Aileen Leyva is a ONE Campus leader at the University of Arizona and sits on the student advisory board for the ONE Campus Challenge. Her time with ONE inspired her to travel to Peru, where she saw poverty and preventable disease firsthand. Here in her own words, she reports back on her time in South America.
This summer I decided to spend five weeks in the beautiful country of Peru on a volunteer adventure with the non-profit Vive Perú. The organization fosters understanding of Latin American culture and provides much needed aid to communities in need.
This aid is provided through medical and health campaigns, volunteering at understaffed hospitals, English language workshops, music enrichment programs and Internet installation projects.
After a week of soaking in some of the world’s most stunning sights at Machu Picchu with students from around the country, I traveled to the city of Trujillo in La Libertad region, which would be my home for the next month.
During the week, I volunteered at hospitals in impoverished areas and took part in a variety of work. I shadowed a pediatrician, a gynecologist, an ER doctor and at times got to do triage, physical exams, vaccines and injections.
Like never before, I was exposed to the type of health care systems and extreme poverty that I’ve learned about through my work with ONE. Every day was an adventure.
Seeing the disparity between hospitals in the US and of those in Peru reinforced my desire to work with my ONE Campus Chapter, inform my peers of this type of poverty and disease, and advocate for legislation that will end it.
It was sad to see the state of some of these facilities. Working in these hospitals made me appreciate everything we have back home that is often taken for granted. My volunteer experience here bolstered my belief that health care is a right that everyone should be able to access. I will bring that belief and passion back to my campus this year.
I hope to empower others to work with ONE in order to raise awareness about these issues and make direct actions to change these structural inequalities.
One of the most rewarding experiences was working with families in impoverished areas of Trujillo, specifically El Progreso. In this area, the streets are filled with garbage, most homes consist of dirt floors, clean water is a luxury, eight out of 10 kids are infected with parasites, among other diseases, and most parents have not finished elementary school.
Although my work with ONE has taught me that this type of extreme poverty exists, it still shocked me to witness it firsthand. We offered classes and workshops to both the children and parents on general health, hygiene and prevention.Working with kids from El Progreso has forever changed me. Although it sounds cliché, I will never forget how they shared their happiness and love with a complete stranger like me.
These are honestly the happiest kids I’ve ever met. It still seems unreal to me that despite their living conditions, they remain positive. Their smiles and innocence were contagious and I couldn’t help but lose myself in their world where all that mattered was that they had someone to play with and hug.
I met amazing people who I now consider my best friends, immersed myself in Peruvian culture and hopefully made a difference in a few people’s lives. It was not always easy, but it was definitely one of the most rewarding summers of my life.
My time in Peru rejuvenated my passion for using advocacy to end extreme poverty and preventable disease, which I will continue to do this year with my ONE Campus Challenge chapter.
It’s not too late to join the ONE Campus Challenge and the ONE chapter on your campus now. Click here to sign up now!