October 9th, 2013
Hola! My name is Melissa Montalvo. I am a former campus coordinator for Vive Peru, a former volunteer, and a lover of all things Peru (alli de gallina?cusqueño?).
I first got involved with VivePeru through my good friend, Blake Thomson. I started by promoting Vive Peru an recruiting volunteers on USC campus.
I finally participated in the program in Winter 2012-13. Que increible fue mi experiencia. As an International Relations major, I’ve always had a passion for traveling, cultural exchange, and especially international development, education, and education policy. I served as a social work volunteer in the Hogar de la nina, a shelter for girls. The three weeks exposed me to the stark reality of gender inequalities, particularly economic and educational opportunities. Overall, my experience volunteering in Peru shed light on my studies of international relations. It truly impacted my profession goals by sparking my interest in female education and inequalities. I now work for an education nonprofit and I plan to pursue a Master’s in International Education Policy. My time in Peru helped me solidify these interests.
I continue to work closely with Vive Peru and am currently searching for grants to finically support Vive Peru’s great work.
Un dia, espero regresar a Peru para ver el progreso en nuestros communidades peruanas de VivePeru!
October 9th, 2013
I will never forget the day I was shadowing doctors who were performing a cesarian on a young Peruvian woman. The smells, the blood, and the huge incision was right in front of me. My wary gut instinct was ignored by my curiosity and adrenaline. I thought “other students would kill for this opportunity!” The next thing I knew I had fainted and was being rushed out by one of the nurses and put into a bed. Well, let’s just say I got to meet quite a bit of the staff this day and made friends I will never forget. From this day on, I decided I was going to stick to my passion for just working in nutrition and leave the blood for the future surgeons.
I am very passionate about nutrition and public health which made my trip to Peru something very special. I have always known I wanted to work in public health but after Peru I knew I was going to come back. Some of the personal things I did in Peru was develop nutrition lessons, cooking demos, and taught on the importance of a varied diet. Besides nutrition, I gave vaccinations, performed interviews, and helped out at medical campaigns.
Currently, I am a U of A alumni and I am a nutritionist at Arizona State University. Being fluent in Spanish and having other experiences like Vive Peru really set me apart from other people applying for jobs. Traveling and working abroad changes your perspective on life and makes you more of a culturally aware individual. My job at ASU has me doing all different aspects of nutrition. I provide cooking demos, nutrition presentations, design major health events, and do private consultations. I love my job but after my opportunity with Vive Peru I am definitely going back to work abroad after I finish my masters.
My final words to future prospects is working abroad is a must. Unlike other programs, Vive Peru has many connections in Peru and there are full time staff who live in Peru year round. This is key to having a good program. Overall, you are going to make friends that will be like family, eat amazing food, and have the opportunity to do many things that you couldn’t do in the states. I hope you take a leap of faith and seize the opportunity to work abroad. You won’t regret it.
UA Volunteer, 2011
September 25th, 2013
I love the winter session. Between how incredibly hands-on my entire internship was following doctors for a month and the time frame (mid-December through mid-January, i.e. Christmas and New Years), I can hardly describe how much I’ve learned about how passionate I am about medicine and also how in love with the culture I am. Two years ago I was a winter Pre-Med intern in Pacasmayo and this past year I came back to be a coordinator.
The internship itself almost sounds too good to be true. I got to follow doctors and nurses in my hospital for an entire month, observing in the ER, ICU, pediatrics office, and day to day consulting. The more I asked to do, the more I got to do. Everyone was extremely excited I was there and let me do anything I asked: from taking vitals, giving shots and I even left my phone number in the OR so that they’d call me when a surgery or a birth was about to happen.
Culturally, I think the winter session is one of the most amazing times to visit Peru. Vive Peru does a Chocolatada, a giant Christmas party for the impoverished kids, for all of the cities in which we work. There’s something about 100 kids at each location and it’s absolutely adorable. We fundraise presents for them and organize a day of games, hot chocolate and Peruvian cake called panetón, and they are all so excited to meet Santa and are extremely appreciative of their presents.
Christmas and New Years celebrations here are a different experience. For Christmas, Christmas Eve is the big party. On December 24th, we all stay up late and have a giant feast at midnight. Ham, tamales, Christmas rice, cake… it’s a feast filled with love between your host family, roommates, and how amazing all the food it. Christmas Day is more of a calm day—usually the host families have some family parties they attend and I’ve always gone hiking with friends at some breathtaking locations. New Years is the pretty typical New Years: another giant family feast, eating 12 grapes at midnight, running around the street with sparklers, and of course the party. They set up a giant tent on a cliff over the ocean in Pacasmayo, bring three DJs and a ton of people. This New Years party is so fun, it doesn’t stop until 6am, if you can stay that long.
The winter session is great. It’s such an enriching way to spend the holidays. There is so much to learn medically in the internship and so much to love about the culture.
ASU Premed Volunteer
August 22nd, 2013
To explore the Peruvian perspective of our programs we asked Brenda Castillo Honorio, a teacher at a high school in Conache, a rural town where Vive Peru recently installed a new internet tower allowing the school and some community members to have in-home internet access, how the program has impacted her students and community.
Q: Does it make a difference for the kids to have computers/internet at the school?
A: Yes, it saves money and time. In the past, the students had to pay for transportation to go to Laredo (the neighboring town) to access internet, and many of them would arrive late to school with the excuse that they were in Laredo finishing up their homework because there wasn’t anywhere to do it in Conache. Some of them didn’t do the work at all and others would arrive late. Now they have access here, and I can lend them a computer to finish their work.
Also, internet and computing access affects the students on a cultural level as before many were disconnected from current events or topics that their peers had learned about through the internet. When topics would come up, they would stay quiet in hopes the others wouldn’t notice they didn’t know what they were talking about. They were able to use the internet but on a very limited basis since they had to travel so far to get access. They would do their homework and log off. Now they have more time to explore and learn about topics they are interested in apart from their classwork.
Internet access and computer literacy is a very important component for these students to have access and success in higher learning (after secondary/high school). It’s very important to have these skills in order to be successful in superior education. We’re working towards this because we don’t want the kids to be behind simply because of where they’re from (because they’re from Conache).
Brenda Castillo Honorio
Docente de Computación – Ingles (English and Computer Teacher)
Colegio Conache (Conache High School)
August 22nd, 2013
I have been working with the K-6 students at I. E. Antonio Torres Araujo in Trujillo for the past two and a half weeks through Vive Peru’s English teaching program. With Lauren, the other English Teaching volunteer, I teach weekly lessons on the English language to each class at the school.
So far, it has been a challenging experience. Some of the challenges spring from cultural differences and from a lack of resources at the school. The teaching styles here seem to be quite different from what I’m used to in the US, so I have to adjust the way I teach so that I can reach the kids. Additionally, the school lacks some of the resources that would make my job as a teacher easier. The classrooms do not have computers or projectors for presenting lessons, not to mention that some of the kids don’t even have their own set of colored pencils.
Even so, the challenges I face as I teach English at Torres Araujo are made worthwhile by the excitement of on the children’s faces when they see Lauren and I. They greet us yelling, “¡Inglés! ¡Inglés!” Many of the kids are so eager to learn that they bombard us with questions at recess about how to say certain words in English. Although many of the younger kids will likely forget how to say the names of vegetables and professions in English, I hope that they will retain their desire to broaden their knowledge of the world. I am so glad to be part of an effort to guide these amazing kids in that direction.
Summer 2013 Volunteer
August 5th, 2013
My clinical medicine work site experience with Vive Peru in Pacasmayo, although different than what I expected, was everything I could’ve wanted and more. I came in thinking that I might be placed into a hospital with very limited resources and a necessity for extra hands. This, however, was definitely not the case. The hospital I worked in, Hospital Tomas Lafora in Guadalupe, is one of the largest in the region of La Libertad with many doctors, nurses, and interns present. Even though I was not necessarily needed to actively treat or communicate with patients, I garnered a feel for what working in a hospital is like, a slew of medical skills the doctors taught us during downtime, and an ability to speak in Spanish when the pressure is on. A normal day consisted of following doctors through their consultations or spending time in the emergency room awaiting an emergency or assisting a patient. During these days, I learned various things about the primary medical concerns and treatments in Peru, the Peruvian health care system, and the medical education system of Peru. Everyone at the hospital was always very eager to talk with us and help us learn as much as we could. On special days we were able to see surgeries. I saw both a hysterectomy and a Cesarean section. The doctors allowed us to view the surgeries up close, giving us an experience that is not easily had in the United States. As my hospital was quite large, we were not given very many opportunities to give many injections or do any sutures on the patients, but many other volunteers had the opportunity to do so. There are other opportunities to do so, however, such as at the medical campaign completed by the group. In summary, my experience at Hospital Tomas Lafora in Guadalupe was unlike anything I had done before and was an amazing experience I will never forget.
Summer 2013 Volunteer
August 5th, 2013
The medical campaign was something unexpected. At least for me, when I got to the site, I definitely got the feeling of being overwhelmed before we even started seeing patients. I kept thinking we really didn’t know what we getting into. However, once we started and the first patient came in, all those stressful feelings left. I can’t say it was easy at first but after a few patients, it became more comfortable speaking to all the patients in spanish. Some of the complaints of their symptoms repetitive because they were so common in the area. Those patients were the easiest to help since I knew specifically the right questions to ask. The more challenging patients were the young women who had several, varying complaints but were too shy or introverted to actively tell me. I realized with those patients more timid that didn’t want to openly announce their complaints, I needed to get closer, turn my ear to them when they spoke, and speak more softly and calmly to them. My biggest surprise of the campaign was a small boy who instantly appeared like he was suffering. I took his temperature when his mother said he started a fever a few hours ago. It was 37.4. I told them to keep him in the shade and give him water until I was done. Afterwards I took his temperature again. It rose to 38.2. I sent them to wait to see the doctor but then the mother called me over to recheck her son after 5 minutes. I retook his temperature a third time; it was a high 38.7. I grabbed his mother and him and rushed them straight to one of the doctors. To me, this little boy was a true emergency situation that needed to be attended immediately. Other families yelled that their complaints were also “emergencies” but it was obvious that they weren’t suffering like that little boy. They simply wanted to be seen faster by the doctor. Overall, the most significant take-away from the campaign was that it was full of moments that essentially reconfirmed my belief that this type of profession is what I need to be in.
University of Arizona
Summer 2013 Volunteer
August 5th, 2013
So when I started this journey, I didn’t really know what to expect.
At first, I thought it would be so rural that I’d have to travel just
to find an Internet Cafe. It was to my surprise to actually get WiFi,
even in the little town of Pacasmayo, especially when hot water is not
entirely common and washers/dryers are nonexistent. Though the loss of
water and electricity during my stay did not seem out of place. The
graciousness of the people who allowed us to stay with them is
overwhelming. Not going to lie….we are spoiled in the US. Convenient
and fast have become almost necessities, while we juggle school, work,
eating, sleep, fun activities, etc. It really has been a blessing to
slow down and be able to take it all in and have this wonderful
learning experience without all of the rush (even if washing your
clothes is a day-and-a-half process lol).
Pacasmayo may be small but it is gorgeous. The beach was literally a
two-minute walk from my homestay. What more can you really ask for?
The weather is lovely even if they consider it extremely cold (lol
like us Arizonans). The high was around 72 every day…not bad. Not
only this was great, but it also was a town I could feel safe walking
around in (although precaution is always taken regardless). Getting to
spend some time with Celina, Juan and their family (our host family)
led to some unique discoveries about the culture. They had once been
to Florida and tried to send 5 people in one taxi…the taxi wouldn’t
let more than 3. Here you shove people in any nook and cranny until
they’re almost falling out. Lol ok. I’m exaggerating but two people
usually sit up front with the driver, three in the back seat, and up
to two in the back in what they call a colectivo. Apparently that
doesn’t fly in Florida. Also, when they asked what was my religion,
they weren’t sure what exactly Christianity believed in due to
Catholicism being the main religion. Even though there have been many
cultural differences, our host family has been nothing but warm and
welcoming to us. You know you’re apart of the family when they start
trying to feed you at random times.
As for the experience in the Peruvian healthcare system, it has been
quite the eye-opener as to how much they have to work with compared to
us. Although being in EsSalud (the hospital that only caters to those
with private health insurance) has more technology like US hospitals,
there still is a striking difference between the two. Dentistry is
uncommon, especially preventative measures. Only the EsSalud had a
dentist and they only saw patients to fill cavities or extract teeth.
Unlike most American hospitals, hospitals here don’t hold very many
patients. Even the big hospital for the area (excluding Trujillo,
which is the major city) only had about 24 beds. I worked in a
small-ish hospital in the suburbs of Arizona and that had 200 beds and
the census was always around 180 (depending on the season). Not to
mention, surgeries would occur daily back in the states. Most people
do not have private insurance but can get on a government plan called
SIS, which is free to anyone with an ID. Still people in the Minsa
hospitals (government-endorsed) avoid getting healthcare until they
absolutely need it. That’s why I was excited about being able to
participate in a free med campaign to the people of Pacasmayo. We saw
200 patients! It was an incredible experience!
And lastly…the workshops. We weekly would go out to teach the
children about various health and hygiene concepts. The kids are
soooooo fun and get attached to us new foreign language speakers so
quickly. It’s sad having to leave without knowing when or if we will
be able to return. Not to mention all 12 people from Vive Peru that
I’ve had the pleasure of spending time with and getting to know. We
definitely have had a ton of fun and good memories/inside jokes to go
back with. I really lucked out on this whole experience. I couldn’t be
more happy with it. I will miss Peru and all of the relationships I
have formed. Overall, this trip was well-worth the money and time.
Arizona State University
Summer 2013 Volunteer