A Peruvian Spring Break With MEDLIFE: Day 2
Reality Tour, Sanctuary Visit, and Community Outreach
Having an extra hour to get ready today wasn’t the most conducive to being on time. When I went down for breakfast at 7:25, with 5 minutes to spare, all that was left was stale bread, cheese, and remnants of ham. I guess you could say I learned my lesson and that I would most definitely be up at least 45 minutes earlier tomorrow for the croissants. After breakfast, the MEDLIFE troupe split into two groups of 30 and piled into buses. It was time for the reality tour–where we would see the state of healthcare in Cusco and MEDLIFE’s role in implementing sustainable solutions.
On the way to the clinic, which was located on the outskirts of Cusco, we made a stop at the Sacred Valley for a short photo op. The view seriously looked like a painting. I’m usually not a fan of clichés, but the greenery, the hills, and the river in the distance were all too magnificent to not be appreciated.
Our visit to the clinic was eye opening. It was built to serve about 30–40 communities in the surrounding area, but its ability to provide effective healthcare was lacking. Doctors were only available from 7 AM to 2 PM, and if a medical situation was grave enough, patients would be referred to hospitals in Cusco or Lima. These sites were often out of reach due to expenses or lack of access. Also, there were only 2 or 3 ambulances stationed at the clinic at any given time. Our group leader Mateo showed us what a typical ambulance contained.
What was special about the clinic was its unique ability to treat women, specifically those who were pregnant. Often times home-based childbirths fail in Cusco due to improper techniques and insufficient supplies. MEDLIFE partnered with the clinic to create a set of rooms designed specifically for women who are expecting. This saves countless lives, considering that women in the area often have to commute 2 or 3 hours just to see a doctor who can deliver their child. With the advent of ambulances and designated rooms in the clinic, the number of fatalities related to childbirth in the area has been mitigated significantly.
It was time to lighten the mood. After a brief lunch, we traveled to a local animal sanctuary to witness some of the native wildlife. We saw some incredible creatures, including llamas, alpacas, condors, and even a puma. Although it was a little uneasy to see these animals in captivity, it was reassuring to know that their life expectancy increased significantly at the sanctuary, especially considering that many of them were endangered species.
We concluded our day with a journey to the community where we would be completing our projects. Our duty was to create 6 stoves entirely from scratch. Our work would start tomorrow, but we used this time to learn more about the residents and see the community. It was rejuvenating to see how much energy all the children had as soon as they had finished school. Some of them even spoke to us!
The last item on the itinerary was a brief visit to a giant monument of Jesus Christ, Cristo Blanco, across from the Sacsayhuaman ruins. This statue can be seen from the lowlands of Cusco, so its presence is relatively universal. We spent a few moments admiring the monument in sheer awe, and then packed our bags for the hostel. After my daily dose of bargaining at the plaza market, I decided to call it a day. Tomorrow would be the first day of our grueling schedule. I was never more ready to build my first stove.