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Southwestern’s Peru Connection

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    2014 graduate Hayley Hamilton went to Peru twice as a volunteer with an organization called Vive Peru. Six Southwestern students will be working for the organization in Peru this summer.
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    As a volunteer with Vive Peru, Hayley Hamilton helped provide free medical care to women such as these in Peru.
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    December 2013 graduate Meredith Middleton went to Peru with Hayley Hamilton in December 2012.
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    Four students from Southwestern will be volunteering this summer in Otuzco, a small rural town in the Peruvian Andes.
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    Mustafa Tajkhanji (second from left) was a clinical medicine volunteer for Vive Peru over winter break in 2013. He plans to return again this winter.

Five Southwestern students are volunteering in Peru this summer

After spending the summer after her sophomore year volunteering in Peru, Hayley Hamilton made it her mission to recruit other Southwestern students for the same program.

Her recruitment efforts have paid off, as five Southwestern students will be spending a month this summer doing volunteer work in Peru.

Hamilton went to Peru through an Arizona-based organization called Vive Peru. The organization offers summer programs that give prospective medical students an opportunity to do clinical work. A portion of the money students pay for their trip goes to provide medical supplies to the country or support other community projects.

As clinical medicine volunteers, students work in hospitals and clinics where they observe patient surgeries, assist in triage and medical logs, and give injections. They also work on medical campaigns where they take medical records of residents and give them appropriate medications based on their symptoms. In addition, they help with health campaigns that teach children to take care of their daily hygiene by washing their hands and brushing their teeth. Clinical medicine volunteers must be able to speak and understand Spanish, since few people in the remote areas can understand English.

The organization also offers volunteer programs that involve engineering, social work and teaching English.

Hamilton first found out about the program through Kristin McCollum, a 2012 Southwestern graduate who was applying for jobs in South America. McCollum saw the Vive Peru program and thought it would be perfect for Hamilton. In addition to going to Peru the summer after her sophomore year, Hamilton went back over winter break her junior year and served as a volunteer coordinator for the organization, in charge of managing seven interns. The interns she supervised included Southwestern student Meredith Middleton, who graduated in December and will be starting the physician assistant program at The University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston this fall.

Southwestern students Tran Le and Emily Haskell went to Peru last summer as volunteers for Vive Peru and and sophomore biology major Mustafa Tajkhanji went over winter break. Tajkhanji has now taken over the role of campus coordinator for Southwestern and said he will probably return to Peru again this winter as a senior volunteer.

The five students who are going this summer are Lorena Roque, Morgan Gallo, Samra Lazarus, Daniel Withers and Mareah Lucio.

Roque and Gallo will be working in Trujillo, which is the third largest city in Peru. The rest will be working in Otuzco, a small rural town in the Andes where Hamilton volunteered.

Hamilton said one of the best features of the program is that volunteers get to live with host families. Also, weekends are free to explore the country. At the end of their stay, all participants have the option of visiting the famous Inca ruins at Machu Picchu.

The clinical medicine programs include one or two-week rotations in different healthcare facilities. Hamilton said she learned how to give injections and perform other procedures that she otherwise wouldn’t have experienced until going to medical school.

Hamilton, who majored in biochemistry and minored in biology and Spanish, said her experience in Peru solidified her decision to attend medical school. She will be entering The University of Texas Southwestern Medical School at Dallas this fall.