Pippa Carey: Reflections on my Time in Peru

Shortly after I returned from spending my summer with RGHA in Pampas Grande I began my study abroad experience in Copenhagen, Denmark. It was such a drastic change to go from working in an area where quality health care is extremely limited to a welfare state, where all citizens have access to health care that goes far beyond basic needs. While in Copenhagen, I studied public health from a global perspective, and it has made me reflect even further on my time in Peru.

RGHA Student Leader Pippa Carey, in Copenhagen, Denmark, where she studied abroad last semester

The majority of my time in Pampas was spent working in the clinic and on various projects such as the sunscreen project with children either at the school or the library. There were also green houses built and a dental project. Although we have not solidified all of the projects to dedicate our time to each year, we try to meet the needs of the community. Before going in with rigid ideas of what is needed we must ask them what it is that they believe will benefit them the most. As an organization, we must also strive to create sustainable projects that carry on even when we leave. When serving a community, you don’t want to have them remain completely dependent on the support of one week’s stay. Rather, you must help create projects and initiatives that locals can take over and spearhead for the rest of the year. This creates a beneficial partnership.

Pippa and VCU medical student Niyant Jain observing Dr. Erika Soria Leiva in the dental clinic in Pampas Grande, Peru.

During my time in Pampas, I also realized how important is for organizations like RGHA to maintain their relationships with the communities we work in. That means our interactions with the locals must not be limited to the few weeks each summer we are physically present in Pampas but must continue all year round through constant communication and development, even when we are thousands of miles apart.

The trip that I went on was the 4th year that RGHA has gone to Peru. It shows the people in Pampas Grande how dedicated the organization is to serving their community and builds their trust in the organization. Commitment is essential if trips like the one to Pampas are to ever succeed. The number of people visiting the clinic surpassed any previous year. The committed volunteers return each year to help more who have heard about the good work of the organization.  However, commitment does not automatically equal success. When something doesn’t go as planned, it means making the effort to create a change that benefits everyone, and trynig again. In Pampas, that could mean trying a new system when registering patients at the clinic or scratching one program entirely for one that may be more useful. It’s a commitment to trying to get it right.

Commitment and teamwork also go hand in hand. Everyone on the team has to dedicate themselves to give their best and be willing to do whatever job comes their way. This means that no job is too small or insignificant, whether it’s playing with a child while his mother is being examined by the physician or organizing supplies for the school projects. I have seen all of these characteristics with the groups I worked with in Pampas and they inspired me to do the same.

Finally, discovering something to be passionate about is truly a priceless experience, and developing that passion requires commitment, patience and the cultivation of experiences to provide new perspectives on healthcare and service work. All of these things describe my experience with RGHA. My time in Pampas was truly a life changing one that allowed me to see healthcare in a new way and reinforced my future career goals of working in global health. As a new assistant student director of RGHA, I am excited to help plan the upcoming summer trip and continue collaborating with HOMBRE and PAN Peru to serve the Pampas community.