Matt Reynolds | Westport, CT – Medicine, Health, and Society, 2016
Matthew Reynolds is from Westport, CT and is part of the class of 2016. Matthew is pursuing a major in Medicine, Health and Society and minors in Spanish and Psychology. Matthew’s project take place in Cusco, Peru working in one of the several underfunded and understaffed hospitals. Thanks to the Nichols fund, Matthew will be able to help ensure that more patients in this region will be able to receive the care that they greatly need!
Blog Post One:
After the weather app consistently showed 70 degree days in Cusco, I arrived at 5 am last Sunday to a chilly surprise. Despite the warm, sunny days, it is winter here right now, so the nights get pretty cold. After recharging my batteries, I began my project on Monday at a clinic about 45 minutes outside the city. The first few days I essentially shadowed different doctors and helped with paperwork. The two days after that, we visited a primary school down the street from the clinic to check up on the health of the kids. We checked height, weight, teeth, and ran blood tests to check for anemia, which is apparently common in this region. I was in charge of conducting eye exams for the children. As expected, there is certainly a lack of organization at the clinic. On Friday, I found myself consistently running around to see how I could help and in turn, was offered the ability to do things I would never be able to do in the states without further training. I checked blood pressure, filled prescriptions, and even had the chance to give injections.
The city of Cusco itself has actually been a wonderful surprise. The city is much more lively than I anticipated, with plenty to see, eat, and buy. The local crafts and clothing are all beautifully designed, with many vibrant colors and patterns. There are a lot of tourist attractions to visit, many being in the “Sacred Valley.” Yesterday I went to see two of them, one an old agricultural design of concentric circles in Moray, and the other being the famous salt mines. I even went zip lining in the area!
Lastly, the homestay I’m living in has been wonderful so far. There are many other volunteers here, and my host, Nancy, has been incredibly sweet and accommodating. A lot of her family was staying here this week as well for a wedding, so lots of music and dancing ensued in the house.
I have no idea what to expect for the next week in the clinic but I just hope I can continue to find ways to help out. And I’ll be off to see Machu Picchu next weekend! I’d like to thank the Nichols Family again for making it possible for me to take this trip. Though there are certainly aspects of home that I miss, my time in Cusco has been wonderful so far and I can’t wait to see what the next two weeks have in store!
Blog Post Two:
My last couple weeks in the clinic got a little more interesting. Both weeks, resident doctors joined me in the clinic as volunteers. However, one was from the Philippines and the other was from Taiwan, so neither of them spoke very much Spanish. As a result, I was able to become a lot more involved since the more qualified volunteers always needed me present when seeing patients to interpret and lend a hand. I also joined the clinic’s head physician in making home visits to several locals who were too ill to come to the clinic on their own. Unfortunately, the last visit we made was quite a sour ending to my volunteer work. The family of a sick, anemic old man pleaded with the doctor for ideas of how to help their father, as local hospitals refused to treat him due to his age and limited wealth, despite the fact that he had insurance. As we walked back to the clinic, the Cuban doctor had little more to offer outside of “that’s just Peru.”
On a more positive note, there were several enjoyable experiences outside of the clinic during my last two weeks. The weekend before last, I made my trip to Machu Picchu. We arrived at the town of Aguas Calientes below Machu Picchu on Saturday before heading up to the site early Sunday. Though I was disappointed in the “hot springs” that the town of Aguas Calientes is apparently named for (they appeared no different than your average hot tub), I was surprised at the beauty of the little town itself. After hopping on the earliest bus possible, I got to Machu Picchu around 6 am on Sunday, unable to see much of anything beyond 20 feet from me due to the clouds and fog in the area. Around 7 am I began my hike up Machu Picchu mountain to hopefully get a higher viewpoint of the scene. Upon reaching the summit after a tiring hike, however, the clouds refused to part to provide us with the sight we had hoped for. I made my way back down for a tour, and was finally greeted with clear, beautiful views of the ancient city. Here is one of the many pictures I took during the several hour tour:
On the Friday before I left, Cusco celebrated their most important holiday of the year, Inti Raymi. The holiday is a festival of the sun, and moves from the main square in the city to the ancient complex of Saqsaywaman in the city’s outskirts. Floods of people come in to witness the ceremony, making it very difficult to get a good view. In order to know what was going on, we essentially had to raise our cameras over our heads and snap photos and videos to look at. Here is one such photo at Saqsaywaman:
Overall, I was very pleased with the trip and very thankful for the opportunity I was granted. I think what I will miss most will be all the great people I met and the daily interactions with locals and other volunteers. I loved being able to speak Spanish every day, which helped me improve my confidence and fluency and even led me to start having my own thoughts in Spanish. My host family treated me like their own kin, happy to provide music, food, laughs, and advice at any time. I am grateful to have been let into their lives and for having had the chance to get to know them. Thank you again to the Nichols family. I hope that all the other students who benefited from your generosity enjoyed themselves as much as I did, and that students for years to come to continue having the opportunity to share the blessing of serving international communities.