Lily May Bell - Medicine in Peru
Deciding to go to go on a volunteer trip to Peru was one of the easiest and most rewarding decisions I have ever made. There was no doubt in my mind that this was the perfect journey for me to embark on, not only to explore my interest in medicine, but to travel and immerse myself in a culture so different from my own. Projects Abroad allowed me to do that in a way I had never previously experienced.
The most daunting aspect of this trip was the idea of travelling alone, especially to a place so unfamiliar where I knew very little of the language. The extent of my Spanish included ‘Si’ and ‘Gracias’ but did not surpass the most basic level. So I relied heavily on the Projects Abroad staff and airport assistance to help me. Upon arriving in Cusco, I was greeted straight away by a Projects Abroad staff member who helped me feel relaxed and welcomed upon entering the country. I was helped with my paperwork and bags so that my arrival and return home worked as smoothly as possible.
Straight from the get go we were introduced to the other volunteers, our accommodations and programme outline for the next two weeks. We were acquainted with the city and its history and we were taught some basic Spanish which helped dramatically over the trip. I felt comfortable and at ease with my new surroundings right away.
My Peruvian host family
Living with a host family was one of the best ways to fully experience the Peruvian culture. By doing this, it not only allowed me to improve my Spanish drastically but let me experience everything from traditional cuisine to the typical household dynamics of Peruvian families. The family I stayed with were warm and welcoming and made sure that we had everything we needed. They allowed us to stay in their home and trusted us with respecting them and their rules. They made sure that we knew our plan for the day and where to be at the right times.
Volunteering at my medical placement
The biggest portion of my trip as spent at my medical placement. Projects Abroad placed small groups of volunteers in each local clinic, which allowed us to have more one-on-one time with the medical staff. We had plenty of opportunities to ask questions. Some days were spent shadowing doctors and observing them interact with their patients.
On other days, we travelled around the city with medical staff to visit schools where we spent time helping children. We washed their teeth with fluoride and helped test them for anemia. Each time we got to watch the smiles on their faces as we handed them new toothbrushes and gave them demonstrations on how to brush properly. My favourite part of my medical placement was definitely the time I spent in the emergency room and getting to observe all the different cases that came in.
Sightseeing in Peru
The other portion of our time was spent doing organized activities with the other volunteers, which was great! We got to explore the city and the cool Peruvian markets, we learnt to Salsa and do sutures. On the weekend, we went on a weekend trip to Machu Picchu which was definitely one of my highlights. On the journey there, we stopped at beautiful look outs in the Sacred Valley. We went to Chinchero and drank Coca tea with traditional Alpaca weavers. We explored the village of Aguas Calientes and enjoyed an evening at a local hot spring. Waking early the next morning at 4am so that we could watch the sunrise at the top of Machu Picchu was by far one of the most memorable experiences of my life.
Each experience over my trip was so amazing and without the other volunteers and the help of Projects Abroad staff members, none of it would have been possible. My advice to future volunteers planning on travelling to Peru is to make the most of every opportunity provided to you. Don't be afraid to push the boundaries of your comfort zone and try something new. Embrace the differences and diversity that Peru holds and use that to expand your knowledge.