A very special experience: Volunteering at a Peruvian health clinic

Irene at the clinic

A very special experience: Volunteering at a Peruvian health clinic

It was about a month ago when I returned from Huanchaco, and a part of me has stayed there…

A few months ago, I decided to embark on an adventure, which turned out to be one of the best experiences I have ever had: Volunteering with the organisation Otra Cosa Network at a health clinic in a small Peruvian village, Huanchaco. As a medical student, I definitely wanted to work at a clinic, despite the fact that I’m still building up my medical knowledge (I’m just about to start the third year at uni), thinking that any kind of help might be very welcome there.

Volunteering at the clinic

Being a volunteer at the clinic has allowed me to learn a lot about my future profession, but not only that: I have also learned about the Peruvian healthcare system. In addition, I met doctors, obstetricians, nurses, lovely interns and also two volunteers with whom I have become friends and shared my best moments.

Clinic in Huanchaco

Clinic in Huanchaco

Our job was to help with anything they needed, and every day was different. On certain days, we did consultations with the general practitioner, other days we worked with obstetricians and from time to time we undertook triage to determine who needs immediate medical attention. Sometimes we simply helped file papers and medical histories, as the whole administration was done manually.

My best experience was certainly the day when I saw doctors assisting a delivery; it was the first I have ever seen! A month later, I still can’t find the words to describe that moment, it was simply incredible. And on top of that, I could share it with my two friends. This is something I will always remember.

Sunset in Huanchaco with friends

Sunset in Huanchaco with friends

Life in Huanchaco

The “Las Camelias” became my home for three weeks, and the host family and the other volunteers my second family. I was fortunate to be able to catch a glimpse of the life of a Peruvian family and get to know their routines and habits.

After work, we used to have lunch together with the volunteers at the hostel, eating the lovely food what the host lady Corina prepared for us. These moment were very special for me because it gave us the opportunity to get to know each other better and share our experiences.

The afternoons were just perfect to go for a walk, enjoy the beach, meet people, learn to surf and to enjoy the sunset together with other volunteers. And at night, I had time to reflect, toast with beers and pisco sours (from time to time) and to take salsa classes in a local club Janpix with my friends.

Our health campaign about oral hygiene

My last day in Huanchaco was one of the most specials. I had the opportunity to visit one of the poorest neighbourhoods of Trujillo, New Jerusalem, with my two volunteer colleagues to teach a group of children about how to brush their teeth and wash their hands. We also gave them toothbrushes that a British school had donated. It was amazing to spend the whole morning with the kids and to see how sweet and smiley they are despite the difficulties they have day by day. I remember that day with a big smile on my face.

Health campaign about oral hygiene

Health campaign about oral hygiene

My volunteering in Huanchaco has changed my life. It has made me face reality and the world in a completely different way.

This blog was written by Irene Castaño Caballero.

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