La Merced, Peru is a unique community and an even more unique volunteer experience. Located in the Andes Mountains at the edge of the Amazon and surrounded by indigenous communities, Project La Merced gives volunteers the opportunity to observe and support Peruvian medical staff in the local government hospital as well as other local health posts. Volunteers serve at public medical facilities rather than a FIMRC clinic, offering a glimpse into systems of medicine vastly different from those in the United States.
Volunteers in La Merced are also heavily involved in FIMRC's community health education initiatives such as developing interactive health sessions with various partners, delivering health based talks in local schools, assisting with our Vida Saludable program, or building capacity to better address emergency situations.
As volunteer Stephanie Villalta shared, “my best memories from La Merced involve working with the local children. From teaching them first aid to communication skills, you can see FIMRC’s positive impact every time you engage with the community.”
“The children even stayed behind after our education session was over to help us clean-up and they didn’t want us to leave. The bond between the children and the FIMRC team was beautiful to see,” Stephanie said.
Health education is an especially important component to FIMRC’s work in La Merced. Because the community is very rural, it could be many hours or even days before a patient could get to a hospital if there was a serious accident. To meet this challenge, FIMRC staff and volunteers teach first aid and emergency triage.
“One of our lessons was about bone fractures. It was beautiful to see children of all ages, even some as young as 3 years old, answering questions about what to look for and how to respond in case of a fracture. Children are sponges and if given the opportunity they can learn a tremendous amount. The team at La Merced is giving every child in the community an incredible opportunity to learn, grow, and thrive,” shared Stephanie.
Many of the most common health issues in the area are related to the Amazonian location of La Merced and traditional beliefs that are still held today in many of the outlying communities.
“It was amazing to see the trust and the connections FIMRC staff, especially Andrea, Helen, Karma, and Brittany, have been able to make with the community. The children all wave hello and know our team members by name. Those relationships are what truly make a difference and can change how communities understand and seek out health care,” Stephanie said.
And the community shows that same trust to our FIMRC volunteers. While volunteers like Stephanie may only be on site for a few weeks or months, their impact can be long-lasting.
“After our community education session, the children all walked with me to take in a beautiful view of La Merced. They held my hand all the way up the hill. I definitely felt the love, and the excitement from the kids to share something of theirs with me.”
Learn more about serving at Project La Merced in Peru:
Volunteers aren’t the only ones making the most of experiences in La Merced, Peru! Tulley, the 9-year-old German Shepherd belonging to our Field Operations Manager, Brittany Kovacs, was recently highlighted on FIMRC’s Instagram Account through a “La Merced from Tulley’s Perspective” Story Takeover! Check it out below if you missed it and follow @fimrc for more updates from our teams around the world!
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