Serving in Arequipa!

Text and Photos by Kristopher Schmidt

Just when you’ve thought experienced the best of what Peru can offer, you visit Arequipa.   What a place.  The climate is incredible right now.  Unlike the cool and dreary days of Lima in Winter, Arequipa is warm and sunny.  The temperature dips down in the evenings, but owing to the lower elevation, the nights are no where near as cool as Cusco.  There are three sets of mountains and/or mountain ranges in plain sight as well as the Colca Canyon (deeper than the Grand Canyon) not far away.  The Plaza de Armas is striking and park-like, with Cathedrals formed of white volcanic rock.  Arequipenos are proud of their city and region.  Many remark that they are Arequipenos first, Peruvians second.  Digging a little deeper it becomes clear that real tensions exist between Lima and Arequipa, due to a variety of factors.  An important one is related to the War of the Pacific.  Arequipa is very south and was hit hard during the Peruvian war with Chile.  When asked about the tensions with the Capital, some say that families felt abandoned by Lima during the war and their time of need.

We have three students doing service work in this great location: Julian, Lauren and Simon.  They are all very happy and “wouldn’t change a thing”.  Julian is working in Arequipa as a teaching assitant at the Francisca Rojas school.  His school is large, serving kids from all over the city including the children of some host family members.  He teaches mostly English but also helps with Math and Science.  He is very much appreciated at the site and Julian loves his work.  While we visited we were able to see Julian in action.  How wonderful to see him offering direction to a class in Spanish.  It is easy to see that in addition to providing assistance in the classroom that Julian is gaining confidence in public speaking and teaching (not to mention his Spanish).  He is doing great work and is gaining valuable character shaping experiences.  Julian is living with a young family in one of the most developed parts of Arequipa.  His evening are filled with rich family experiences and memories with plenty of kids around.  Church is a big part of life for Julian and his family.

Simon and Lauren and both serving together at the Pedro P. Diaz Clinica in Arequipa.  Once a major clinical site for Arequipenos, the clinic’s funding appears to have waned over the years.  While they still serve many people in the city (a cross-section of the population) there are fewer patients each year as they are triaged to a variety of other hospitals in the city.  The hospital now functions on an out-patient basis only.  Lauren and Simon are still kept very busy at their service location and have been enjoying their work.  Lauren is a nursing student and Simon is studying pre-Med.  They both were very excited to serve in a hospital and to be able to do ‘real clinical work’.  Certainly this has been the case.  Simon spends his days in the diagnostics lab at the hospital.  Along with his supervisor, Simon draws blood regularly and analyzes it in a variety of ways.  He does complete blood counts and tests various parameters in blood (e.g. Blood glucose).  Many of the techniques that he uses, our students at Goshen College learn in their vertebrate physiology classes.  Simon has learned a great deal and loves his work.  Along a similar vein, Lauren has been put into a clinic setting at this hospital.  She spends her days administering various treatments alongside nurses and is a skillful deliverer of medicines supplied by large needles 🙂  Lauren is a thoughful person and remarked about many of the differences in clinical practice between what is happening in Peru and what she sees in her clinical courses at Goshen College.  It is clear that she is taking it all in and that she is thoughtfully building up her clinical experience for a long career in a field she loves.  Lauren and Simon are also living with host families.  Simon lives with a retired couple in a home some distance away from the clinic.  Lauren is in a family with many sisters.  The host families in Arequipa are connected through Church in the city, so it is not uncommon for these students to get together through their various community connections.

All is well!