As a first year physical therapy student heading to Peru I didn’t know what to expect. Although we had spent months preparing our rural health care worker training, organizing logistics, putting lessons together, planning fundraisers, and improving our training method, nothing could have prepared me for actually stepping into the boat for the first time to head out the across the Amazon River.
I landed in Iquitos, a city enclosed within the Amazon Rainforest and home to nearly half a million people. We hit the ground running, prepping for the training to come, organizing food lodging and transportation for the 65 rural health workers that attend our trainings twice a year. We networked with the ministry of health and our partner organization Sociemap. We practiced our lectures and finalized the lesson plans. It is a great feeling to truly work as a team towards something each of us, as health professional students from various faculties with different backgrounds and expertise, is really passionate about.
In between all the work, we are managing to have some fun. We celebrated the new year with SOCIEMAP, a society of medical students focused on research and community outreach, who partner with us to host our trainings. It was so awesome interacting with students who are just like us. We have formed a really special connection with them.
My senses have become overwhelmed with colors, sounds, and smells of all kinds. At the Belen Market, I felt like I stepped into an alternate universe. As I sifted through crowds, spices, and every kind of meat you can think of, it really hit me how different my world is from the average Iquitoan.
At our training we will be teaching rural health workers called health agents. They travel by canoes with small motors as far as 75km from outlying communities along the Amazon and Napo rivers to attend our training. How beautiful it is to merge our worlds together through this mutual exchange of knowledge and culture.
After what seemed like an eternity of preparation work, tomorrow morning, we will finally depart from Iquitos for the small district capital of Mazán where we will host our training. I am nervous and excited to lead a physical therapy lesson in Spanish to the health promoters. I hope that my efforts will improve the lives of the health promoters and their communities even if it’s in a small way.
I am excited to bridge a gap between cultures and health workers because, as health professionals, we all share the same values, helping our communities through healthcare and education, whether that’s in the Amazon or at a clinic in Denver.
– Arielle Levy
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