Volunteering abroad is all about making an impact, but it’s also a valuable way to get international experience in your field of interest and/or study, whether you’re an aspiring doctor, conservationist or teacher.
IVHQer Rachael is a passionate public health advocate who spent two weeks in Cusco as a Medical volunteer. Here’s how she used her time in Peru to make an impact while gaining practical career experience…
I decided to volunteer abroad based on my interest in international public health, as well as the opportunity to support developing communities while experiencing the culture. I plan on pursuing medicine with a focus on international health, so this program was the perfect way to volunteer while gaining shadow experience within a field that I am passionate about.
Learning from local healthcare experts
The highlight of my experience was getting to work alongside local medical professionals. Don’t underestimate the abilities of under-resourced communities, especially their healthcare workers. Every doctor, nurse, and technician at the clinic was so intelligent and talented, especially given that they work with such limited resources.
I am beyond grateful to each of them for allowing me to learn skills and knowledge from them on a daily basis. One of the most memorable lessons was learning how to do sutures (stitches) on a banana. The general doctor took the time to sit with me and teach me how to do each step carefully and beautifully. Unfortunately mine weren’t so beautiful, but I have been practicing ever since! While there were some early challenges, including a language barrier, I feel as though I learned more Spanish by the end of my two weeks than I have in any previous class or course in school.
Volunteering during Covid-19 and embracing new experiences
Similar to many other international volunteers, the pandemic was a concern. With the rising number of cases, I wanted to be sure that I was staying safe and avoiding as much potential contact as possible before and during my stay in Peru.
Despite my initial fears, I could not have asked for better precautions put in place by the local volunteering team. These excellent safety measures did not interfere with my ability to have fun! As volunteers, we were still able to attend many events and tours, including salsa classes, hikes through the breathtaking mountains, trips to the local markets, and so much more. I felt completely supported and safe every step of the process, from the orientation to my final day.
If you’re considering volunteering abroad…
As someone who is extremely interested in international public health, I had high expectations for this experience. As dangerous as high expectations can be, all of mine (and many more) were exceeded in these 2 weeks. Not only was I able to learn from the incredibly knowledgeable healthcare professionals in Cusco, but my understanding of the culture was expanded more than I could have hoped for.
I was worried that 2 weeks would be a lot, but I know that next time I go, it will have to be for more - I didn’t want to leave. The support from IVHQ was unparalleled, and I consider myself very fortunate for having this experience and learning so much!
The amazing people of Peru (both the professionals and the patients) have helped shape who I am as a current and future healthcare worker. I am, and will continue to be, inspired by my experience, and I truly cannot wait to see where my next volunteering adventure takes me.