Forty University of Nebraska-Lincoln students are spending their spring break in Lima, Peru, as part of the activities of the international organization called Medlife.
“Medlife is an international organization that works to bring mobile medical clinics to areas of the world and areas of certain countries that don’t have access to adequate medical care,” said Kayleigh Lewandowski, a junior microbiology major and fundraising chair of the UNL Medlife chapter.
While this group is going to Peru, Medlife is also running trips this spring to places such as Ecuador, Tanzania and India.
Lewandowski described Lima as a big, “pretty modern” city.
“But there are mountains on the outskirts, and sometimes people physically cannot get down the mountain to get medical care,” Lewandowski said.
This is the second year the chapter is organizing trips to South America.
“Last year we took a group of 21, and this year we’ve doubled it, which is super cool,” Lewandowski said.
The students who volunteered will provide help for a variety of medical services in the mobile clinics set up by Medlife.
“You could be on triage, you could be on gynecology, dentistry or just the regular physicians and what you do depends on whatever the doctor wants you to do,” Lewandowski said.
She recalled an experience that stood out to her on last year’s trip.
“There was a woman, she looked exhausted, and she had been sick, and her infant had been sick,” Lewandowski said. “I remember she was so exhausted, and I was like, ‘Do you want me to hold the baby while you take a seat?’ and she just looked so relieved, you know, because she walked probably a really long way. She just looked so relieved to have a second to herself, and that was pretty good to me. That really stood out to me, you know. Just helping people.”
The experience in the mobile clinics goes beyond medical.
“It’s great if you want to practice your Spanish,” Lewandowski said. “I’m sure my Spanish probably improved more than it does on a semester class here.”
While Medlife’s mission and activities draw the attention of students with medical related majors, they’re not the only ones attending the trip.
“We actually have a lot of engineers too because a lot of the community service projects are on rockier areas, because that’s were the slums are, where we’re going to,” said Rebecca Ramm, a senior Spanish major and treasurer for the UNL Medlife chapter.
Ramm, founding member of the Medlife chapter at UNL, is organizing a fundraiser for some members of the trip. The fundraiser will help facilitate airline and travel expenses. It’ll take place on Monday, at Yogurtini on 48th and O streets from 6 p.m. to 10 p.m.
Volunteers will also have a supporting job, shadowing local doctors and helping them do their job.
“They take the physicians from local communities, so that it’s not just an American doctor coming in and fixing everything and then leaving because that doesn’t sustain anything,” Ramm said. “So they take the local health care professionals and volunteers from anywhere, and they place them there and try to set up a health infrastructure.”
Spring break isn’t the only time students can volunteer.
“Our members go on trips all around the year, but we just have one main spring break trip,” Lewandowski said. “We encourage our members, if you can’t go during spring break, go during winter break if you want. We’ll help you get there. That’s just not the big group trip we’re going.”
Ramm also mentioned that members do small-time volunteering in the Lincoln community.
The Medlife chapter at UNL raises funds for Medlife through a variety of events. Last semester it hosted an event called Music for Medicine, which featured music groups from around campus.
This semester, the chapter is hosting a run called “Five Dollar 5K“ on April 26.
“So basically the proceeds from these two events go to Medlife, and what it does with it is buy supplies, so they can help out these people,” Lewandowski said.
Ramm said she has high expectations for the trip.
“I expect an overall confirmation of what I want to do with my life,” she said. “This is the first time I really get to act on that desire to serve an underserved population for medical purposes.”