me a paper with the number 98 on it. I motioned the family to my makeshift office – a couple of chairs on the back porch of the church with the scorching Guatemalan sun as my light source. My body was completely drained after spending all morning working the vitals station and then switching over to the patient history station. I suddenly remembered sitting through multiple patient consults in a doctor’s office during my past internship. I remembered how the doctor treated each patient as if he or she was the first person he saw of the day, with the kind of respect and undivided attention each of them deserved. I looked at the woman and her children sitting in front of me, her sweat carrying pain and exhaustion as it rolled down her face; she must’ve been waiting all day to be seen. I quickly cast my selfish complaints out of mind, smiled at the children, and started to take the family’s history.
My trip to Guatemala over spring break is one filled with experiences that have played a crucial role in my journey to becoming a physician. I will never forget the man who told me he walked for over two hours just to be seen by a doctor or the two women I spoke with in the waiting area who were telling me how untrustworthy the doctors at their local hospital are. They did not feel respected or truly cared for when they tried to seek medical care. Such circumstances are difficult to ignore. I am very privileged to have a wide array of opportunities in America and I want to live a life caring for the medical needs of others. This trip helped solidify my desire to pursue such a path and I would definitely go on another medical mission’s trip with IHG.
- Zhanna Dariychuk
Excellent mentorship & training provided
1. Our “mentor to student” ratio is one of the best in the nation (1 mentor per 2-3 students).
2. Students are supervised at all times. Additionally, students take part in hands-on workshops dedicated to arm them with practical clinical skills.
3. IHG prides in being able to provide mentors that are licensed in the U.S. as well as in the host countries. U.S. medical/dental providers travel with students throughout the entire experience – providing mentorship beyond the session dates.
4. Upon request, our mentors are happy to provide students with letters of recommendation as well as general career counseling long after the completion of the session.
5. IHG also employs medical & dental providers who are licensed in the host countries in order to ensure a continuation of care for the patients we see during our mobile clinics.
Students develop interpersonal and leadership skills
6. Each session requires students to take charge in leading the clinic, thus promoting positive interaction and the skills necessary to delegate responsibility.
7. Students brainstorm and coordinate a large-scale social event which further enables them to develop leadership qualities.
8. IHG does not restrict your arrival/departure days and times as we believe it is important for us to remain flexible. Our flexibility ensures our volunteers have the ability to book flights that are the most compatible with their schedules and budget.
9. IHG coordinators stay with volunteers at all times and remain available 24/7
10. IHG discloses the full itinerary prior to departure so your friends and family are always kept in the loop.
11. IHG offers multiple ways to cut your costs by awarding scholarships, referral discounts, and more. IHG alumni are welcomed back at a discounted rate.
12. Students are able to request an interest-free payment arrangement as well as request one of the payments be due at the completion of the session!
13. Participants may arrive the day before the program start date. Lodging and ground transport are provided at no additional cost for the night prior to the program start date!
All inclusive - No hidden fees!
14. Recreational activities are already included in the program fees. Activities vary depending on the location and season; however, the following is a list of some examples: Sand Boarding/Sand Dune Buggying, camping, kayaking, zip-lining, rafting, cruising, bike tours, and much more.
"Traveling to Peru was an experience that will always be in my heart and mind. Through making lasting friendships, practicing medical applications in underserved populations, and experiencing a new culture, I am so grateful that I had the opportunity to take part in such an amazing program. My favorite part about the trip was having the chance to see the smiles on the faces of the people we offered our help and support to. I would be so fortunate to travel with IHG...in the future." ~ (K. J., UCD 2013)
"My experience with iHelp Globally was truly one to remember. Of course, being 19 years old, traveling to another country not knowing a single other person on the trip definitely made me feel anxious; however, the second I was picked up from the airport, I was greeted by two amazing people. Their warm smiles and friendliness were only a small peek at what was to come through the week.
It seemed as though as soon as I set foot in Peru, I was welcomed everywhere with open arms... whether it was my fellow peers, or the nurses and doctors on the trip with us. When clinic day came, even the patients were so appreciative. There's no greater feeling than smiling at the patient as they look into your eyes with hope...hope that you will be their hero and help them live a longer life...and that's what being a doctor is all about," (K.S., De Anza College, 2013).
“I signed up to go to Peru with the hopes to give back to the underserved, but to my surprise, received so much more in return. The hospitality, the friendships, and the warm smiles of everyone I met on my trip refreshed my faith in humanity. I did not think that eight days would make as great of an impact on my life as it did. I feel very blessed and grateful to have gone abroad for my first medical mission with IHG and V4P. The people of Lima will forever hold a special place in my heart.” ~ (F.F., UCD, 2013)
"Applying for iHelp Globally was one of the most spontaneous things I have ever done; however, it also turned out to be one of the most fulfilling experiences of my life. The night I arrived and met my peers, I immediately felt excited to work alongside them. Everyone exuded so much enthusiasm and passion to help, that it fueled me to work harder than I ever had before. Admittedly I was scared at first due my lack of ability to speak Spanish, but the warm smiles of the adults and the joking demeanor of the kids as they shouted “Chinito”, or Chinese boy, at me, reassured me that they were grateful for any and all help they could receive from us. Seeing how appreciative some of the kids were when they had such little possessions truly taught me not to take things for granted in my life. This medical mission trip was one of the most surreal experiences of my life and for that, I am sincerely grateful." ~ (Derek Lin, UCD, 2013)
"The trip I took to Peru with iHelp Globally was the best experience of my life. Every experience on the trip was both a memorable life experience and a useful educational one. Everyone on the trip ranging from the students to the providers to the group leaders were so friendly and helpful and I had so much fun talking and spending time with all of them. I would not hesitate to sign up for this trip again!" (V.C., UCD, 2013)
"There is simply only one word in the English dictionary that can describe my experience in Peru: Humbling. It was an honor to touch the lives of so many underserved communities Whether it be taking their vitals or simply asking how their day was, I felt a sense of appreciation, warmth, and gratefulness from all of the people in Lima, Peru. These eight days that I spent in Peru were filled with unforgettable memories, unbreakable friendships, and lastly, fun. I would personally like to thank the iHelp Globally Team for their hospitality and wisdom throughout these eight days. Without iHelp Globally, I would have not been able to experience such a life changing mission with the greatest possible team assembled. Again, I feel blessed to have been able to provide medical care to the Peruvian community. This eight day journey has definitely opened up my eyes to the world around me, and has driven me even harder to reach my goal as a future physician." ~ (Kenny Nguyen, UCD 2013)
"I never thought I would go to Peru. And yet it has been the number one experience to convince me of why I want to go into the medical field. The people touched my heart and made me realize how happy I am serving these communities, how happy I am taking a blood pressure, checking children's temperatures, guiding patients and their children through the clinic, learning about the doctors' diagnosis and prescription, and how happy I can help others to be. I cannot imagine not continuing to serve in other countries or underserved communities," (J.K., UCD, 2013).
iHelpGlobally provided me with an experience that will always hold a special place in my heart. When applying for the trip, I was questioned by many of my family members and friends – “Why Peru?” I would go on to explain that it’s a medical mission trip to help the underserved communities. However, when I arrived back at home, my answer was different.
From the very first day of the trip, I knew that this would be a life changing experience. Seeing the kids run after our bus with cheerful smiles reassured me that I am in the right place this winter break. As clinic days began, I got to experience even more appreciation from the people in Ventanilla. Whether I just filled out an H&P form, or measured their temperature, people were quick to thank me and give me a warm smile. Seeing how little I did and how appreciative they were made me realize that our team gave these people not only medical treatment, but hope. The open arms of the kids to accept us and spend time with us simply brought tears to my eyes. We gave them hope, but were showered with love. I went on this mission trip to help, but came back with much more than I had given.
iHelpGlobally provided me with an amazing experience of building strong friendships while serving a thankful community of people. Why Peru? Because in this country, I know that I
am making a difference. (Alina K, 2013).