Alan, Becca and Joshua are working in San Ramón in the province of Chanchamayo – the entry point to the selva central, Peru’s central rain forest. They have been fully engaged in their service assignments, working mornings and afternoons. Still, the students also have enjoyed their host families as well as the flora, fauna and warm temperatures of San Ramón, which is located along the Carretera Central (the central highway) that links Lima in the west to the rain forest in the east.
San Ramón, which has about 30,000 residents, is located in the departamento (state) of Junín, on the eastern foothills of the Andes mountain range. At 2,600 feet above sea level, the temperatures this time of year have been warm and humid, sometimes hot, during the day, with cool and comfortable evenings. It has been the dry season in the jungle, but there is still enough rain to keep the surrounding hillsides green. The countryside has great natural beauty – with lush plants and trees, tropical birds, streams and waterfalls – but life in the city of San Ramón can be difficult for many people, especially for those who have migrated from smaller communities for education or employment.
The students live with three sisters who own and operate Gad Gha Kum Lodge, a beautiful hotel and camping complex just outside San Ramón. Although Alan, Becca and Josh each has a designated host mother – Rocio, Patricia and Carolina, respectively – they are really part of the extended Del Aguila Gerbi family, whose members live and work together and who are in and out of each other’s houses all day. Josh and Alan share a cabin, while Becca lives in a house with a mother, two daughters and two cousins.
Alan and Becca and Josh take a colectivo (shared taxi or van) into San Ramón each morning. Pre-med majors Becca and Alan are volunteering at the Clínica Elera. They assist the clinic’s team of doctors and nurses with patient care. Alan and Becca observe consultations, help with intake or run routine procedures such as eye exams.
The cases often reflect the difficult life that people lead in the rain forest, from wounds suffered while farming and long delayed treatment to tropical diseases that are unknown in more arid parts of the world. The clinic’s founder, Dr. Gustavo Elera Arevalo, is well known and highly regarded in the area. Patients seek him out because of his expertise and compassionate care.
Becca is quick to pitch in with everything from greeting patients and preparing examining rooms to helping with filing medical records. Her patience, readiness to help and positive attitude are much appreciated by the patients and staff.
Alan is an engaged learner who makes the most of Dr. Elera’s gift of teaching. He is ready to jump in with any task the day calls for and says he has learned a great deal. He is sensitive and caring with patients. He and Becca both were hoping for the chance to observe a surgery before they left.
Josh volunteers at INABIF (Programa Integral Nacional para el Bienestar Familiar), a government-funded program that assists low-income families. He works with children who come to the center before or after school to eat a hot meal, take part in activities and programs and get help with their homework. Senior citizens also come to the INABIF center for meals.
Josh helps the children finish their meals, which they are required to do before they leave the table. He assists the staff with games, songs and other learning activities. In the afternoon, he tutors children and helps make sure they do their homework. More importantly, he serves as a role model for children who may suffer neglect or other difficult home circumstances. Josh shows great patience and kindness with the children, working full days with only a short lunch break. He comes home very tired some days, but pleased to have made a difference in the lives of many children.