Health Care Volunteering in Peru
Who am I & what is the money for?
My name is Marina Volchok Wynia. I am 14 years old, in my first year of High School, at the American School of Barcelona (ASB). I am bilingual in English and Spanish as I have lived in Spain for my whole life and attend an English-speaking international school. For the last 2 years, ASB community service student volunteers have been working in collaboration with medical students from the Michigan State University’s College of Osteopathic Medicine (MSUCOM) as they provide free healthcare to Peruvians in need in Iquitos and in remote river communities along the Amazon Basin. I, as one of these volunteers, will be working closely with them as they treat each and every person by translating for the medical staff and their patients. This will allow more effective and precise communication between the doctor and the patient; something that is essential and can sometimes even save lives.
What is the cause?
In Iquitos, the largest city in the Peruvian Amazon, 30% of its 500 thousand inhabitants is poor, with 21% living under the poverty line. The rate of infant mortality is 22.5 per thousand, and 28% of children under 5 years old have chronic malnutrition. There is only one doctor per every 1,900 inhabitants. Furthermore, the Peruvian communities found along the Amazon Basin are extremely isolated, with little to no access to healthcare. For these reasons, and many more, medical assistance is crucial in these regions. In 2013, in collaboration with the Provincial Municipality of Maynas, MSU established their Medical Mission in Iquitos that continues till this day and now, even extends to the small, Peruvian river communities along the Amazon river. This medical service is greatly beneficial due to the extreme poverty, malnutrition and lack of accessibility to healthcare found in these regions. Since the initiation of the program over 10,000 people in Iquitos and 2,000 people in the communities along the Amazon Basin have been provided with free healthcare. Of these approximately 12,000 people, hundreds would not have been able to be treated effectively without the help of volunteers from ASB that have been collaborating in MSU’s Medical Mission for the last two years.
Why is this important to me?
Previously, I have traveled to developing countries, where I was exposed to cultures and lifestyles different from anything I had ever seen. I realized just how lucky I was, living in a nice house, being provided with more than enough food and accommodation, and receiving an excellent education. I decided that I no longer wanted to sit on my couch, watching the news as it described the difficulties that much of the world’s population endured, feeling sorry for them. Because empathizing with people in need is an empty and meaningless action. Feeling bad for people who are suffering is the same as accepting that their life is worse than your own. Instead, I want to act upon my sympathy and use the resources that I have to improve the lives of others. Evidently, I am very passionate about helping others and the Medical Mission opens a great opportunity to achieve that goal.
In addition, one of my academic and professional goals is to become involved in the medical sciences. I know that in the future I want to follow a career in the medical field, even though at this age it is not clear in which specific area. Nevertheless, I am certain that I want to be doing something that allows me to help others who are less fortunate. Attending the Medical Mission will give me a first-hand experience with real patients and real doctors. I will be given the opportunity to observe the practices performed by the medical students and consider the option of being in their shoes in the future.
Where will the money go?
In total, the trip costs approximately 4,300 euros. Through the school, I applied to a scholarship that would pay for 2,100€ of the funds and I won. However, I am taking the initiative to collect the remaining 2,200€ on my own, instead of burdening my parents with the cost. This money will cover my transportation, lodging and food costs.
Any contributions will be sincerely appreciated and I am so thankful for everybody’s support. If by any chance, any extra money is donated, it will, of course, be given to the clinics.
Marina Volchok Wynia